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Posts Tagged ‘itaewon’

Last weekend, my girlfriends and I decided to escape to the big city for two whirlwind days of shopping, foreign food and live music.

I awoke early on Saturday morning to catch a bus to Seoul with my friends Rachel and Jenny Ryan. We headed straight for Hongdae upon our arrival, and dropped our bags at our crash pad for the night, Backpacker’s Space. The hostel, which was roughly 90% occupied by our posse, was adorable, clean and comfortable. It featured three rooms with bunks and fresh linen, one (western-style) bathroom with countless toiletries, and a vanity corner with a hair dryer and a straightener. I died, since I hadn’t straightened my hair in 10 months — I was waaaaay too excited.

The owner was pleasant and helpful, and a water cooler with cups was a welcome amenity during the wee, hungover hours of the morning. Plus, it was located in the heart of the bustling University district, so we were just a hop, skip and jump away from the clubs where we spent our night bobbing and dancing to jams.

So we ditched our packs and headed to Dos Tacos for some food. It was the same restaurant that we visited in Gangnam with my ‘cuz last summer, but the Hongdae location. Meat and avocado burrito, yummers. Just per-fec-tion.

Afterward, we took the train to Myeongdong to do some serious retail damage. I couldn’t get out of Forever 21 without a necessary top… or five. Oooops!

We also ran into a grungy, creepy Garfield in the midst of our shopping spree, nbd.

On our way home, we got wrapped up into a conversation and missed our subway transfer (whoops) but eventually made it back to the hostel! We grabbed some beer, dolled up and got ready for our night on the town. I chose one of my new tops from F21 and paired with with a black skirt, black tights, black boots and my Lady Gaga ring. Faboosh!

The crew, about 15 women deep, rolled to T Bell to grab some more Mexican grub before going out to Club FF. I ate a taco, and a burrito… and part of Sasia’s quesadilla… and Priscilla’s nachos. Yeah. Bad move leaving me around available food.

Club FF was awesome! The event was the 7 year anniversary of the hot spot, and had a bunch of great bands to celebrate the occasion. The first act we saw was Kingston Rudieska, an awesome ska band. At 11 PM, the bar started serving FREE cocktails that we enjoyed for an hour. Needless to say, I only bought one beer during our stay.

Later in the night, I decided to meet up with Alyssa at Shake! a mile-a-minute underground dance party. Alyssa popped into Club FF to tell me her location after her phone went missing, and we realized we were wearing the exact. same. outfit.

We had both purchased the same shirt that day without realizing it, and went on to dress ourselves in the same threads. It was hilariously mortifying — we looked like a Korean couple on their honeymoon.

We stayed at Shake for hours, went back to Club FF and shook it til the wee hours of morning.

I scraped myself out of bed in the morning, showered and enjoyed a picturesque cup of coffee while I waited for my ladies to get ready.

I also enjoyed the view of Hello Kitty cafe across the street. So cuuuuuute — where was Candace when I needed her? ^_-

After everyone was awake, we cabbed it to Itaewon to get some pub grub at Wolfhound. Rachel was sooo very excited to get her Bloody Mary. I skipped my own Mary for a pint of strong cider, and went crazy for their menu. In the end, I opted for a shepherd’s pie and a side salad with ranch. RANCH DRESSING! The second time I’ve enjoyed the creamy, fatty goodness in ten months. Yum!

Evan probably would have guessed that my eyes won a competition over my stomach during this meal, but I ate every last bite. Nom nom.

Being the wonderful girlfriends that we are, Rachel and I popped into Quizno’s on our way home to pick up sandwiches for us and boyfs to eat for dinner, which I enjoyed with Ev after a sleepy bus ride home.

Successful, wonderful weekend getaway!

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In addition to our excursion to Taco Bell, we noshed on flavors that have been dearly missed from my palette. From Middle Eastern and Mexican to sandwiches and burgers, the food was so delectably different than the fare offered in Jeonju.

On Thursday, I was finally able to peel myself out of bed to meet up with friends for a delicious Arabic meal. We headed to Alyssa’s ‘hood, near Hongdae, to feast at Petra.

We started with a trio of hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) and labaneh cheese, with a side of warm pita bread (real pita, not the flour tortillas we so enjoy at Aladdin’s Lamb).

I barely got this picture before it was devoured.

We ordered another round of the dips for when Rachel and Greg joined us at the table.  I also ordered delicious falafel, tabbouleh and pita to mix with the tasty round of condiments. Oh em gee… the best falafel I have had in such a long time. I couldn’t stop myself from shoveling food into my mouth.

Ev got the lamb and cous cous. There was a lot of serious nom nom going on at the table.

The next day, we traveled around the city to shop and see the sights. After Evan got fitted for a custom-made suit (so handsome) in Itaewon, we stayed in the foreigner-friendly area to get a taste of a more “authentic” Mexican restaurant. Vamos comemos!


We ended up at a place called Los Amigos, and while it wasn’t Baja Sonora, it certainly touched on my unsatisfied desire for So Cal Mexican food. We ordered chips and guacamole to start, then a combination platter to share. The plate came with plenty of food, and allowed us to try a variety of entrees instead of having to choose just one or two. We ate a taco, a burrito, a tostada and an enchilada complete with beans and rice.

It. Was. So. Good. They even had sour cream! Imagine me shoveling chips into this mess of a plate, then dunking them in guacamole and sour cream before taking a huge bite. I’m telling you, pure nirvana.

Ev was particularly stoked on the American-sized soda, which is about four times the size of the cups you get at Korean restaurants. No joke, I’m actually used to drinking 8 ounces at a time.

I keep thinking of that cheese/beans/sour cream combination, and it’s seriously depressing me when I have broccoli soup staring back from the fridge. Le sigh.

That night, we set out to find perfect, juicy American pub food to put us into food comas so we could fall asleep easily into our heavenly bed at the Astoria. Sam Ryan’s, the pub we visited our last time in Itaewon, fit the bill perfectly.

Evan’s order was a no-brainer — basically, if there is something that combines beef, cheese and bacon on a menu, you best believe that will be his choice.

I opted for the steak sandwich with chutney, cheddar and caramelized onions. Oh my. The juicy steak melding with the tangy cheddar, a touch of sweetness from the chutney and the onions melting when they hit your tongue… and the bread! The bread was fresh and soft. I die. This picture does this wonderful, amazing concoction no justice. It’s actually a terrible photo, but I was exhausted and impatient to eat. Be happy I snapped anything!

There are no words to tell you how much I dig sandwiches. The combination of textures, temperatures and flavors have always done wonders for my palette. Subway was a regular fixture on days I would eat out when I was working in L.A. How I took fast, cheap and flavorful sammies for granted!

In Jeonju, there are slim pickins’ for fixins’ and you end up with a sliver of meat, tired veggies and sub-par bread, all totally over-priced. It wasn’t hard to decide that on our last morning, we would get another sandwich after upping our temptation with the pub grub.

At Quizno’s, I ordered an Italian sub and relished in every single bite. Hot pepperoni, salami, crisp lettuce and tomato, gooey mozzarella, pepperoncinis with a kick. YUM!

Now I’m home, drooling over my memories and trying not to scarf down more snacks because I’m salivating.

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No, Kim Jong Il hasn’t recruited me to do any work for the North Koreans — I’m staying as far away from that border as possible. I’m talking TB baby, the one run I could never resist, whether it be early in the morning or late night in Long Beach, zooming through the drive-thru to get my fix.

Oh, Taco Bell.

This pseudo-Mexican eatery was our first stop during our five-day trip to Seoul last week to celebrate Solnal 설날, or the lunar new year. The holiday fell on a Wednesday — Friday this year (woo hoo) so we packed our bags, hopped aboard a bus and spent the better part of a week in the north.

While Koreans around the country dined on tteokguk 떡국 (rice cake soup) and bowed to their eldest family members, Evan and I headed straight for Itaewon (aka foreigner’s heaven) for five days of non-Korean cuisine. Starting with the Mexican fast food joint everyone loves as it’s going down.

You see, T. Bell is right up there with Ice Cream Snickers as a debilitating weakness of mine — I know it’s bad for me, I know its going to beat up my tummy for a few hours, but I just can’t resist the ooey-gooey refried beans, orange cheese and all the fixins’. Disgusting but true.

We arrived in Itaewon around 2:30 PM, just as the lunch rush came through. I was shocked to see how popular the eatery was with not only foreigners, but Koreans as well. The fact that Taco Bell closed their original Korea locations in the early 1990s due to lack of interest, and now they have lunch lines that stretch out the door, really speaks to how the demographic of this peninsula has changed. Not only are there hordes of waygooks from all around the world that call Korea home now, but the locals have embraced culture from the west more wholeheartedly — including the greasy, deliciously fatty food.

The menu had all of the cheapo staples on it (burritos, tacos, nachos, etc.) and the “lite” menu was much more extensive, but I was more fascinated with the items I didn’t recognize. Nacho fries? Oh em gee.

Thank goodness I have spent the better part of my year in Jeonju, where foreign food is relatively hard to find, expensive and the choices are limited. Basically, Korean food is always your best bet here. But despite my Asian-inspired diet, better understanding of reasonable portions and the recent controversy over the legitimacy of T. Bell’s “beef product,” I not only ordered multiple items from the TB menu, but ate them all until I was beyond full — and enjoyed every last calorie-laden, nutritionally-devoid bite. I literally fulfilled dreams I’ve had about Taco Bell in the past few months.

After inhaling my taco supreme, nacho “bell grande” (nacho supreme) and bean burrito, it took approximately 20 minutes for my stomach to begin feeling like a rusty meat grinder, but it was worth it. So worth it. Honestly, I considered ordering more food before Evan gently reminded me that, at times, my eyes can be a tad bigger than my stomach — and by a tad, I mean I order enough food to feed an army.


On our last day in Seoul, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that we returned to Taco Bell directly after eating lunch to buy more food for the ride home.

Oh, and I tried to steal a bunch of hot sauce to take back home with me, only to realize that the bins of condiments next to the soda machine were ketchup! Barf. The Koreans must be on to the American way of hording packets from fast food, so we got a designated amount of sauce — from behind the counter — with our meal.

I justified these fatty excursions, along with the rest of my gluttony during Solnal, with the fact that I was on vacation!

Only nine more weeks until I fulfill the rest of my foodie fantasies in America…

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The week after returning from Busan just flew by, thanks in part to a busy — and short — school week. On Friday, the nation celebrated Buddha’s birthday, which meant a four-day week for us. We decided to take the opportunity to finally visit Seoul for the first time, and catch up with my cousin Tim.

Evan and I bought tickets for the 7:30 bus a day in advance, and arrived at the bus station with a comfortable amount of time to find our seats, kick back and relax. The buses here are luxurious — soft seats that recline far enough to sleep comfortably, and enough leg room to keep Kobe Bryant content.

I snapped this gorgeous sunset as our bus pulled out of Jeonju.

Nearly four hours, an episode of The Hills and a cat nap later, we arrived in Seoul. TIm greeted us at the massive bus terminal, then we hopped aboard a subway to his neighborhood, Gangnam-gu.

Once we arrived, I quickly changed and threw on a pair of heels, and we were off to meet up with Tim’s work buddies to celebrate his pal Hamilton’s birthday. The city — population approximately 24 million — was overwhelming and exciting. At the bar, we grabbed some mekchu and got the party started. So happy to be with family!

The beer was flowing, and the party moved on to tequila shots. Hm. For those of you who don’t know, Evan cannot stand tequila, but he downed his share anyway, in the spirit of camaraderie. It was basically top shelf anyway — Pepe Lopez, anyone? :P

After our whistles were sufficiently wet, we continued to parade around the city, stopping at watering holes along the way. The heels I wore turned out to be a bad decision … I required Evan’s socks and Tim’s shoes to eventually make it home. I’m spoiled.

Friday night was nonexistant on the town. We got home around 5 that morning, so needless to say we weren’t in the mood to drink. We took it easy, and saw Robin Hood at a nearby cinema. It was a prequel, so-so, nothing to write home about.

Saturday night we were ready to hit the town again. Since I had a hankering for the foreign food it is hard to find in Jeonju, we ended up going to Itaewon to get some good old-fashioned American grub.

Itaewon was unlike anything I had seen in Korea thus far. The rainy streets were full of people from every different ethnic background you could think of, and the restaurants that lined the streets displayed everything from Indian food and tapas to Italian and Mexican. It was so diverse — due in part to a local USA military base — for a second I thought I was back in America.

We ended up walking up a steep, rocky street to a sports bar called Sam Ryan’s. I ordered a juicy steak sandwich, topped with cheddar, mushrooms and peppers, with a side of crinkly fries. Heavenly to say the least.

After dinner, we kept the party rolling over to Apkujong, known as the sort of “Beverly Hills” of Seoul, to a club called Monkey Beach. It was raining all day, but Evan had somehow found two abandoned umbrellas on the street. Tim’s friends Nick and Seung Hyun joined us for dinner and drinks. I caught my cuz and his gal in an adorable candid.

The club reminded me of a cross between a Spring Breaker’s hangout and an indoor rave. There were lots of flashing lights and techno beats, as well as buckets of alcohol being sold. A winning combination!

We boogied and jammed to the deejay’s set list. All in all, a perfect way to end our last night of mini-vacation!

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