It was hard to miss Taco Bell on their Grand Opening Day in Sinchon (신촌동) last Friday. Employees walked around with signs pointing towards the restaurant and a man dressed as a taco greeted and waved at people walking through the city. Music played outside the store and employees outside gave away free tacos or soft drinks to visitors just for stopping by (this reminded me of the Panda Express grand opening at USF earlier this year). Some girls were in love with the taco bell man and the amount of buzz seemed to be marketing working its magic.
I was one of the lucky ones who won a taco and I literally jumped up and down when I won. The employees at the booth were very friendly certainly did their part to make visitors feel more welcomed.
This scene looked familiar. The menu items were a little different, but mostly just the same items you will find in the U.S.A. with different combinations of items. I decided to order Combo #3 (called sets in Korea) for around 5,000 won, which consists of a Crunchwrap Supreme and nachos with a soda. There was an electronic television to the side showing Americans eating tacos and burritos. The turn-around time was quite short and before I knew it I was heading to the drink machine to pick my beverage. The good thing about Taco Bell in Korea is the prices are actually similar to the prices in the United States and not marked up (Burger King being my prime example).
This is a sight you will rarely see in South Korea. Most fast food places (even McDonald’s and Burger King) remove the self-serve beverage machines when they enter foreign markets. Essentially it means you get less for your buck, though it is probably healthier to have less soda. Regardless, I was excited to use this machine I had not seen since my arrival (with the exception of Shake N’ Burger in SK Global House at Yonsei – meh) and quickly poured myself some Mountain Dew. Oddly, there is no Mountain Dew Baja Blast in Korea (my favorite flavor and one of the main reasons to go to Taco Bell in the U.S.A.!). I hope Taco Bell Korea will consider bringing this flavor to Seoul if their new stores succeed.
Like most fast food chains and coffee shops in Seoul, Taco Bell is 3 stories high and has plenty of seating arrangements on the second floor that overlooks Sinchon. It makes fast food seem so much fancier when you compare it to the Taco Bell locations in the United States that are so uncomfortable that you are almost always inclined to make an order to-go. There are even comfortable booths you can relax in at fast food chains in Korea.
The taco itself tasted remarkably similar to the ones in the United States. The shell was slightly less crunchy, but the cheese tasted better. The meat and other ingredients were the same. The Crunchwrap Supreme was as tasty as in the U.S.A. and was oozing out cheese. They supplied you with 2 sauces of your choice (I normally go with mild) and the taste was slightly different, but similar. The nachos were average and the cheese dip was satisfactory. Overall, a cheap and enjoyable fast food meal and cheaper than most competitors in Korea.
Restaurant Name: Taco Bell (타코벨)
Location: Sinchon (신촌동)