Lost deep in the heart of Seoul, tucked in between towering apartment complexes, sits a little shop that sells some of the best burgers you’ll ever eat.
Some of my best memories involve extended periods of gluttony. I think back to little barbecue shacks on Vancouver’s outer city limits, or actual Philly Cheese-stakes in some of the best sandwich restaurants in Philadelphia… there’s nothing quite like it. When it comes to burgers, there are a few that stick out as the best of breed in my mind. White Spot’s BC burger back in British Columbia is definitely one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, in any part of the world, and this past month I was also introduced to the great burgers that Johnny Rocket’s serves up, burgers that certainly should be included among the top burgers in South Korea.
When it comes to burgers in Seoul, there’s actually a lot to choose from, if you know where to look. This past weekend, ravenous with hunger, and sick of the typical Gangnam fare, I made my way out to the Express Bus Terminal in Seoul. The express Bus Terminal subway station sits in a fairly uneventful area of Seoul – packed with residential buildings and high-end hotels, it’s not exactly a spot frequented by beer-crazed expats looking for a bit of Seoul’s renowned nightlife. It is, however, boring, which makes it an unlikely spot to setup a fantastic burger restaurant.
It’s actually worse than it sounds. Not only is the little burger shop smack in the center of one of the least exciting places in Seoul, it’s not even located at the station. Yup, you have to schlep a good 15 or 20 minutes through residential neighborhoods complete with screaming children playing on obnoxiously coloured playground equipment just to get there. Fortunately for Mr. Brooklyn, these burgers are damn good, which just barely makes the trek worthwhile.
Gourmet Food, Working-Class Prices
There is a market for gourmet burgers, and Brooklyn Burger Joint is one of those places that does gourmet right. Brooklyn’s shakes are spectacular. I don’t normally order shakes, since there’s enough shake around my waist, but – damn it – I know a good shake when I taste one. As soon as we got there I went ahead and ordered the Nutella and Burnt Marshmallow shake, and was wowed. The thick, frozen shake is topped with three burnt marshmallows, which shelter a sloppy mix of Nutella and ice cream so thick it was a struggle to pull the sludge up through the over-sized straws.
The fries were pretty good as well – not the overly soft and mushy fries you get at Johnny Rockets, but crisp and golden brown on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside, with a good amount of salt.
I got the C.R.E.A.M. burger, which was smothered with cheese and squirted with horseradish mayonnaise that gave it the perfect amount of kick. At first, when I got the burger, I was a little disappointed with how small the patty looked housed in that bun. There is something about hockey puck shaped patties that make me think the meat is going to make for a pretty mediocre burger – dry and tough to bite through. Brooklyn’s burgers break through that mold, though. The meat crumbles away as you sink your teeth into it, and the perfect amount of juice escapes each patty under pressure. Nicely played, Brooklyn.
The best part about it all is that the prices are pretty much in line with what you would expect from other run-of-the-mill burger joints, including the slop that you pickup from McDonald’s or Burger King. The shakes are the priciest for what you get, running roughly $6USD, but even those are well worth the price once you start to suck one back.
What: Brooklyn Burger Joint, one of the best burger places in Seoul.
Where: Brooklyn has two locations, one at the Express Bus Terminal on the orange line, subway line 3, and one near Samsung station on the green line, subway line 2.
Why: Brooklyn Burger Joint serves some of the best burgers you’ll can have in Korea. While the burgers might not be at the top of the food-chain, they are damn good… and worth making the trip for. Brooklyn also has some great shakes, and good side-menu items.
How: I trekked out to the Express Bus Terminal location, which is actually a bit of a walk and tough to find. My advice is to take a cab. Give the driver this address: 551-32 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu. You can also give the restaurant a call and get them to give the driver directions: 02-533-7180. If you insist on walking, then give these two maps a try. Start out of exit 5, but remember… Expat Evan and www.EvanBleker.com assume no responsibility if you are mugged, found frozen to death, or just never heard from again. Plan for a safe trip, and remember to always eire on the side of caution when traveling.
You can also try the Samsung station location, but that location looks like a bit of a walk, as well. My Korean is a bit fuzzy, but it appears that they’re directly under a large “B”. If you have trouble, give them a ring: 02-555-7180. Otherwise, here’s the map.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to burgers in Seoul, there is actually a lot to chose from if you know where to look. Johnny Rockets definitely has great burgers and, with 7 locations in South Korea, they seem to be the most accessible top-notch burgers you can get in Korea. Brooklyn Burgers is another great offering, and definitely worth the trek if you want to get a sense of what’s on offer in Seoul. Depending on where you are, though, other great burger joints might fill your cravings for meat – specifically Travelers in Bundang, or Yaletown in Sinchon.
Of course, as good as burgers are, none of these places offer genuine Korean food. If you’ve just been eating western meals since arriving in Korea, exploring the best Korean foods available to you is well worth it. The best place to start is with my 25 Essential Korean Foods eBook.