Travelling anywhere as a vegetarian can be a certified nightmare if you don’t know where to eat, especially in Seoul, the meat capital of South Korea, where the guide books are saturated with barbecue and fried chicken restaurants. But things have changed rapidly in recent years, especially when it comes to veganism. Seoul’s vegetarian restaurants are offering their flavors to the global market.
In a country that has made a name for itself on the food scene with its barbecue joints and fried chicken restaurants, vegetarianism is surprisingly not a new prospect in Seoul. The earliest concepts of vegetarianism in Korea came from traditional Buddhist values.
Today, it’s not just religious people who are involved in the vegetarian movement. As the number of pet-owning households rises and a new respect for animal life evolves in Korea, vegetarianism is quickly gaining traction in Seoul.
Aside from being a traditional Buddhist restaurant, Plant is arguably one of the first famous vegetarian restaurants in Seoul, and the experience truly shows in the food. Today, Plant is a popular diner on Itaewon’s multicultural street, and longtime Seoul residents will remember Plant’s humble beginnings as a small café-cum-bakery with a constant line of people outside. Today, the bakery still exists in Itaewon, serving a variety of delicious vegan cakes and breads.
The Plant Restaurant: 2nd floor, 117 Bogwang Road, Yongsan District.
Bakery. 63-15, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu.
Managed by animal activist AJ Garcia, Huggers is a restaurant that specializes in veggie burgers. With a cosy interior and their resident feline companion Nabi, eating at Huggers will make you feel warm inside, even when you’re paying the bill, as 10% of their proceeds go to animal charity CARE.The team at Huggers are busy finding other ways to save the world during their usual 9 to 5, so it’s only on weekends and Catch them only during the restaurant’s opening hours during the holidays.
6-gil 29, Dashawan Road, Long Hill District.
Monk’s Butcher is a statement vegetarian restaurant with a unique mix of dishes. The modern, monochromatic interiors and art deco features give the restaurant a sophisticated, cosmopolitan feel. Dishes are prepared with great care and attention to detail, and ‘Monk’s Butcher’ combines great food, a window to see the world, and a modern bar for a sophisticated and cruelty-free late night in the city.
Itaewon Road, Yongsan District
Raw Vega is an organic vegetarian restaurant in Seoul with the charm of a home kitchen. The restaurant feels a bit like a relaxed cafe, with colorful food and matching plates, and Raw Vega’s unique dishes include their Raw Asian wraps, a variation on the burrito, which are wrapped in layers of seaweed rather than bread, and Raw Vegan Burger, which looks more like abstract art than lunch. There are also cupcakes and coffee on the menu for those who want a little break from shopping in the streets around Hongdae.
Housed in a traditional oriental-style wooden building, Maji feels like walking into a Buddhist temple hidden atop a high mountain, without even leaving the city streets.Maji is a great place to sample Korean staples the vegan way: from kimchi to jeon, from kimchi to steamed buns, Maji offers a range of healthy Korean set meals, and steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaves, meaning that any vegetarian will Won’t miss the exquisite taste of Korea.
59 Donggwang-ro, Seocho-gu.
Vegetus is a rustic kitchen cafe serving vegetarian dishes from around the world, and is a great choice in Seoul’s growing vegetarian scene. With intricate dishes, hand-arranged vegetables and hand-cut potato chips, it feels like you’re eating a friend’s cooking. The outdoor area and comfortable seating arrangements make Vegetus the perfect place to get close to your friends.
59 Xinxing Road, Long Hill District.
South American Plant Lab
Nammi Plant Lab is a vegetarian restaurant and bakery in Seocho, a quieter border area of Gangnam that is typical of Seoul, where you can feel that peaceful atmosphere. The menu offers classic comfort food from the East to the West. Choose from thin-crust pizza and macaroni and cheese, or Asian-inspired soups and rice dishes.
2nd floor, 455-20 Bangbae-dong, Seocho-gu.
Tucked away on the streets of Seoul’s French Village, Snowball is a vegan bakery that sells traditional Korean rice cakes, pastries, cookies, coffee and a variety of cold drinks. The clean décor makes it the perfect rest stop for vegetarians to refill their snacks and smoothies, or to buy some Korean snacks to take home.
1F, 769-15 Bangbaek-dong, Seocho-gu.
Yamamura, located in the cultural center of Insa-dong, is themed to showcase the best of Korean history. Yamamura’s culinary focus is on banchan, a Korean side dish, and the restaurant is known for its large plates of vegetables served in a traditional style. This vast array of dishes is designed to be shared with others. In order for everyone to enjoy the deliciousness of the mountain village, as many people as possible are invited to join the restaurant so that the number of orders can be maximized.
30-13, In-sa-dong, Gwang-hoon-dong, Jongno-gu
What good food guide doesn’t end with dessert?Mellieno offers dairy-free ice creams and popsicles packaged in the perfect scoop. If you want to bring your furry friend along, they even have dessert bowls and popsicles made especially for dogs. The neon signs and quirky decor make this cafe a summertime hot spot and a great place to snap a picture on Instagram.
Shop 6, Noksapyeongdaero-54-gil, Yongsan District