Teeming with restaurants known for their Instagram-worthy interiors, novelty dishes and unique plating techniques, the gentrifying neighborhood of Mangwon-dong has become a mecca for Seoul’s foodies. Here are the 10 best restaurants to check out in the area.
Adorned with colorful lanterns and quirky knick-knacks that punctuate the edges of an open-air kitchen, Lao Piak brings a little bit of Laos to Seoul’s Mangwon-dong neighborhood. Featuring a selection of Lao cuisine and beverages, the restaurant was opened by a few young Korean women who fell in love with the Southeast Asian country during their travels there. Everything on the menu here is worth trying, but the beef tendon noodle soup (9,500 won / $9) is our favorite. Flavorful broth and ultra-tender beef make the dish incredibly addictive, and the refillable noodles make it one of the best deals in the area. Wash it down with a cold Beer Lao and you’ve got yourself the perfect dinner.
Serving up some of the best handmade pizza in western Seoul, Pizzeria E.Go has become a go-to for diners seeking tasty pie. Although the exterior of the place is a bit foreboding, its small but charming interior boasts a wood burning pizza oven, demonstrating that E.Go is serious about their slices. The menu here is limited with just a few options to choose from (try the margherita!) but even the pickiest of pizza snobs will agree that E.Go is worth the visit.
Hawaiian-themed cafés and restaurants have recently become a bit of trend in Seoul, but Hula Hula stands out from the rest, thanks to its relaxing atmosphere, pastel-perfect interior, and, of course, its food. Delicious as they are Instagram-worthy, the poke bowls and musubi dishes on offer here are quite filling, but not so much that you won’t be able to squeeze in dessert at one of the nearby cafés. As an added bonus, Hula Hula is pet-friendly, so feel free to bring along your pup.
Marked by a bright orange façade, J’s Curry can’t be missed on your walk through eclectic Mangwon-dong. Here, Thai classics are served up in a tiny dining space that seats no more than 10. Despite the restaurant’s small size, the dishes on offer pack big flavor. For example, the chicken curry – poached chicken breast, butternut squash, broccoli, eggplant, almonds, and fresh coriander – is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The English-speaking owner is incredibly friendly and is more than willing to customize orders based on your preferences.
With almost no signage, it’s a wonder how Happy Burger gets any business at all – until you’ve tried their perfectly cooked patties. Modest yet memorable, the eatery attracts a diverse clientele ranging from the young hipsters to the ajumma (auntie) squads. Expect a grilled-to-perfection cheeseburger, a half order of fries and a soft drink to set you back about 12,000 won ($11).
From the outside looking in, one might find it difficult to determine what exactly Cobra Pasta Club is. Ornamented with records, stereos, and vintage movie posters (and no signboard in sight), this hidden gem is often confused as a studio of sorts. Yet, Cobra Pasta Club, as its name suggests, offers up an array of fusion pasta dishes and a rather unique dessert: blueberry cream pizza. The restaurant enjoys a cult following, thanks its unorthodox reservation system, which requires diners to make a reservation via a direct message to owner and chef Yun Ji Sang’s Instagram page. Reservations are then confirmed in Yun’s own Instagram posts.
If you need a healthy snack to tide you over until dinner, check out Sally Cheong, where no-sugar-added fruity concoctions are the specialty. Perhaps the most popular item on offer is the berry delicious bowl, a generous serving of natural yogurt topped with blueberries, strawberries, and granola, or other fruits depending on the season. Bring along a book or a buddy, as the snack shop boasts the perfect atmosphere for a bit of relaxation.
Transport yourself to the islands of Indonesia at Bali in Mangwon, a bohemian-esque eatery serving up tasty treats and beachy vibes. The restaurant serves up what it refers to as ‘surfer-made Balinese food and drink,’ including Indonesian classics such as Nasi Goreng, Bakwan Jagung, and Padang Chicken Curry. The gorgeous interior replete with wooden accents, rattan placements and macramé wall hangings adds to the restaurant’s appeal, making it a neighborhood favorite.
As a traditional Korean market packed with produce vendors and street food stalls, Mangwon Market should not be overlooked for good eats. From classic snacks like tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and sundae (blood sausage) to traditional sweets like old-fashioned doughnuts covered in sugar, this is the place to go to sample a number of Korean dishes. If the weather is nice, request that your meal be wrapped up, and enjoy it picnic-style on the nearby banks of the Han River.
Established in 1986, this no-frills hole-in-the-wall has been serving up hearty haejangguk to loyal patrons for three decades. To create the spicy broth of this popular ‘hangover soup‘, pork bones are boiled for hours. Slabs of meat and steamed greens are added to the still-boiling concoction before being delivered to the table. Served with kimchi and rice, the meal makes for the perfect lunch after a long night out on the tow.
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