This week I was asked to put together a map and list of restaurants for the International KOTESOL Conference at the Sookmyung Women’s University. The two day teaching conference attracts over 1000 people from all over the world. I have been to the neighbourhood a couple of times to eat at my favourite lamb restaurant (which has now sadly closed), but I have never really explored. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the street leading up to university from the Sookmyung Women’s University Station (line 4) is packed with cafes and restaurants. Like most university areas, the prices are cheap cheap cheap, so if you come to Seoul on a budget, restaurants located near universities are where you will find the best bargains.
Coffee Shops / Dessert – I don’t know about you, but anytime I have a big day of conferencing ahead of me, I need a hell of a lot of coffee to get me through the day. Thankfully the main university street is packed with cafes, so really the choice is yours. If you need a coffee to go, Coffee Only has some of the cheapest around as their Americano is priced at a mere 900 won. For those wanting to sit down Kopitiam is a coffee shop that specialises in Singaporean style Kaya toast. It makes the perfect breakfast snack to go with your coffee and they have seating upstairs and down. For those looking to make the most of their trip to Seoul, head to the Blind Alley Cafe. Seoul is known for its animal cafes, and this raccoon cafe is one of the most exotic places around. Lastly if you are looking for a sweet treat or afternoon pick me up, head back towards the station and cross the road to Sticky Ricky’s, an independently owned ice cream parlour, which has a selection of traditional and fun homemade flavours. A single scoop will set you back 4,000 won.
Lunch – The main street is littered with places to grab a quick and tasty lunch. However the quickest and easiest Korean lunch can be found at Jongro Kimbab, the seaweed and rice rolls come with all manner of fillings like vegetables, tuna, cheese, and meat. They also have a large selection of other traditional Korean foods like noodles, dokbokki, soups, and pork cutlets, the menu has English descriptions and pictures for those who can’t read Korean. If you are more in the mood for something healthy, check out Salady, which offers healthy salad bowls and wraps from 5,200 won. It is also one of the only places that have visible vegetarian options. If you prefer a sandwich for lunch try Banh Mi Vinh. The sandwiches are very cheap at only 4,600 won each and will make a quick and filling lunch. For something a bit more International Rrito Rrito offers a make your own burrito menu starting at 4,000 won. They are the lowest prices I have ever seen for ‘Mexican food’ in this city.
Dinner – Once the conference is finished, you’ll be able to take your time and relax over dinner. We stopped into Benares today for Indian food. The curries were super tasty and under 10,000 won each. There is a huge variety of meats and sauces, and they come served with rice. Emoi is popular chain of Vietnamese restaurants with a large selection of rice, meat, and noodle dishes for around 10,000 won each. The restaurant is quite spacious inside, so they can accommodate big groups. They also serve beer! For those wanting something a bit more traditional, the Chinese Dumpling Restaurant is highly recommended by the Bib Gourmand Michelin Guide for their mandu. The Korean style dumplings are priced between 5,000 – 7,000 for six pieces. Just one word of warning, they close at 8pm so go early. If you find that doesn’t fill you up, there is also an amazing Chinese Lamb BBQ restaurant next door, the menu is exclusively in Korean and Chinese but there are pictures you can point to.
Chain Stores – Despite the area being a mostly filled with independently owned business, there are a number of very recognisable chains on the main street. Starbucks I’m sure everyone is familiar with, along with sandwich shop Subway. No Korean high street would be complete without a Paris Baguette which sells a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, cakes and Korean baked goods. There is also a Isaac Toast, a small stand like store that sells meat and cheese toasties to go from 2,400 won onwards. Lastly for all your drink and snack needs there is a large 7-11 convenience store right by the university.