A Guide to Veg Dining in Itaewon, Seoul

A Guide to Veg Dining in Itaewon, Seoul


Though a large part of South Korea’s population is Buddhist, it’s surprisingly difficult to find vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Seoul. After emerging from years of poverty, Koreans firmly believe that meat is essential to their diet. Even if food, such as dumplings, is labeled as “vegetable,” don’t be surprised to find minced pork or seafood incorporated into the filling.


The international district of Itaewon is your bet to finding something plant-based to eat. The expat influence yields more culinary diversity for herbivores and most businesses here cater to English speakers (which makes it easier to ask for special requests). Below are some of our favorite eats found in Itaewon and its surrounding neighborhoods, Hannamdong and Haebangchon (HBC), both a 10-15 minute walk from Itaewon and Noksapyeong subway stations.

Discover even more veg dining options in our Itaewon Google Map»

ALL VEGAN

Plant in ItaewonPlant in Itaewon

Photos from Plant’s FB page

Plant

Plant happens to be vegan, but also just plain makes delicious food. Its the place where even my meat-eating friends request to go. The café has an eclectic, chill atmosphere perfect for lingering. The menu offers wholesome, brightly-flavored dishes like a burrito bowl, West African peanut stew, and tempeh rainbow wrap. We recommend sharing the chili cheese fries as a sinful starter. Finish up your meal with an assortment of unique home-made cakes from the dessert counter like earl grey and ginger pumpkin spice. There’s plenty to drink too. Opt for locally brewed beers and kombucha on tap or a host of other comforting drinks like lattes, green smoothies, and cider. Plant has two locations: a full restaurant a block from Itaewon Station Exit 3 and a cozy bakery hidden on a side street just a few blocks away. Closed Sundays

Plant Café & Kitchen
2nd Floor, Bogwang-ro 117, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-749-1981
Hours: Mon thru Thurs 11am – 9pm, Fri thru Sat 11am-10pm, closed Sundays

Plant Bakery Café
Itaewon-dong 63-15, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 070-4115-8388
Hours: Mon – Sat 11am-8pm, closed Sundays

www.plantcafeseoul.com

Huggers in SeoulJalapeño pepper cheeseburger photo from Huggers FB page

Huggers

Huggers is tucked behind the Seoul Central Mosque but well worth the effort of seeking. Open Friday through Sundays, this cozy establishment’s specialties are vegan burgers and desserts. Creative patties include bulgogi, basil pesto avocado, and jalapeño pepper cheeseburgers. It’s also one of the only places in Seoul where we’ve encountered veg ramen. Visit Hugger’s Facebook and Instagram accounts to scout out specialty menu items and decadent desserts like raw blueberry cheesecake, s’mores bars, and chocolate blueberry muffins. Owner AJ Garcia is also the director of CARE, the only organization actively rescuing, rehabilitating, and re-homing animals in South Korea.

686-22 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-749-9493
huggers.biz

Hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays 11:00 am – 10:30 pm

Vegetus

Photo from Vegetus FB page

Vegetus

Vegetus is located in funky HBC where many young expats live and socialize. The menu regularly offers a variety of nutritious vegan dishes that range from salads, pasta, pizzas, burgers, rice bowls, and desserts. The establishment also serves gluten-free dishes, which are clearly marked, plus a choice of coffees, teas, Belgian beers, and soft drinks.

59 Sinheung-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 70-8824-5959
www.vegetus.kr

Hours: Tues 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm, Wed thru Fri 12:00 – 9:30 pm (break between 3–5pm), Weekend 12:00 – 9:30 pm (no break)


VEG-FRIENDLY OPTIONS

There are a lot of businesses that include some veg-friendly items on their menu. Below are some of our top recommendations broken down by cuisine. Locate even more restaurants on our Google map.

Sandwiches and Salads

While salad and sandwich shops are staples in Western society, they’re a little harder to come by in Seoul. The following serve innovative fare beyond the usual standbys:

RootOrange bowl and salad sushi photos from Root’s Instagram page

Root

A bright, second-level cafe in Hannamdong near the Leeum Samsung Museum that prepares fresh salads bowls with flavorful dressings, sandwiches, and sushi. It has several veg choices, meat can often be substituted with tofu upon request. Arrive early for lunch, the small space can fill up quickly. Closed Tuesdays

741-19 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-797-9505
www.instagram.com/rooteveryday

Fat Cat Neighborhood BistroBliss bowl with hummus and vegan Violife cheese

Fat Cat Neighborhood Bistro

A chill bistro in HBC that serves hummus sandwiches and Bliss Bowls These salad bowls start with a base of lentils, squash, dried cranberries, and greens that can be customized with an order of avocado, hummus, feta, or Violife vegan cheese. It also has Lumi kombucha on tap and serves soy-based lattes. Closed Mondays

46-8 Yongsandong 2(i)-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
www.facebook.com/fatcathbc

Salad SellerPhoto from Salad Seller Instagram page

Salad Seller

A communal cafe in the heart of artsy Hannamdong that focuses on fresh, health-conscious salads, sandwiches, soups, and juices. The menu uses seasonal ingredients and they sometimes offer soup and sandwich deals for lunch. Visit its Instagram page for weekly specials. Closed Mondays

684-24 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-794-0282
instagram.com/saladseller

MEXICAN

Other than Taco Bell, Mexican restaurants are few and far between in Seoul. These two are sure to have something meat-free on hand:

Green enchilada photo from Taco Amigo FB page

Taco Amigo

Taco Amigo has been serving filling, Tex-Mex cuisine in Itaewon for over 10 years. The menu caters to vegans with sautéed soy meat and vegan Violife cheese substitutes. Rice, beans, and guacamole are free of animal-byproducts as well.

130-34 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-749-5253
www.tacoamigokorea.com

Vatos Vegan TacosVegan taco photo by Vatos

Vatos Urban Tacos

This Itaewon hotspot specializes in Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine. Burritos, bowls, and tacos can be made vegetarian or vegan upon request and a mushroom and spinach quesadilla is listed on the menu. Vatos prepares monster margaritas that can also be mixed alcohol-free.

1 Itaewon-ro 15-gil, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-797-8226
vatoskorea.com

Mediterranean and Indian

Itaewon is home to the Seoul Central Mosque. Numerous Middle Eastern, Turkish, Indian, and Pakistani restaurants are congregated around it on the hilly streets of Usadan-ro. There is also a slew of of businesses east of the Hamilton hotel on Itaewon-ro. Most of the falafel joints are cheaply priced and are usually a solid fall-back option:

Chakraa currisPhoto from Chakraa’s FB page

Chakraa

Chakraa is a no-frills Hannamdong restaurant that serves Indian homestyle cooking. There are vegetarian appetizers and curries on the menu. Check its Facebook page for lunch and buffet specials that almost always include vegetarian options.

28-9 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-796-1149
www.chakraa.co.kr

Casablanca SandwicherieVegetarian sandwich photo from Casablanca’s FB page

Casablanca Sanwicherie & Morococo Cafe

Located across the street from each other in HBC, these two Moroccan restaurants are run by the same owners. Casablanca has veg side dishes and a hefty sandwich of veg croquettes stuffed in a home-baked baguette (that’s vegan without the mayo) as well as comforting shakshuka: a dish of poached eggs and veggies bathed in a cumin spiced tomato sauce. Morococo Cafe offers a carrot salad with caramelized plums and toasted almonds and a vegan rice dish with grilled tempeh, eggplant, veggies, and a soy-based cream sauce. Closed Mondays

2ga 44-7 Yongsan-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
www.facebook.com/CasablancaSandwicherie
www.facebook.com/morocococafe

Pizza

Aside from Vegetus, we have yet to discover vegan-friendly pizza around Itaewon. Most shops have higher prices than back home and cater to a Korean palette with tomato sauces are spicier or sweeter than Western-style pie with toppings like corn, sweet potato, and mayo. If you’re looking for something more traditional, stick to these choices:

Gino's NY PizzaPesto Primo pizza photo from Gino’s FB page

Gino’s NY Pizza

Gino’s whips up New York style pizza with dough and tomato sauce made from scratch with numerous veg toppings. Partner and owners Eugene Kim and David Kim are in fact former NYC residents who obsess over creating the perfect crust and pie. Closed Mondays

457-3 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-792-2234
www.facebook.com/pg/ginoskorea

Magpie Brewing Co. PizzaSpinach and cheese pizza photo from Magpie’s FB page

Magpie Brewing Co.

Magpie is one of the first craft beer companies to pop up in South Korea. Its laid-back Itaewon branch not only carries specialty brews, but decent pizza as well. Diners can order cheese or veggie pizza from the basement bar.

244-1 Noksapyeong-daero, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: 02-749-2703
www.magpiebrewing.com

Al Matto

This quaint HBC spot offers several meat-free pies like Margarita, Fiorentina, and Funghi as well as some vegetarian pasta dishes. Closed Mondays

41-1, Sinheung-Ro, Seoul, South Korea
Phone: 02-794-4616
www.facebook.com/pages/Al-Matto/131414543662602

TIPS
  • Insadong is another vegan-friendly neighborhood. Diners can choose among meat-free buffet, casual, and fine-dining restaurants centered around Jogyesa Buddhist Temple. Delve deeper into Buddhist culture and take a vegan cooking class conducted in English on Saturdays at the Temple Food Center next to Anguk station.
  • Invest a few dollars in the Happy Cow app to easily locate nearby restaurants in Seoul and around the world. Absolutely worth it.
  • Just because a dish is labeled as “vegetable” does not guarantee it’s meat-free.
  • It’s not customary to ask for special orders at Korean restaurants; asking to modify a dish to be veg can sometimes be very confounding to the staff.
  • Most kimchi is fermented in fish or shrimp paste.
  • There’s a high and quick turnover rate for restaurants in Seoul, faster than apps like Google Maps can track. Double-check if a restaurant is still in business by verifying recent activity on their social media pages or review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor.

Discover even more veg options in our Itaweson Google map» 


What vegetarian finds have you discovered in Seoul? Share tips for other travelers below.


Lara Dalinsky

Lara DalinskyLara was infected with the travel bug at an early age. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, for her husband’s job and hopes to explore much of Asia while there. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR,is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography, and of course, travels as much as possible.

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