The Best Hongdae Restaurants You’ve Never Heard Of features Hongdae restaurants not typically found on Anglophone reviews and blogs. We kick off the series with Dalgona, a modest trattoria that provides generous servings of delicious Italian food at a reasonable price.


 

If you search online for the best Italian restaurants in Seoul, you’ll usually get a similar list of heavy hitters like CasAntonio and Paolodemaria. Dalgona would never come up on those lists–in fact, if you tried to Google “Dalgona,” all you would find are images of a round, biscuit-like snack commonly sold by street vendors in Seoul. Like the traditional Korean candy its name is based on, Dalgona is very simple and unassuming, and like its namesake, the restaurant will delight anyone who gives it a try.

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Dalgona, or Bbopgi, a traditional Korean street candy made with sugar and baking soda.
Photo cred: Serious Eats

This modest little Italian trattoria, opened in 2009, is located in the Hongdae area (half a block away from Sangsu Station). It’s about the size of a large room and has capacity for maybe around 20 to 22 people inside. The decor itself is very simple and gives off a very homey, neighborhood bistro vibe, and the staff are friendly as well if not a bit reserved.

Dalgona's interior.

Dalgona’s interior.

Dalgona also has two tables available outdoors, making it a casual, relaxing spot to eat when it’s cool at night (especially with a couple of sangrias!).

Best Hondae Restaurants Dalgona Sangria

The sangria (7000 won) is available in red and white. Both are neither too sweet nor too strong, and are delightful addition to a cool summer night.

The menu is written on chalkboards at the side and back of the restaurant, only adding to the cozy vibe, with symbols listing the base sauce used in the dish.

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Dalgona’s menu. There’s even a little code to help identify which sauce base the dish uses (triangle for olive, circle for tomato, and square for cream).

The food itself is reasonably priced and tastes even better than it looks. I had the chance to try the Frutti di Mare (17,000 won), which comes loaded with an assortment of seafood. The sauce was nice and light, and the shrimp and scallop were perfectly seasoned. The dish was on the saltier side, but not overwhelmingly so.

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Frutti di Mare (17,000 won). Comes with generous helpings of clams, calamari, and mussels, along with a scallop and shrimp.

The lasagna (20,000 won) in contrast was very rich and filling, stuffed with cheese and various vegetables. The accompanying ingredients vary by season–when I went the lasagna contained eggplants, spinach, and dried tomatoes. Oh, and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. If you’re hungry and craving a hearty meal, the lasagna is a no-brainer. By the end of my meal I was stuffed but couldn’t help but finish off the last bits of bolognese sauce left on my plate.

Best Hongdae Restaurants Dalgona Lasagna

Dalgona’s lasagna (20,000 won), loaded with cheese, bolognese sauce, eggplants, spinach, and dried tomatoes.

It’s hard for me to say that Dalgona has some of the best Italian food in Seoul, as I’ve only been to a couple other Italian restaurants here. However, one of those restaurants was CasAntonio, which frequently graces “Best Of” lists in Seoul and was even mentioned on the Wall Street Journal. To be honest, I preferred the food at Dalgona (don’t tell Antonio!)… so what the hell. Dalgona has some of the best Italian food in Seoul, and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by your visit. Underneath its modest decor and petite size lies a restaurant with a huge heart and some damn good Italian.

Info:
Phone: 02) 324-2123
Address: 328-14 Seogang-Dong, Mapo-Gu, Seoul
Hours: Lunch 11:40 am – 2:30 pm, Dinner 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm (on Sat/Sun and weekends, the restaurant opens at 5:00 pm, though on Sundays it closes at 9:00 pm). Note that the restaurant may close a little early once it runs out of ingredients.

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Dalgona’s hours

Directions:
Sangsu Station, Line 6. Walk out Exit 4, make a slight U-Turn and walk down the street to your right. Dalgona will be on your right, about halfway down the block (about three buildings down).


Like our Best Of in Hongdae series? Check out our Best Hongdae Coffee series, featuring unique cafes like Coffee Libre, Tailor Coffee, and Coffee Lab, for more bomb places to check out in Hongdae!

Photo cred: Hyuna Park