My deep love of tacos started as a child in California where Mexican food was not hard to come by. After being in South Korea for some time now, I’ve sought out the most popular taco places to get my taco fix. When I say that I can’t live without tacos, I really mean it.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Taco Scene in Seoul

Finding great tacos posed a challenge in Boston — with the exception of places like Taqueria Jalisco in East Boston — and doubly so in Seoul, South Korea where most Korean people just think of the mediocre Taco Bell as the gold standard. There’s a time and a place for Taco Bell, and that time is usually drunk at 3am with dulled taste buds. But in no way should people think of Taco Bell or its doppelgangers as anything resembling authentic Mexican — or even American-Mexican — food.

I’ve seen and eaten some pretty heinous abominations called tacos. I’m not asking for a lot, but at one point, I was given a plate of sloppy joe-looking meat on a flour tortilla that actually managed to taste worse than it looked. I’m also adamant about tacos not being slathered in cheese — especially so because I’m lactose intolerant — which feels like a cop-out to actually making something flavorful that stands on its own.

When I first arrived in Seoul, South Korea, I really enjoyed Kim’s Taco near Gangnam Station, but unfortunately, the place has since permanently closed after March 2020. I’ve also been guilty of lurking at Dos Tacos due to its proximity to my apartment. It isn’t the best taco joint in Seoul, but also, not the worst and does a fair job of satisfying my taco munchies.

It’s Getting Better

From what I’ve heard, the Western — and by Western, I mean the Western hemisphere — has gotten oodles better in the last five to ten years, and I’m pleased as my American-born palate favors Western dishes as much as I love eating Asian dishes. The following list is my favorite — and dare I say? — best tacos in Seoul, South Korea as of 2020. Let me know if you have anything to add to the ever-changing taco scene in Seoul in the comments below!

Side Note: The last time I went to the United States in September, I wolfed down tacos at Oxomoco in Green Point, Brooklyn which has one Michelin star. I ate those tacos so fast that I could barely take photos to Instagram later. You know the situation that I’m talking about. It was one of the happiest taco moments of my life. There’s apparently a Tokyo outpost of Oxomoco which is hitting my bucket list once travel opens up again since it’s on my side of the world.

The Best

El Pino 323 (엘피노323)

Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

According to the LA Times article on the chef at El Pino 323, “South Korea born, East L.A. bred: A Seoul taqueria for a homesick chef“, “[…] Korean adoptee with a shaved head, thick Chicano accent and streetwise scowl is re-creating the flavors of the closest thing he has to home, a place he is legally barred from returning to since he was deported 17 years ago: East L.A.”

I highly recommend you read the rest of the LA Times article as it’s an interesting insight into the chef’s past and how he ended up in South Korea, slinging tacos.

El Pino 323 Itaewon Address: 2F, 220 Noksapyeong-daero, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울 용산구 녹사평대로 220 2F)

El Pino 323 Pyeongtaek Address: 2nd floor, 106-1 Anjeonghwan-ro, Paengseong-eup, Pyeongtaek-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기 평택시 팽성읍 안정순환로 106-1 2층)

Masa Tacos (마사 타코)

Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

If you happen to find yourself in the Sinsa area of Seoul, definitely take some time to check out the California-style Mexican food at Masa Tacos.

Masa Tacos Address: 30-8 Apgujeong-ro 10-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울 강남구 압구정로10길 30-8)

Villa Guerrero (비야게레로)

Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Villa Guerrero is one of the few places in Seoul that you can find lengua (tongue) tacos, and they’re also considered one of the more authentic Mexican restaurants in South Korea. They make their own soft corn tortillas. You can choose between cuerito (rind), maciza (meat), buche (stomach), and lengua (tongue) for your carnitas tacos. Saturday special includes green chorizo tacos. And for those who hate cilantro, yes, you can ask them to take it off.

Unlucky for my ever-growing waistline, they also offer limited delivery on Coupang Eats now. So, you can social distance and enjoy delicious tacos at home this year.

Villa Guerrero Address: 101, 12 Bongeunsa-ro 78-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울 강남구 봉은사로78길 12 101호)

La Cruda (라크루다)

Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

The chef at La Cruda used to live in Guadalajara, Mexico where he learned how to cook.

La Cruda Address: 2nd floor, 36 Itaewon-ro 42-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울 용산구 이태원로42길 36 2층)

Taqueria Stan (타케리아 스탠)

Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Taqueria Stan Address: 1F, Taechang Building, 5 Chungmuro 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울 중구 충무로4길 5 태창빌딩 1층)

Honorable Mentions

Tamales in Korea

Online Orders Only

High House (하이하우스)

Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

High House Address: 2nd floor, 161-10, Seongmisan-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울 마포구 성미산로 161-10 2층)

Coreanos Kitchen (코레아노스 키친)

Multiple Locations, Seoul, South Korea

Coreanos isn’t by any means authentic, but it flaunts itself as Korean-Mexican fusion and it does it well. Los Angeles-native, Chef Gene Cho, brought his wildly popular food truck in Austin, Texas, to Apgujeong Rodeo in Seoul.

It’s greasy and has a wide menu including Kimchi Burritos, Kim-cheese Fries, Galbi Beef Tacos, and a cookie “pizza”. You can choose between flour and corn tortillas when ordering tacos. They also serve beer-itas, margaritas, and mojitos in case you find yourself a bit parched.

Coreanos Kitchen Gangnam Location: 25, Seolleung-ro 157-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울 강남구 선릉로157길 25)

Coreanos Kitchen Itaewon Location: 46, Noksapyeong-daero 40-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (서울 용산구 녹사평대로40길 46)

Dos Tacos (도스타코스)

Multiple Locations, Seoul, South Korea

I’m partial to Dos Tacos probably because it’s only a hop and a skip away from my apartment. It is like a slightly better Taco Bell in terms of quality. Whatever you do, don’t order the chips & salsa as the salsa can easily be mistaken for a tiny cup of watered-down ketchup.

Dos Tacos Sungkyunkwan University Address: 1st floor, 5 Changgyeonggung-ro 29-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (서울 종로구 창경궁로29길 5 1층)

Dos Tacos Gangnam Address: 455 Gangnam-daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울 서초구 강남대로 455 강남태영데시앙루브)

Skip

Nakwon Tacos (낙원타코)

Multiple Locations, Seoul, South Korea

I can’t vouch for the rest of their menu, but the last time I went there, the tacos were appallingly bad. Maybe it was a bad day, but I’ve never been so surprised at how they could make one of my favorite foods so inedible. Though my coworkers who ordered non-taco items had no complaints. Since I live nearby, I pass by the joint pretty frequently, and I do see that they are often filled with customers. To each their own!

Nakwon Taco Gangnam Station Address: 2nd floor of Time Building, 9, Seocho-daero 73-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울 서초구 서초대로73길 9 타임빌딩 2층)

Cuchara (쿠차라)

Multiple Locations, Seoul, South Korea

I don’t hate Cuchara, but I don’t love it either. It’s like a watered-down version of Chipotle in the United States with a very uninspiring menu. Still, if there’s nothing better around, I don’t mind their burrito bowls when I need a lunch that’s reasonably healthy, and it hits the spot.

Cuchara Gangnam Station Address: 11, Seocho-daero 74-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul (서울 서초구 서초대로74길 11)

On the Border (온더보더)

Multiple Locations, Seoul, South Korea

Tex Mex restaurant, On the Border, gives me the same mediocre vibes as big-name chains like TGI Fridays and Applebee’s. There are much better options out there, but if you want tame Mexican-ish food in a fast-casual setting, then this is the place for you.

On the Border Coex Mall Address: 1F, Korea City Airport Terminal, 22 Teheran-ro 87-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울 강남구 테헤란로87길 22 한국도심공항터미널 1층)

Taco Bell (타코벨)

Multiple Locations, Seoul, South Korea

What more do I really need to say about Taco Bell? Taco Bell should only be reserved for late-night munchies in my opinion. Worth visiting for its cheap, oddball items, but nowhere near gourmand-level eats.

Taco Bell Seolleung Branch Address: 1st floor, 316 Teheran-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울 강남구 테헤란로 316 1층)

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