Friday, March 21, 2014

Mexican Food in Seoul, Korea

Even thou 80% of the Koreans I've met claim to "LOVE" Mexican Food, a few have actually tried the real deal, or at least, the closest thing to it that you can find in Korea. Most of the times it's not because they don't want to but because they just don't know where to find it, so they end up going to lousy "gringo" places claiming to sell "authentic" Mexican food. But please, worry no more...'cause that's what I'm here for, today, I will tell you where to get your "Mexican fix" and where NOT TO!

I'm gonna start with the DON'Ts:

Vatos Urban Tacos. This is definitely one of the most popular restaurants for Mexican food in Seoul. However, we all know "popular" doesn't always mean "good" and I'm afraid this is Vatos' case. I'd heard a lot about their Kimchi Carnitas Fries and their Tacos looked good on their website but when the time to try it all finally came, it felt -really- short. I went with friends and we ordered several things to try out different stuff. 

These are actually "tostadas", not "chips"

We started with the Kimchi Carnitas Fries and the taste of the carnitas not of the kimchi was nowhere to be found, it was just simple fries with some kind of bland meat and also a bland kimchi. You could neither feel the flavor of one or the other, which -in my opinion- kills the fusion attempt completely. We also ordered Galbi Shot Rib tacos and Classic Carne Asada tacos. The most important thing of a Taco is the Tortilla and this one was a bad one, it was like a flour tortilla (far from the tasty corn one) not even properly cooked, the tacos were cold and the filling was, again, bland. The salsas, the second most important thing in a Taco, were just bleh, not spicy AT ALL! So, they didn't help much either. We also had the "Fresh Chips and Salsa", which wasn't really chips but deep-fried tortillas, actually called Tostadas. If you're gonna have that as an entry, that's fine, but at least make the salsas tasty so the entryy is worth it. Regardless the "authenticity" of their food, I found it to be not only bad but overpriced. If I wanted to get ripped-off for bad Tacos, I'd go straight to California, thank you. Which is actually where most of the founders grew up in, and that's what THEY think makes them "close" to Mexican cuisine -if only! Drinks were good though, they had these things called Makgeolli-tas (makgeolli+margaritas) and they're the only thing I would ever go back to Vatos for.

I can see how bad is the tortilla even in the pic! Can't you?

Kimchi Fries

Taco Bell. I feel like I don't need to say much about why this is a NO-NO, but just in's all FAKE! Hard "tortilla" tacos are not real tacos, chalupas are not even remotely what they look like in this place. I've said this before but I'll say it again: there's a reason why there's no Taco Bell in Mexico. So, really, just don't.

Rule: If your Taco can stand on it's own, then it's NOT a Taco!

Tomatillo. This is actually another chain, I know the one in Itaewon only though. It's like Taco Bell's baby. All Faek-o McFake, hard "tortillas", flour tortillas...nothing I'd call real Mexican food.

Remember the Taco rule earlier?
What on earth is this gringo thing?!

 Now, the DOs

Cirilo's. This is, for sure, the most expensive Mexican restaurant I've ever been to, however, it's not all THAT bad. They have a couple of things worth trying. Like their Asada Tacos, which are grilled beef tacos; their tortilla is not flour but corn and even though it's kind of small, it's actually pretty decent. Even though they're more like a fusion dish, their Al Pastor Fries are awesome (Pastor marinated pork with dried chilies and axiote, and makes the most popular tacos in Mexico) and even their burritos (which aren't Mexican) are very decent. Their Guacamole was a bit disappointing due to the lack of taste. You'd think guacamole is the one Mexican thing anybody can make properly, right? Well, truth be's not, I mean, anyone can crash avocados with tomato and onion but only some can make the real deal; everybody always forgets about salt, lemon and chillies -THE key to a good guacamole! Anyway, one of their best things are their Churros, they serve them with a nice sort of gravy made outta chocolate and peanut -delish!


Coronarita + Al Pastor Fries

Delicious Churros

Taco Amigo. It is a small place and it's not even pretty, it has a couple of "Mexican" things decorating the walls and the tables are kinda cramped, but well, the important thing here is the food, so...let's get to that. It is actually very authentic, I would say. I had Mexican Tacos Meal (2), that is beef tacos, basically, the highlight of this dish is that it is served with rice, beans, chips and salsa so that leaves you more than satisfied; not the best tacos ever, but it does the trick well enough; the salsas helped a lot as they're really spicy and tasty (hot stuff!). I had Agua de Horchata (horchata is a drink made outta rice) with that, and it was delish. My sis had chocolate (drink) from Oaxaca, which is supposed to be the best but I tried it and it was quite average, really. My friend had some Fish Tacos Meal, which is the sea version of what I had. A weird thing is the fact that they have Chimichangas (a sort of Argentinian empanadas) and some stuff that's not Mexican at all, I don't understand why.

Sorry for the lousy quality pic, tha tacos were good though!

Don Charly. Last, but not least, the most truly authentic place I've tried in all of Seoul. CNN said "While the quest for Mexican food often stops with Korean-American takes on Mexican food, or pale interpretations of Mexican food, Don Charly is the real thing -- no frills, no kimchi.", which made me want to go see by myself how truthful they were being, turns out, completely. In Korea, Don Charly is called a Mexican Restaurant, but in Mexico is just what we would call a "Taqueria/Torteria" (a place where all they sell are Tacos and Tortas -mexican sandwiches), but it's okay coz it really does have the best Tacos in Town. The first time we has Choriqueso Tacos, according to Charly (a cool dude from Mexico City) the chorizo is homemade, it was flour tortilla but it's okay because that's the way it's supposed to be on choriquesos and he also gives you Lime (better known in Mexico as LEMON) and the salsas are on the table: green and red, the way God and Quetzalcoatl intended. The red one is the winner, but beware, it is like a real spicy Mexican sauce so if you're no up for spicy stuff, you might wanna be careful with it, and if you're Mexican: Bienvenido a casa, paisano! haha

Don Charly's Menu

We also had a "Llorona" Torta, which is fulled with an alambre (a
mixture of cheese grilled together with pre-marinated and cooked meats either in a skillet or grill top), avocado and beans...amazing stuff, I tell you! I think basically because the bread was Charly's personal recipe and not the terrible bread they make here in Korea (TBH). The second time around -we brought friends so they'd experience the authentic Mexican food!) and we (sis and I) had Tacos de Chicharron en Salsa Verde and Cochinita Pibil and shared so we could try both; as I am writing this post, I swear I am pretty much drooling all over again just remembering the taste of those tacos, that's how good they were -especially de Chicharron ones -glorious! The only thing I didn't care for were the prices, it's still a little pricey for just Tacos and Tortas, but well, Western food is always expensive in Korea.

Don Charly. Itaewon. Noksapyeong Station, Line 6.


Anyway, now you know what your options are for whenever you're having those crazy Tacos and Mexican Food cravings (that oddly enough, are not exclusive to Mexicans!). If you still feel undecided, you can try them all one taco at the time OR, you can always bring me with you for personal advice *wink*.

Oh, and just so you know, one of the best and most authentic Mexican dishes in Korea are -of course- at my house. Nothing better than Mexican Homemade Food to make you feel like at Casa!

Homemade Cheese Gorditas, Guacamole, Quesadillas + Salsa Roja :)


  1. I def agree about Vatos... way way overpriced and over hyped for what it is. I think I was still hungry when I left, after probably dropping 30,000 won. I will def try some of your suggestions! Hope we can try some of your tacos some day...

  2. Yes, you definitely should and then let me know how it went! And yes, hopefully, we can make tacos sometime soon ^^

  3. Hola Diana, me encantó tu review de la comida mexicana en Seúl.
    El año pasado estuve un mes en Corea y me dio curiosidad mas que antojo, por probar comida Mexicana; varios amigos me recomendaban "batos urban tacos" (obviamente x ser el mas conocido), hasta que el novio de una amiga nos llevo a un lugar en Sinsa que juraban era fusion mexicana-coreana. Concepto muy hipster, y la comida simplemente fue extraña. Después de regresar a Guadalajara, supe que habían cerrado el lugar. LOL Regresare a Corea a finales de Julio, y definitivamente tendré que ir a comer a alguno de tus lugares recomendados!!!
    Si tienes un par de lugares extra que recomiendes para comer o conocer, fuera de lo turístico o cultural (que ya lo recorrí), son bienvenidos! Soy diseñadora, y me encanta usar colores "llamativos" en mi cabello. Eso te da la pauta para saber que podría gustarme. hahahaha TXS! ^_^

    1. Hola!

      Acabo de encontrar tu comentario -tiene mucho que no blogueo (ahora vlogueo jeje). Por ahora no se me ocurre nada en particular para visitar, mas que Tteokkboki Town, no se si ya fuiste, pero es un barrio en Seul (cerca de Dongdaemun) donde hay muchos restaurantes especializados en Tteokkboki, muy recomendable! No se si ya estas por aca en estas fechas, pero espero tengas un buen viaje. Saludos! ^^

  4. Chimichangas are Mexican not Argentinian, you are confusing then with Chimichurri which is the sauce you put on the Argentinian empanadas. I can tell by your desdain of flour tortillas that you aren't from the North, here we love our tortillas de harina. And Chimichangas are from the Northwest, from Sinaloa and Sonora. Smh at that lack of knowledge of Mexican food, Deadpool would be heartbroken by your ignorance about Chimichangas. That said, thank you so much for the review. I keep seeing lists about good Mexican restaurants clearly written by people that never tasted real Mexican food, so this one gives me an honest review, thanks.