Somunan Baekjung “Famous Butcher” (Hongdae, Seoul)

Update: no longer in business.

There are many things I love about being back in Seoul. I love the food (obviously), love the people (especially the ajummas and halmonis), love the transportation (subway system is hands down the best in the world), and I love the 24-hour energy, hustle-bustle that you can only find in Seoul. But, if I had to choose one thing and one thing only, I have to go with the food, specifically Korean BBQ (aka gogijip “meat house”). Having had Korean-style BBQ plenty of times in the States (and paying a ridiculous amount of money to do so), I must admit that I’ve been spoiled rotten these last few months with an unlimited amount of Korean samgyupssal (grilled pork belly), galbi (short ribs), hanwoo (Korean beef), and bulgogi (thinly sliced beef). Throw in the plethora of healthy banchan (side dish), sangchu (lettuce greens), and maekju/soju (various Korean alcohol), then finding another reason to lengthen my stay isn’t so difficult, that is unless my sister keeps sending pics of my cute little nephew whom I miss dearly (pic below). There are so many quality BBQ restaurants in Seoul that picking one was a difficult task, but after stumbling upon a decent one in my neighborhood that matched my personal criteria for great Korean BBQ I knew a short review would be necessary. My criteria for good Korean BBQ are as follows:

  • fresh quality cuts of pork and beef with marination done right
  • a plethora of personal healthy banchan side dishes, not shared like most places
  • open spacing with plenty of ventilation
  • prompt, courteous service
  • regular table seating options (sitting Indian-style doesn’t work for me)

Lucky for me, most Korean BBQ joints usually got these areas covered pretty well but this restaurant stands out for the great cuts of meat. Throughout the meal, we could have sworn that we were eating kkot deungshim (marbled rib-eye), one of the most expensive cuts in Korea, but was reminded time and time again by the waitress ajumma that it was not. She herself was not very certain about the name of the cut. Anyways, we could sense her annoyance at all our questions (and my photographing everything) so we did what we do best—eat. “My favorite animal is steak.” ~ Frances Ann “Fran” Lebowitz

Here are a few other Korean BBQ restaurants (mostly franchised) that I’ve had the privilege of eating at:

Chadohl Jjip (차돌집):

Pabulkong (파불콩):

HBC Gogitjib (HBC 고깃집):

Guiga (구이가):

Nongoljip (논골집):

Here are some other links with some great Korean BBQ recommendations:

Food★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Somunan Baekjung “Famous Butcher” (소문난백정)

Mapo-gu, Hapjeong-dong 413-25

Telephone: 02-337-0315


Click here for directions via interactive map:

We ordered the Set #1 for a group of four. It included plenty of beef, pork, seafood, and veggies.
The set menu didn’t quite fill everyone’s need so we went a la carte on some more beef.
Here’s part of the set menu. As you can see, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. Good stuff.
I really liked the personal banchan platter for each customer; no need to share and reach over for the popular ssangjang dipping sauce.
The charcoal getting hot and ready for the real goods—kalbi (short ribs) and salchisal (part of rib-eye).
Dweji kalbi and salchisal up close and personal. The latter was so good that we ordered a few more servings.
After being blown away at this cut of meat called salchisal, I had to do my own homework because I had never heard of it before. In the Naver dictionary, it is referred to as chuck flap tail, which made things even worse because, well, what the hell is chuck flap tail? Upon more investigation (i.e. Google search), I found out that it’s part of the lower section of the more famous rib-eye cut, which makes quite sense because this was the most tender, soft piece of meat (from all the marbling) that I’ve had in a long time.
This is just one area of the restaurant, but as you can see it’s pretty spacious, clean, and well-ventilated.
The restaurant occupies an entire building on the main street. Although it’s hard to see in this picture, there are three water hoses that act as an illusion for bystanders to stare it. You can’t miss it.
I usually keep things pretty private on my blog, but I just couldn’t resist after receiving this recent photo of my sister and nephew Greyson. It feels like yesterday when I was the “unofficial” photographer during the early years but look at him now—walking, talking, and now petting horses. Much love from Seoul!

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