Carlos Eats Seoul: Visiting Taco Bell (타코벨) in Sinchon (신촌동) during their grand opening

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)

Cuisine: Mexican

Website: http://www.tacobellkorea.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Taco-Bell-Korea/194679020581660

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/theboldchoice

Advertisements

Carlos Eats Seoul: Taco Bell (타코벨) Grand Opening in Sinchon 09/16/11

Many food bloggers in South Korea report an increasing interest in Mexican food throughout the nation as many local chains begin to pop up around Seoul. It certainly makes sense for a popular franchise, such as Taco Bell, to expand into the country. However, Taco Bell previously failed to expand into South Korea with 2 locations in the 90s and closed down in China back in 2008. The change in interest in foreign foods and increase in foreigners visiting South Korea may also play a factor, in addition to the powerful marketing today with the use of the internet and blogs to make food trends.

Taco Bell suffered serious losses in the United States after it was falsely sued in January for only having 35% meat (the lawsuit was later dropped) though international locations did better financially. The move to Seoul is a big step with only 250 locations out of the United States as of September 2010. The price of Mexican food can be pricey in South Korea and a cheap resource like Taco Bell is certainly welcome by me. Also: Taco Bell is perhaps the only fast food chain in Korea that offers free refills on soft drinks. There are only 3 Taco Bell locations currently open in Itaewon (이태원), Hongdae (홍대), and Sindorim (신도림). The next location will have its grand opening this Friday, September 16th, in Sinchon (신촌동) by UPLEX  just a short distance from Yonsei University and Ewha University.

Website: http://www.tacobellkorea.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Taco-Bell-Korea/194679020581660

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/theboldchoice

Sa Ri One Lunch Box: New Korean To-Go by USF

Note: Sa Ri One Lunch Box has closed down.

About 3 weeks ago Sa Ri One, one of my favorite Korean restaurants in Tampa, opened a new branch called Sa Ri One Lunch Box out by USF. Tuesday my friends and I dined at the original Sa Ri One on Cypress St. (more on that in my next blog). Curious about how this location matches up I decided to grab some dinner at Lunch Box the next night.

Driving down 56th Street it’s really easy to miss Lunch Box. There is a ton of construction around and the plaza you find the little Korean place in is not the best area. However, the location is great in relation to USF and Temple Terrace residents having access to it. One of the employees there told me one of the reasons they opened a new branch was because they wanted to make it easier for people, who normally have to go all the way to Cypress Street by South Dale Mabry, to enjoy a good Korean meal.

Lunch Box is exactly what it sounds like, they have lunch and dinner portions of popular Korean food. You won’t be able to purchase Korean soups, enjoy lots of sides, or specialty items because the concept of Lunch Box is a to-go concept. You come in and select an order from the list of combos, such as Galbi, Bulgogi, Bibimbop, and Kimbob. A few minutes after ordering you have a to-go box in your hand full of vegetables, dumplings, rice, and your choice of meat.

An employee there hinted that they are working on some new concepts and that a snow ice cream will be coming soon to their location.

The place itself is clean and will hopefully keep the modern look it currently has. They also offer wi-fi, which is nice for iPod Touch and laptop users like myself. I decided to try their bulgogi beef since I didn’t order it the night before at the original location (almost all my friends did though).

The bulgogi was excellent. I think it maybe slightly better at the original since it’s on that hot pan when it comes out, but they still served it to me right it was cooked right. There was plenty of flavor, seasoning, and vegetables on it…it did not dry out. The vegetables and dumplings were a nice addition and the white rice (they also have fried rice) made me feel full. The price was affordable only around $9 as well (with a soda can).

Overall, I really like this little spot and will be making many trips back whenever I get the craving for Korean food and am in the USF/Temple Terrace area.

Sa Ri One Lunch Box on Urbanspoon

Name: Sa Ri One Lunch Box

Address: 8892 N. 56th St Temple Terrace, FL 33617

Phone Number: 813-984-2800

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sa-ri-one-lunch-box-tampa