Carlos Eats Seoul: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스) Fresh Mexican Grill in Hongdae (홍대)

Money has been pretty tight in Seoul as I wait for my financial aid to arrive from my home university. I have had to make it by on things, such as tuna kimbap, ramyun, pizza, and various other cheap things you can find in convenience stores (the college student lifestyle indeed). My awesome parents back home in Tampa dropped me some cash the other day and I decided I should probably have one good meal to keep myself a little happy until my scholarships and aid come.

I was craving Mexican. Tacos & Rice was the first thing to come to mind, but I was thinking more of a sit-down environment and found Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스on my food blog friend Seoul Food’s blog. Some Korean food blogs with amazing food pictures I found on Korean search engines Naver and Daum led me out the door and on my way to Hongdae on a food adventure.

I ended up lost looking for the restaurant for about an hour, but used the mental map in my head and some friendly locals to find the nightclub Harlem in Hongdae. Once you are at the club you walk down the street and make a left into an alleyway and you can find Tacos Chidos near the back of Kraze Burger. This area is surrounded with students and is right next to Hongik University so if you don’t see any students you know you are probably going the wrong way.

When you enter you will see about five or six tables and a bar. I decided to sit at a table. A waiter was quick to bring me a menu and bring me some complimentary chips and salsa. One of the first things I noticed was the free Wi-Fi and a waitress was nice enough to set me up on my iPod Touch with the password. Another cool thing inside the restaurant was Spanish-style wall paintings and Spanish music playing inside the restaurant which created a nice atmosphere, especially to a Hispanic diner.

I decided to order the ground beef burrito for 10,900 won. The cheapest burrito is the bean burrito for 8,900 won, but I like some meat in my burritos. Tacos range from 6,000-8,500 won and for that price I think it is probably a better deal to get a burrito. The enchiladas also caught my eye with chicken for 10,900 won and beef for 12,900 won. I also ordered a Coca-Cola for 2,500 won and a side of guacamole for 1,000 won.

In Tampa there are few places where you can get a small sample of guacamole and if you do find it then the guacamole is some ridiculous price like $3 or $5 so I was happy to try the guacamole at Tacos Chidos. I was quick to finish the chips and salsa and when I finished the waiter came and refilled it for me. At first I was confused and thought maybe I was being charged for this and when I noticed that this was just the waiter servicing me well, then I really wanted to tip the waiter (unfortunately in South Korea tipping is considered rude). The tortilla chips tasted fresh and the salsa was a little spicy with a nice aftertaste to the chips.

The burrito came out quickly. I read the cuisine was Tex-Mex and normally I am not a fan of this type of Mexican cuisine, but I was surprised when I discovered the savory taste of the meat and ingredients inside the burrito. The rice and beans were both satisfactory, certainly not authentic Mexican cuisine but still enjoyable. The side of guacamole tasted fresh and was a nice addition to the rice, beans, and burrito. The sauce on the burrito was slightly spicy, but added a nice flavoring. The tortilla used for the burrito kept in tact and didn’t fall apart when I started to dig in. Many of the flavors here reminded me of Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant in Tampa. Different than California-style Mexican food and places like The Taco Bus.

One of the waitresses was watching me eat and brought me a complimentary side item of jalapeños. Although I don’t eat spicy food I couldn’t help but be astounded by the great service at Tacos Chidos. When I finished my meal the waitress came by and offered to refill my chips again for me despite my empty plate. The waiter refilled my drink every time he saw it low and never proceeded to try to rush me out of the restaurant with my check. The great service and enjoyable Mexican food really made my time at Tacos Chidos memorable and I suggest you check it out if you have a chance.

Restaurant Name: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스)

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: Hongdae

Address: 마포구 서교동 361-8 경서빌딩 1F Seoul, South Korea

Phone Number: 02-3143-3618

Other blogs about Tacos Chidos:

http://www.cyworld.com/sosweet22/7224339

http://deltion.blog.me/40124231603

http://blog.naver.com/osunsimi/129309600

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Carlos Eats Seoul: Caffe Bene (카페베네) in Sinchon (신촌)

During my first weekend in Seoul I was really hungry and wandering around looking for something good to eat in Sinchon. My rusty hangul was preventing me from reading many of the signs around me and I somehow ended up wandering into Caffe Bene or 카페베네 (It wasn’t hard for this to happen as Caffe Bene is seen almost as frequently as Paris Baguette). You’ll find cafes practically everywhere around South Korea. Coffee is actually really expensive in South Korea, it can cost more than 7,000 won for a drink…and I thought Starbucks in America was expensive. I normally pay around $3/$4 (~4,000 won) maximum for a coffee. Coffee is so easy to make at home it really should not be an expensive luxury item unless the taste is phenomenal.

I did see something that looked very appetizing on the menu: Caramel Cinnamon Bread. This large piece of bread was a sweet and satisfying (though certainly an extremely indulgent and unhealthy) choice and it has to be one of the best desserts I have had before. You’ll find many dessert shops throughout Seoul and you have to really wonder how Koreans manage to stay so skinny with waffles and ice cream literally everywhere.

There was a bit of language barrier problem here when, despite me pointing and saying the name of the item, the cashier had no clue what I was trying to say. Luckily, she grabbed someone who spoke some English and helped me out some. She got me my honey bread item, but gave me the wrong beverage: a sparkling organic blood orange drink, which actually ended up tasting quite good but probably cost me more than I really wanted to spend.

Cafes are also a nice place to lounge and usually have Wi-Fi. It sure isn’t no Cafe Kili, but I’ll take the desserts here anyday.

Restaurant Name: Caffe Bene (카페베네)

Cuisine: Cafe, Desserts

Neighborhood: Sinchon

Website: http://www.caffebene.co.kr/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/caffebene

Twitter: http://twitter.com/caffebenehq

Carlos Eats Seoul: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

My first few days living in Sinchon I had a difficult time finding good places to eat. Sinchon is surrounded with hundreds of restaurants. Lots of chains and plenty of places for people unfamiliar with the area to waste lots of money on overpriced food. I started to get a little discouraged after the first few days, but as if the food stars shined a light of guidance on me; some friends randomly took me to First Nepal Restaurant for my first good meal in Edae right by Sinchon. Ironically, my first great meal in Seoul would be Indian cuisine and not Korean.

This restaurant would be easy to miss while passing. Scratch that: most places in Seoul are easy to miss. Most things are built upwards with some buildings having over eight floors of businesses. My friends and I mostly stick to places on the first floor unless we know what we are looking for. I was lucky to have a Korean friend guiding us to this restaurant.

When you enter its almost like you left Seoul for a second. The windows looking out into Edae are the main thing reminding you that you are still in Korea. The man working there is from Nepal, but speaks perfect Korean and also understands English. You will find the most interesting combinations of people in Seoul. The menu had a variety of things to choose from appetizers, tandoori, curries, and nan bread to various dessert choices.

We decided to order Butter Chicken Makhani Curry (8,000 won), Seafood Curry (~9,000 won – not currently listed on their website), 2 orders of Butter Nan (3,000 won each) and 2 orders of Garlic Nan (3,000 won each). We also ordered 2 orders of Korean rice (1,000 won each). We ordered some extra Nan throughout our meal and the waiter even brought us an extra nan for free during our meal. You guys know college students love free stuff.  Service was above average. The waiter refilled our water for us quite a few times and the food came out in a timely manner.

How can I describe the taste of the curry dishes? I don’t think great does it justice. It was amazingly appetizing. We consumed every last drop of the curry with our nan bread. The seafood curry has an especially great taste to it. The curry tasted good with Korean rice and I could just as well throw the curry on a sandwich or anything else for flavoring because it was downright delicious. The thing about Indian food is you don’t realize how full you are getting as nan bread and rice tend to expand in your stomach after consumption, be careful not to order too much.

The Butter Nan was really sweet. It would have been a little too sweet on its own, but once it was dipped in some curry it tasted perfect. My friends also decided to order the Paneer Nan (4,000 won) which has cheese inside and it was also fantastic. I would recommend it.

We had about 5 people in our group and were able to get full on around 38,000 won worth of food total (~8,000 won per person). A really great deal for a meal like this. You would probably pay at least $13 (~13,000 won) before tax and tip for an Indian dinner per person in the United States. They have set meals as well for lunch and dinner, but I think it is better to just grab some friends and share so you can have a greater variety of dishes (as is the cultural thing to do in Korea anyway).

Overall, First Nepal is a great restaurant out in Edae and is close to Sinchon so both Yonsei University and Ewha University students can easily get to the restaurant. I recommend heading out there with a few friends as soon as possible so you can experience the great food I had for yourself. I really want to try the Galub Jamun dessert in the future and anticipate to have many future meals at First Nepal.

Restaurant Name: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

Neighborhood: Edae

Cuisine: Indian, Nepali

Menu: English, Korean

Address (English): 2F, #90-24, Daehyun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea

Address (Korean): 서울시 서대문구 대현동 90-24번지 2층

Phone Number:  02-364-8771

Website: http://www.firstnepal.com/

Other blogs about First Nepal:

http://www.seouleats.com/2010/03/first-nepal-indian-and-nepalese.html

Carlos Eats Seoul: Paris Baguette in Namdaemun

Paris Baguette is a chain you’ll find throughout Seoul and South Korea (2,900 stores) and has been established since 1986. The headquarters for the company is in Seongnam (성남). It has a few locations in big urban places such as New York and California (with expansion plans through the U.S.A.), but it is located on nearly every other street throughout Seoul. I grew curious about the place after seeing it in so many places around Sinchon and Yonsei University. After shopping for a camera in Namdaemun Market we finally stopped at Paris Baguette and gave it a shot.

You walk around and pick what breads you want with a tong and then proceed to front and pay your bill. It’s a self-serve kind of place. Most of the people who go there look stylish and the overall feel of Paris Baguette is a trendy cafe. The cashier was wearing a french hat and outfit and another employee there was wearing a tall chef hat. I am sure Paris Baguette is a hot-spot for dates and for girls hanging out with their friends. We were just hungry.

The food was pretty tasty and not too expensive although the portions were small. We did enjoy the mini-burger sliders and the bread was excellent. The pizza bread had a nice taste and was enjoyable despite not being heated. Dining at Paris Baguette was an interesting experience and I would like to try many chains in Seoul just to see how different they are than the chains we have in the United States (and I also want to try American restaurants to see how different they are in South Korea). That’s one of that great things about eating out in Seoul. No matter where I have a meal, it’s still an interesting experience since its completely new to me.

Overall, I might go back to Paris Baguette someday if I was in need of some bread and maybe a light snack. If I was really hungry I don’t think Paris Baguette would be a smart choice to dine-in.

Restaurant Name: Paris Baguette

Cuisine: Bakery

Website: http://www.paris.co.kr/ http://www.parisbaguetteusa.com/parisbaguette/Home.asp

Carlos Eats Seoul: Taco & Rice Mexican Fusion (Edae)

After a few days of living in Seoul some friend and I took the Ewha Station back to Yonsei University. It is a bit of a faster route then walking through Sinchon and far less crowded. On the way we passed by a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Taco & Rice. It had all the signs of a good restaurant: crowded locals, location away from main street tourist traps, and a large menu of food that looked appetizing.

I finally had the chance to try it a few nights ago while walking home to Yonsei University. The employees speak a decent amount of English and are helpful when you order. There are about 3 seats there if you want to relax and eat there as well. The prices are reasonable as well and you’ll find many other Mexican-style joints in town charge more. A taco is 3,000 won and 5,000 won for a set, while a burrito with rice inside is 3,300 won and ~5000 won for a set depending on the size. A set includes some potato wedges with ketchup and a medium soda. They package the food nicely if you take it to-go.

I tried the taco and was surprised at the good quality of the beef and how fresh the ingredients inside tasted, even the tortilla was surprisingly fresh. The salsa inside had a small kick to it, but it wasn’t your usual Korean hot sauce – a credit to this stands effort to not simply please regular Korean taste buds, but offer something different.

It does not taste better than some of the Mexican places in the United States, but for South Korea Mexican fusion it quickly became a favorite for me. They even use cilantro in their tacos & burritos – a sign of authenticity. I went back to try the burrito with rice and it was great. The burrito wasn’t too different from the taco. They have sour cream on the side for 400 won and I might add some next time. Their nachos are 2,300 won and they also have quesadillas with beef or chicken (chicken is cheaper as beef is more expensive in Korea).

Restaurant Name: Taco & Rice

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: Edae

Address: 서울 서대문구 대현동 56-74번지

Phone Number: 02-3291-5050

Daum ID: http://place.daum.net/place/Top.do?confirmid=13323958

Directions: 1) Take subway line 2 to Ewha Station exit 2) Go straight for about 3 minutes. It will be down in an alley on your left.

Other blogs about Taco & Rice:

http://www.cyworld.com/romiezzang/6536691

http://www.cyworld.com/dowhatuluv/6530861

http://blog.naver.com/PostView.nhn?blogId=maroo8&logNo=90094691220

http://yurimjeong.blog.me/70091020318

Photo Credit: Toan Nguyen

Carlos Eats 2.0: Expansion to Seoul, South Korea

As I was updating my food blog last Monday in Miami I smelt a peculiar burning smell in my hotel room. I began to wonder if it was the Colombian BBQ I had earlier for dinner that night, but after almost an hour of sniffing for smoke I couldn’t find the source. Suddenly as I finished editing the photographs from my dinner that night my laptop powered off. I finally found the root of the smell: my laptop AC adapter. Unfortunately, my laptop adapter short-circuited my laptop. The hard drive is currently in the hands of a computer engineer who I hope will be able to salvage the data.

After a week with no laptop (my worst nightmare), I finally acquired a new HP laptop from Best Buy for under $400. This G4 laptop is working like a charm and I will be pumping out the posts I can salvage ASAP. I really do apologize about the delay and disruption. I have quite a few other things to update you on as well.

Carlos Eats is expanding to Seoul, South Korea. I am going to be studying abroad at Yonsei University in about 2 weeks. During my trip I have found several like-minded people who will continue to cover the food scene here in Tampa and become part of the Carlos Eats Team. The great thing is these people eat out just as much as I do and many times they are actually dining with me at restaurants that I review and events that I attend and will offer you a new take on restaurants, many of them are cooks as well so I hope to bring some recipes and food trends to the site.

I am looking forward to covering a whole new food scene. Seoul has a population of over 10 million people, so you can imagine just how expansive their food scene must be. USF World has provided me with a Flipcam to document my travel so I plan to really increase the amount of food videos I post as well. I am planning to update the navigation on the site so it will be easier for readers to get to the content they want to read. You can read my travel blog for my adventures in Seoul at http://www.carlosabroad.com.

Finally checkout the updated Carlos Eats logo designed by the lovely Catherine Lim:

The new logo has a cleaner look and has a transparent background so it will make photographs look better.

Many things to come your way from Carlos Eats!