Most travelers and expats alike think that one of the only good places to get a true American-style hamburger is in one of the more popular neighborhoods, such as Itaewon, Gangnam, Apujeong or Hongdae, but more and more independently owned Western restaurants are popping up all around the city. Serious Deli is located in Northern Seoul, in Seongbuk-dong, which is conveniently about a ten minute taxi ride from my apartment. I went there Wednesday afternoon, and it did not disappoint. I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that was probably one of the best hamburgers and pizza I’ve ever eaten in Asia.
Lonely Planet Description: They are serious about pizza at this busy, rustic space, its walls lined with shelves of tinned goods. The super crispy thin-crust pies come with a variety of toppings; they also serve pasta dishes and chunky homemade burgers (070-7723-9686; Seongbuk-dong; mains 15000-19000WON; 10:30am – 10:30pm; Line 4 to Hansung University, Exit 6, then bus 1111 or 2112)
How to get there: The Lonely Planet description was pretty accurate except for one small infraction. They do not inform us how long we will be on the bus or how many stops it is from exit 6. Good thing they got me ;). First, when you leave from exit 6, the bus stop is ahead 25 feet. There are only two buses that are running, the 1111 and the 2112. After you get on either bus, its five stops until you get to the stop for Serious Deli. The restaurant will be on your left. You can’t miss it.
Atmosphere: The Lonely Planet description is pretty accurate. It is a rustic little hole in the wall, but at the same time, you can feel the honesty and diligence in their work, which is represented in the food they serve. The tins on the wall, felt like I was eating in a bomb shelter circa 1950’s Iowa. There is nothing fancy about decor, but what they lack in style, they make up for in substance.
Food and Drink: So, here we go. I have high expectations when it comes to Western foods, and living in Asia, most of these expectations are not met (with good reason). However, when I first entered the restaurant and I took a casual glance around, I noticed the portion size was not going to be a problem. These pizzas and burgers are huge. I have enough food (I had to pack up) for at least a couple of days. I got the bacon and quatro pizza first. I don’t exactly know what the quatro was, but I’m going to assume it was cheese, because there was a ton of cheese on this thing. Like any man, I saw bacon and immediately ordered. With a little help from Google Translate, I figured out that the Serious Burger was the best burger for my palate. The pizza came out in about 15 minutes and literally took up my entire table.
The quatro pizza is a thin, oven baked pizza with lots and lots of cheese (I’m pretty sure I’m going to be constipated for a month). The cheese I tasted was Colby, and I believe there was a little bit of cream cheese underneath the Colby. The bacon was generous, and the pizza held together really well. Often times, I find pizzerias put too many toppings on the pizza to try to impress the customer with quantity, rather than quality, but Serious Deli balanced the portions perfectly. I got through about half the pizza with a coke, and some lemon water and had the rest wrapped up to go.
The Serious Burger came out next. The server waited for me finish before introducing me to this mighty beast of a burger. The Serious Burger is fucking serious. Bring some extra Lipitor, because this bad boy is going to put a beating on your heart. First thing I noticed was that you couldn’t actually make it into a burger. The actual size of the patty was huge; there had to be about a half a pound of beef on there. Also, they are so generous with the bacon, at least four strips. Finally, there was an egg and some cheese, with the other usual suspects (tomato, onion and lettuce). For a second, I just stared at it, wondering if it was real; like when I first saw the ending of Boogie Nights. Perplexed, I took my knife and fork and started to dig in. I ate the burger in quarters, and eventually finished about half. The meat was well done, but not dry. This is perfect for me, because I find a lot of the time, burgers seem to be either hockey pucks or still mooing. At the bottom of the frying pan (yes it comes out in a frying pan), there is a special meat sauce. I never really figured out what it was for, but I used it as a pseudo chili dipping sauce for my fries. It tasted like spaghetti sauce, but it had a little chili kick to it. Finally, I finished it off with a Coke. I felt like Adam Richman at the end of a Man vs. Food challenge. I was in a coma, with the meat sweats dripping off me like well basked turkey. The Koreans stared and judge, but I was too far gone to care.
Value: The total bill was 42000WON, which included the burger, the pizza, a Sprite and two Cokes. I got a Sprite to go because I needed something to help settle my stomach and that was the closest thing they had to cider. The value here is excellent. The pizza was 17000W and was very generous on the toppings. Pizzas at Serious Deli range from 15000W – 19000W. The Serious Burger was 16500W, and was a mammoth. Serious Deli’s burgers range from 15500 – 16500. However, there is a restaurant just around the corner called “Serious Burger”, an expansion of Serious Deli. The owner told me they had more burgers at that location, but I was too coma toast to check it out. Let’s put this into comparison. Last time I went to Kraze Burger with a friend, I ended up spending 34000W for two burgers, fries and Cokes. At Serious Deli, I got an extra Coke, and the Serious Burger was equal in size to both burgers from Kraze burger. You can’t go wrong on the value here my fellow travelers. I would head back here in a heartbeat, assuming it still beats.
Who should go to Serious Deli: People who are missing Western portions and want an actual, real beef burger that is authentically American. Anyone who is looking for honest, soulful and hearty meals served at a fair price.
Who should avoid Serious Deli: Do you have heart problems? This might be the one that takes you out fat boy.