Terarosa has branches across Seoul, but Gwanghwamun is great because the historic center of the city offers lots to see before and after the meal. The “Western-style” brunch menu, available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., changes daily and feels more like lunch, with eggs, different salads, pasta, roasted meats and more. If you want something lighter, go for the various pastry options with drinks, including coffee, available all day from 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends.
BTW: Avoid peak brunch hours, as this place will typically get packed.
Terarosa, 50 Jong-ro 1-gil, Junghak-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
If there’s a Korea-specific breakfast tradition — because eating out at “Western” brunch with eggs and toast is a recent trend, especially among the younger generation — it’s probably haejang, or relieving a hangover. Joongang Haejang is open 24 hours, with haejang stews filled to the brim with vegetables, meat and beef bone broth, supplemented with rice and kimchi. Party all night in Gangnam, come to Joongang and fight that hangover away … and come back at dinner for the same meal, with a shot of soju.
BTW: Get some fresh air after the meal by walking along the nearby stream, Tancheon.
996-16 Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
This is as good as a “conventional homemade Korean meal” gets, with wonderfully hearty dishes for both vegetarians and meat-lovers. The number of sides — or “banchan” — are almost overwhelming and are refillable, with different greens, kimchis and soup. The signature lunch menu is the doenjang bibimbap, or fermented soybean paste with rice and vegetables. If by a miracle your appetite isn’t satiated, try the more expensive main dishes, including steamed pork or spicy octopus.
BTW: If possible, go with a big group of people who can handle all those banchan.
103-8 Myeongnyun 4(sa)ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul
The pain of Korean division stays alive in food, including the widely beloved Hamheung naengmyeon — cold noodles from Hamheung, a city in North Korea. Opened in 1953 by refugees from North Korea, Ojangdong Heungnamjip is one of the oldest and most famous places to go for these thin Hamheung noodles, which are made from sweet potato starch. There are five different types of noodles (not all cold) on the menu, but try the hoe bibim naengmyeon, which features raw skate fish and spicy red sauce.
BTW: If you don’t do spicy, mulnaengmyeon or the warm onmyeon may be a better choice.
Ojangdong Heungnamjip, 101-7 Ojang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
Right next to the heavy traffic in the Jangchungdong neighborhood is a small, beautiful park near Dongguk University. Inside the park, Dadameteul is almost hidden to viewers walking on the sidewalk. The traditional hanok building offers calm in the middle of chaos, like a temple in the city. Its wooden architecture pays homage to Korean history, as well as its cuisine. This is a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, with a variety of interesting dishes, including lotus rice, noodles and bibimbap.
BTW: Stay for dessert because Dadameteul has excellent Korean snacks and tea options.
Dadameteul, 197 Jangchung-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
There’s always a long line in front of Yaksu Sundaeguk, which sells one thing: bone broth soup with pork innards and sundae (pronounced soon-deh), a type of blood sausage. The restaurant, despite its popularity, still feels like a hole in the wall — an unadorned, strictly functional interior with chairs and tables reminiscent of South Korea in the 1970s and ’80s. It’s worth the wait: the broth is rich and deep; the meat, generously served, is juicy; and the sticky rice is perfectly white and soft.
BTW: Everything goes well with a bottle of soju, sold at the restaurant for $3.
368-77 Sindang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
A speak-easy in the back alleyways of the Sinsadong neighborhood, Boxing Tiger is close to the bustle of the chic Garosugil, an upscale shopping area, but hidden enough to offer a respite. The mahogany interior is dimly lit and quiet, and the staff are friendly and eager to explain the alcohol menus in detail (most speak English). The cocktails and wines are good, but my favorite is the whiskey selection.
BTW: If you’re looking to bar hop, check out Garosugil, which offers plenty of other late-night options.
Boxing Tiger, 510-3 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari
That name’s quite a mouthful; it means, “Grandma Ok-hwa Jin’s Original Whole Chicken.” The restaurant is in a cramped alleyway at Dongdaemun, a popular shopping neighborhood where an old palace gate stands. The alley is full of whole chicken restaurants similar to it, but Jinokhwa is rumored to be the original. When dinner starts to wear off, come to the restaurant for a late-night feast with whole chicken immersed in a huge pot with broth, vegetables, noodles and more. The energy of the alleyway is contagious: raucous laughter, soju glasses clinking, and people yelling, “More broth, please!”
BTW: If Jinokhwa is overcrowded, which is usually the case, its competitors just a step or two away will most likely rise to the occasion.
Jinokhwa Halmae Wonjo Dakhanmari, 18 Jong-ro 40ga-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul