Back home on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, there are only three kinds of ‘non-American’ food. Those are Italian, Chinese, and Mexican (and does Italian really count?). Mexican is very popular; it’s a rural area with lots of farms and lots of people from Latin America come to work on those farms. So Mexican food was one of the first new varieties of food I tried. I loved it right away, and it is still one of my very favorite types of food.
When I was in New Zealand, I couldn’t find Mexican food but I just sucked it up. But here in Korea, there are a few options for Mexican food, just because of the sheer number of expats who clamor for it. At this point I’ve tried several places in and around Seoul (and one in Jeju which I wrote about here). I’d like to tell you about the ones I’ve tried, and I’ll be saving the best for last so keep reading!
Ahh, Taco Bell. You probably love it or hate it. I love it. My dad hates it. I was happy to learn there are Taco Bells in Korea (and not just on the army base, though I hear there’s one there too). People told me it wouldn’t be the same. But honestly, it pretty much is. The ingredients taste a bit different; for instance the meat is clearly higher quality! If you like Taco Bell, you’ll like Korean taco bell. The menu is nearly the same, with the addition of nacho fries (hint: delicious). There’s no dollar menu equivalent.
- Price: It’s pretty cheap, but as you might expect, not as cheap as in the US. You can manage to spend under 5000 Won though.
- Location/Directions: Six locations in the Seoul area. Itaewon exit 3 and Hongdae exit 9 (take a left, right at Sexy Cookie, at the end of that street it will be across the street) are the ones I’ve been to. Check out maps for the locations in Sindorim, Sinchon, Jamsil Lotte, and Pyeongchon Lotte here (Korean only).
Dos Tacos was well-hyped so I expected a lot. What I got was kind of run of the mill Tex Mex. I got a veggie burrito with broccoli as a featured ingredient. I liked it, but it didn’t have a lot of Mexican flavor or kick. However, it was well done for a veggie option. I may return to Dos Tacos to try some other stuff. Worth a visit but maybe don’t go out of your way too much.
- Price: 7000-10,000 Won for a meal.
- Location/Directions: Hongdae, exit 9: take a left, right at Sexy Cookie, left at the major street, it’ll be on your left in the two-story building full of restaurants – it’s on the second floor. Gangnam, exit 6? near Kyobo Tower (Seocho-dong 1303-35).
Taco Rico is a tiny little hole in the wall that didn’t even have a sign out front when we went. There are only about 12 seats. The chef is Mexican, and the Korean woman taking orders can speak both English and Spanish really well. What struck me about this place was that the flavors were really bold and what you’d expect. The nachos were tasty (though the meat on them was cold, a bit unpleasant). I got the veggie burrito but really should have stuck with beef or chicken. It was one of those “oh, a veggie burrito means just take out the meat and add more veggies right?” It seemed like mostly rice, which was flavorful, but the burrito was kind of dry and bland. Still definitely worth a visit!
- Price: 7000 to 10,000 Won for entrées.
- Location/Directions: Gangnam exit 11, take a right at the Paris Baguette, go down the street until it ends, curve left a bit then right, you’ll see it in front of you.
Vatos Urban Tacos
And now we come to the most excellent Mexican place I’ve found in Seoul. It could, perhaps, be the best Mexican food in Korea! And the interesting thing is that many of the menu items are Korean/Mexican fusion. This includes things like a kimchi veggie quesadilla, and bulgogi tacos. There are also more typical Mexican dishes available. What you’ll find is that everything has excellent ingredients and is made rather perfectly. The chips (the first basket is free) taste fresh, and the salsa is spicy and lovely. The flavors are decidedly Mexican with a Korean twist. I loved my kimchi veggie quesadilla – it had a cheese crust so it was crispy and extra cheesy! For dessert you can get Nutella nachos. I highly recommend it. While Vatos is not your ordinary Mexican or Tex-Mex place, it is the most delicious of the bunch, and one of my favorite restaurants in Seoul!
- Price: Vatos is slightly more pricey than the rest of the places. You’ll probably spend about 10,000 to 12,000 on a meal.
- Location/Direction: Take Itaewon exit four. Go down the diagonal street (not the main one with the Hamilton Hotel, but the one with Taco Bell). Take the first right (if you pass the Wolfhound, you’re on the right track), and go down the hill until you see Vatos on the left – it’s on the second floor. There’s a map here.
I hope that this list of Mexican food in Seoul will serve you well. There’s no Yelp in Korea and it can be difficult to find information about restaurants online. Have a suggestion for this list? Leave it in the comments.