Korea has a high percentage of self-employment worldwide, and there are many restaurants operated by individuals. Let’s take a look at specialist restaurants, selling only a few menus, and general restaurants selling various dishes. Restaurant is “Sikdang” in Korean. And ‘jip’ is a Korean word meaning ‘house,’ and when used with a menu name, it signifies a restaurant.
Food and restaurant choices are among the most critical factors during travel. However, making a good choice in an unfamiliar area is not easy. We aim to provide you with essential information about Korean restaurants to aid your selection. Even a bit of information can significantly reduce the chance of disappointment.
Specialized Korean Restaurants
We will introduce a few commonly found specialist restaurants as there are too many to cover all types of restaurants specializing in a few dishes.
These sell Gimbap primarily, and often you’ll find ramyeon and guksu, korean noodle soup as well. These casual restaurants are the most comfortable place to eat in Korea and are easy to find. At a kimbap-jip, it’s common to see employees making kimbap.
Mandu means Korean dumplings. This type of restaurant sells dumplings they make themselves. Like Gimbap houses, they often also sell snack foods like ramen and noodles. The steam from the dumplings can be seen outside the restaurant, particularly noticeable in winter.
These restaurants serve ‘Gukbap,’ a menu consisting of hot soup and rice combined. While there are countless types of ‘Gukbap,’ the one famous for its hangover-curing properties is particularly noteworthy.
Seolleongtang is a type of Gukbap. There are many restaurants specializing in ‘Seolleongtang,’ a soup made by simmering beef and beef bones for a long duration.
These sell Korean-style fried chicken, with many specializing in delivery. If not for delivery, they usually have a pub-like atmosphere. Try ‘Chimaek,’ a popular combination of chicken and beer.
In Korea, restaurants selling Korean BBQ are called barbecue houses. Some specialize in either pork or beef, while others sell both. Common sights in a Korean barbecue house are an in-table grill and an overhead exhaust hood.
These restaurants specialize in selling Juk, a type of rice porridge, and are mostly utilized for delivery or carryout by those with digestive difficulties or illnesses.
These establishments specialize in raw fish but also sell a variety of seafood dishes like grilled fish and fish soup. There are both Korean-style hoet-jip and Japanese-style sashimi restaurants, distinguishable by their exterior design. You can usually see a fish tank in front of a hoet-jip.
General Korean Restaurants
These restaurants offer a more diverse menu compared to specialized restaurants.
Deriving its name from traditional Korean culture, “Baekban” means “meal set” in Korean, illustrating the restaurant’s focus on providng a well-rounded, nutritious, and satisfying meal, much like what you might find in a Korean home. Restaurants serving home-style Korean dishes with one main dish, be it meat or fish, and several side dishes. You can find them most commonly around offices and schools.
In its essence, ‘bunsik,’ a Korean term, encapsulates the concept of affordable, comfort food dishes typically enjoyed as quick bites or snacks. Bunsik-jip, represented by Tteokbokki, sell various well-known dishes, such as gimbap, dumplings, fried food, sundae, and ramyeon.
Pojang-macha is a type of food stalls. It’s a mobile eatery set up outdoors rather than in a formal building, and the menu can range from buns to seafood to noodle dishes.
This is a restaurant selling Korean food in a course meal style. It is usually used for business meetings, family events, or formal meals, yet there are also casual Hanjungsik restaurants. It’s an excellent choice if you wish to try a variety of Korean dishes.
In Korea, you can easily find Asian restaurants, such as Japanese and Chinese, as well as European restaurants, such as Italian and French. There are plenty of American-style fast-food places, like hamburger and pizza joints. Let’s introduce the easiest foreign restaurants to access.
The most common foreign restaurants in Korea are Japanese restaurants. You can easily find specialized Japanese restaurants, like Tonkatsu restaurants, sushi places, or curry places.
Chinese restaurants come in two forms: Koreanized Chinese and authentic Chinese. Koreanized Chinese restaurants primarily sell Korean-adapted Chinese foods and center around delivery. Authentic Chinese restaurants generally have a higher price range than Korean-Chinese ones, focusing on course meals. Besides, there are specialty restaurants for Chinese dishes such as Malatang and chinese-style lamb skewer restaurant in Korea.
These casual restaurants sell popular Italian dishes like pasta and pizza, and slightly more expensive ones offer more traditional Italian cuisine.
Fast Food Restaurant
Famous foreign franchise fast-food establishments like McDonald’s, Burger King, Shake Shack, Five Guys are found throughout urban areas and have Korean fast-food restaurants like Mom’s Touch. Although their numbers have decreased recently, donut franchises like Dunkin’ Donuts still exist.
Bakery / Ppang-jip
Bakeries selling bread are not hard to find. Corporate bakeries like Paris Baguette and Tous Les Jours, as well as long-loved local bakeries like Sungsimdang and Taekgeukdang, exist. However, in Korea, bread is mostly recognized as a dessert, leading to many sweet and soft options, which tend to be expensive.
Korea is home to a plethora of coffee shops, including well-known global brands like Starbucks, alongside various local franchises such as Mega Coffee, Paik’s Coffee, Hollys Coffee, and Tom N Toms. In addition, you’ll find a bustling scene of small-scale cafes and dessert shops scattered across the landscape.
Korean Eateries: From Sunrise Meals to Midnight Cravings
Breakfast in Korea is often a delightful affair and a testament to the country’s emphasis on health and well-being. Whether you’re a morning person or not, waking up in Korea is definitely easier thanks to joints like baeban-jip, local breakfast restaurants serving quintessential Korean-style morning meals. If you want to eat breakfast in Korea, find a restaurant near your accommodation that has a sign that says “아침식사됩니다.(We serve breakfast)”.
Picture this: steaming bowls of rice accompanied by a parade of intricate banchan (side dishes), whisking you away on a gastronomic adventure first thing in the day.
As it approaches lunch, Korea’s diverse assortment of restaurants truly come alive. Visit a traditional gimbap joint, where the atmosphere is as warm and inviting as the seaweed rice rolls they serve. Alternatively, try out a shikdang for a heartier meal—think steaming hot pots and BBQ meat.
And when the evening shadows lengthen, you’d do well to slide into an intimate gogi-jip – a Korean-style meat restaurant. It’s your chance to partake in the cultural ritual of self-cook Korean barbeque as those delightful wafting aromas of grilled meat ensnare your senses in a carnivorous bliss.
A trip to Korea isn’t just about sightseeing, it’s an invitation to a fascinating culinary journey. In its breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus, you’ll find a compelling tapestry of taste, technique, and tradition—a journey, I assure you, that’s worth every bite.