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Eating Our Way Through Seoul: A Tale of Michelin Guides and Late-Night 7-11 Visits

Eating Our Way Through Seoul: A Tale of Michelin Guides and Late-Night 7-11 Visits
Korean Food - Yum

My son and I jetted off to Seoul for a long weekend trip, while my daughter embarked on her adventure in Saipan. On the recommendation of a close friend, we decided to stay in Mapo-gu for the first time.


Our adventure began, as it usually does, with a flight on Korean Air. Although our airport is served by several Korean carriers, including Jeju Air, Jin Air, Air Seoul, and T'way, my preference leans towards Korean Air because of its excellent service. This flight was no exception. We experienced a seamless afternoon departure and a smooth evening arrival at Incheon International Airport's Terminal 2. The immigration and customs processes were incredibly efficient, and soon we were on our very comfortable airport bus, number 6015, heading into the city.

By the time we arrived at the Shilla Stay Map (83 Mapo-daero, Mapo-gu, Seoul) it was around 10:30 pm, and while we had planned on dropping by a craft beer bar, we opted for a quick stop at the nearby 7-11 and enjoyed a quiet evening instead.

Day 1

We started our first full day in the city with a plan—or to be more precise, my son's plan—to have breakfast at Isaac Toast & Coffee.  But it turned out they didn’t open until noon. So, that was not quite as auspicious a start as I’d like. Fortunately, our disappointment was short-lived as we stumbled upon a Compose Coffee where we enjoyed a coffee and light snack, and then a Tous le Jour after that.  

A quick subway journey brought us to Myeongdong for some retail therapy and lunch at Myeongdong Kyoja (29 Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul) – a staple in our Seoul itinerary ever since we discovered it. Regular followers of our blog might recall that this Michelin Guide-listed restaurant boasts a limited but exceptional menu. True to form, we left Kyoja a bit fuller than intended but shopping around the neighborhood and in the nearby Lotte Mall provided ample opportunity to offset the indulgence with some much-needed calorie burning. However, the day also presented numerous temptations, and we indulged with impressive zeal.

Come dinner time, we veered off our initial plan of visiting another favorite dumpling spot, opting instead for a meal close to our hotel at Istanbul Grill (Seoul, Mapo-gu, Baekbeom-ro, 152 102). The feast included a generous assortment of lamb chops, barbecued chicken, skewered vegetables, köfte (small meatballs cooked on a skewer), plenty of ayran (a cold savory yogurt drink), and Efes Pilsen beer. While it may not have been the best Turkish meal I have ever had, the warm staff and comforting atmosphere more than made up for it.

Our evening culminated with an attempt to find another bar, which inadvertently led us to the Johnny 123 Café & Bar (GLAD Mapo, 92 Mapo-daero, Mapo-gu). There, we savored excellent Scotch and engaged in delightful conversation with our friendly bartender.

After a day filled to the brim with new experiences and familiar pleasures, we retired for the night.

Day 2

After overindulging on our first day, our second day started a bit slower and later. Our journey began with a short subway ride towards Yonsei University, leading us to our lunch destination, Tasty Cube (22-8 Yonsei-ro 5da-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul). I will confess, some of my most vivid food dreams are inspired by this place. As a Michelin Guide-listed noodle and soup restaurant, Tasty Cube lives up to its reputation with offerings that are simply mouth-watering. Despite the queue, the wait was absolutely worth it.

Post-lunch, we expended some energy exploring the Hyundai Department Store, later making our way to Namdaemun Market on a quest for old military gear. The market features an area known as “military alley,” renowned for its selection of new and vintage uniforms and gear. My search was for a Vietnam War-era tiger stripe camouflaged fatigue set, a nod to my father's legacy, but it remained elusive. Though I managed to acquire some ROK army flag patches, the fatigues continued to slip through my fingers—perhaps that's the point.

Undeterred, our day progressed with more shopping, this time focusing on K-pop and Anime, and more food, before we returned home to prepare for dinner.

Dinner was at L'Impasse 81 (17-1 Donggyo-ro 30-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul), a Michelin Guide-listed French restaurant with a rustic style that momentarily whisked us away to the French countryside. It offered a culinary interlude so authentic, it had us momentarily questioning our actual whereabouts. The ambiance evoked a post-war France on the mend, and the cuisine was sumptuously rich, leaving me both delighted and satisfyingly full.

Afterward, I took the subway back to our hotel with plans to possibly stop at a bar along the way. Meanwhile, my son went off to meet a friend near Yonsei University for drinks and conversation. However, the closer I got to our hotel, the less inclined I felt to venture out again. So, true to form, I ended up grabbing some beer at the 7-11 and calling it a night.

The Journey's Epilogue

As our Seoul trip came to an end, with a confusing train ride that terminated before the airport – requiring everyone to disembark and wait for another train – we found ourselves reflecting on the vibrant city of Seoul and the culinary indulgences that had been all too easy to embrace. By any measure, it had been a very good trip.  

Until we meet again, 감사합니다 (thank you).

Eating Our Way Through Seoul: A Tale of Michelin Guides and Late-Night 7-11 Visits

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