So many places in this beautiful city, but so little time. It had been awhile since we’ve ventured into the craziness known as Myeongdong. But it was a beautiful day, so we decided to venture out and grab some Kalguksu (칼국수) which is perfect as the days begin to cool. Myeongdong Gyoja is a legendary kalguksu restaurant in Seoul. So much so that they have two branches less than 100 meters from each other. After my experience on Sunday, I can see why.
LP’s Description: The guidebook warns that it is going to be busy and damn were they spot on with that one. They also have a brief description about kalguksu which actually makes it sound pretty tempting.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to Myeongdong Gyoja is to take the subway to Myeongdong Station (Line 4) and depart from Exit 8. Take your first left and walk straight. At about 250-300 meters is the second Myeongdong Gyoja which is on your right. Up ahead by about 500 meters is the first Myeongdong Gyoja which is on your right. They both looked pretty similar, so go to the one which is the least busiest.
Service and Atmosphere: Busy, busy, busy. That is all there is to it. This is a no frills establishment that focuses on perfecting the few dishes that they have. Myeongdong Gyoja has a simple decor which is more equivalent to a high school cafeteria instead of a restaurant in the heart of Seoul. Nothing fancy and no gimmicks, just a simple decor with a buzzing atmosphere. We walked in and it was packed. We waited in line for only a few minutes. The server, although not the smiliest person in the world, was helpful. She found a spot so that we could bring Logan’s stroller in and not be too much in the way. It is tight quarters in there, especially for a bigger person. The food was served very quickly. It only took about 10 minutes from when we placed our orders to the first dishes arriving at the table. However, they make me pay first, which is a sin in my books.
Food and Drink: Today we ordered two bowls of Kalguksu (칼국수) and an order of Dumplings (만두) to split. Jill and I both had water. We didn’t really see any other beverages that were available.
Kalguksu 칼국수 (8,000KRW): Hello there delicious noodles. Where have you been all my life? This was the first time I have tried Kalguksu and my only regret is not trying it sooner. “Kalguksu” literally means “knife noodles”. After the noodles are cut, they are normally placed in a chicken broth and are boiled for several hours. Myeongdong Gyoja adds dumplings, zucchini, ground beef and other greens to their kalguksu. All the flavors combined make for a pleasant culinary experience. This dish, apparently is normally served in summer, as per Korean tradition, but I found that interesting because to me it felt like more of a fall or winter dish. Kalguksu is a warm dish with hearty ingredients normally reserved for the long, cold winter months. Needless to say, I’ll be back to order a few more bowls when the snow begins to fall in the ROK.
10 Dumplings 만두 (8,000KRW): The steamed dumplings came out next. The dumplings were filled with minced pork, Chinese leaks, vegetables and sesame oil. They were pretty small, almost bite-sized, but they had lots of flavor, especially when dipped into soy sauce.
The kimchi that had balls the size of coconuts (Free!): Holy shit, I haven’t had kimchi like that in awhile. After living in Korea for the last 5 years, I like to think that my tolerance for spicy foods has gradually increased. The kimchi served at Myeongdong Gyoja brought me down a peg or two or eleven. It pops you in the face like a quick Manny Pacquiao jab, leaving your eyes watering and slightly glazed over. It was a sharp contrast in comparison to the rest of the meal. The dumplings and kalguksu are fairly bland. However, the kimchi had tons of flavor for those who can handle it. As for me, I took a couple of bites and called it a day.
Value: The total bill for two bowls of kalguksu and an order of dumplings came out to 24,000KRW. A fair price for a very filling and comforting meal. Both Jill and I were so full that we ended up skipping dinner that night. I would go back to Myeongdong Gyoja in a heartbeat, but maybe this time, I might wait until the midweek so I can go and not feel rushed. It’s not the classiest of places or has the friendliest service, but it does provide a quality and tasty meal that’s not hard on the budget.
Who Should Visit Myeongdong Gyoja: This restaurant is very foreigner friendly with menus in English, Japanese and Chinese. This is an ideal spot for the budget traveller who needs to get filled up on the cheap. I would highly recommend this restaurant as a “starter” for people whom might not be ready to tackle the hardcore Korean foods just yet. The flavors are very familiar to Westerns, as well as delicious.
Who Should Avoid Myeongdong Gyoja: Next time we go back, we won’t be bringing Logan. He got bored pretty quick and this restaurant is not somewhere I would bring a small child. The menu is extremely limited (only four items), so if you are looking for something more extensive, there are tons of other restaurants in the area, including chains such as Mr.Pizza and McDonalds to satisfy the kiddos.