Many Koreans find it impossible to spare time for a leisurely meal, so it’s no surprise that their city streets are packed with fast food outlets. In general the local offerings are far healthier than their Western equivalents, but don’t expect English-language menus or service. Below is a selection of the outlets you’re most likely to come across in cities across the nation.
(봉추찜닭) Jjimdak is steamed chicken, mixed with potatoes and other vegetables in a delicious, aromatic stew. A W22,000 serving – one chicken – should be enough for two, and be sure to don one of the bibs provided, as there’s bound to be some splashback.
(김밥천국) In Korean street-space terms, this ubiquitous orange-fronted franchise is rivalled only by internet bars and the more prominent convenience store chains. Almost all basic Korean meals are served here for around W5000 per dish, and despite the variety on offer you’ll be eating within minutes of sitting down. They also do gimbap from W1500, and these can be made to go: perfect if you’re off on a hike.
(이삭토스트) Toast, but not as you know it. The Korean variety is made on a huge hot-plate – first your perfectly square bread will be fried and smeared with kiwi jam, then joined by perfect squares of spam and/or fried egg, and the whole lot injected with two sauces, one spicy and one brown.
(롯데리아) Unlike the similarly omnipresent McDonald’s outlets, at least this is a Korean burger chain: witness the delicious bulgogi burger (W4500), made with marinated beef (at least in theory), or the meatless gimchi variety, served between two slabs of rice rather than a bun.
(파리바게뜨) & Tous Les Jours (뚜레쥬르) A pair of near-identical bakery chains, whose offerings may satisfy if you need a breakfast devoid of spice or rice; many branches are also able to whip up a passable coffee. Baked goods start at around W1500, but note that even the savoury-looking ones are usually extremely sugary.
Yu Ga Ne
(유가네) This chain serves tasty barbecued meat, cooked at your table by an apron-wearing attendant. Unlike most barbecue joints, there are dishes for those dining alone, such as the delectable dakgalbi beokkeumbap, which is something like a chicken kebab fried up with rice. W10,000 should be enough to get a bellyful.