Best Burger Joint / by Tyler Wood

Being an American in Apgujeong means I eat a lot of burgers. Apgujeong is like a magnet for good food. If a place becomes known in another part of Seoul, the second location will most likely be in this area. Of all the types of food out there, it seems burger places are pulled in the strongest as well. I have eaten a lot of burgers to compile this list and my waistline isn’t pleased, but I gotta do what I gotta do for that review.


A Note on Judging


The five categories I have selected for this list are based on what I like at a burger place. First - Burger. Obviously, this is the most important part of this list, which burger is the best. I am looking for a good patty, cooked properly. I like mine medium. This category also includes factors like - bacon, bun, cheese, and sauces on the burger as well as variety of styles offered. Second - Sides. Sides can make or break a burger place. Even if they have a good burger, if their fries suck or they have nothing else, you might not bother coming back. This category will include the quality of fries, variety of other sides and options, and uniqueness. Third - Drinks. Drinks may seem unimportant, but what are the two best things to have with your burger besides fries? A beer or a milkshake. This category will cover the quality of the beer on-tap and in bottles, quality of milkshake and flavor options, and other possible interesting drinks on the menu (alcoholic or otherwise). Fourth - Condiments. One of my pet peeves is to not be given enough ketchup. I love condiments and expect to have them at my beck and call whenever I need back-up. This category will judge the condiment situation. Is there enough sauce served? Do they put the bottle on the table? Is it self-serve? Do they have many options for condiments available? And finally, fifth - Location. This does include location in relation to the city or street, but mostly it is referring to the place itself. This category will be judged on comfort, style, and the space. I will mention other factors when necessary, but these are my five scores for the list.


#11  Aloha Table


Aloha Hawaiian Burger

Tucked away behind an art gallery across from the newest CGV in Apgujeong is this little cafe. It serves Hawaiian coffee mostly, but offers a few choices of food, like pancakes and sandwiches. It also serves three choices of burger; the Aloha Hawaiian, Avocado & Shrimp, and Hawaiian Cheese burgers. The bungalow theme was represented with lots of wood-paneling and surfboards on the ceiling. It also had the feel of an early explorers office, but it had really comfortable mismatched chairs around their tables in back. It felt more like a coffee shop up front. It was a pre-order and get your buzzer style of service. I had the Aloha Hawaiian Burger which came with avocado, pineapple, and an egg on top with a soy-based sauce on it. It was actually pretty good overall and, if you’re in the mood for something different, a good choice to have around. To be fair, many of the things wrong with this place made sense because it was a coffee shop cafe not a burger place. There were few options in burgers, the fries were forgettable crispy standard fries, and they had no shakes or beer. They made up for that a little by having a nice pineapple shake and a really relaxing atmosphere. 


Scores: Burger - 6  Sides - 5  Drinks - 4  Condiments - 4  Location - 7


#10 Burger Hunter


As you walk through the doors a jukebox greets you at the entrance. The Americana-themed decor abounds with records on the disco wall. This place is going for the traditional diner feel and Warhol’s Monroe is on the wall watching you eat. I was waiting for the server to roller-skate to the table. She didn’t - but they do have some fun interesting burgers to choose from, like the Jalapeno Mexican Burger or the Peanut Butter Jealousy Burger. The burgers are decent. They lack good choices of cheese, unless you get the Mozzarella Rucola Burger, but they were cooked well. The bacon was nothing to write home about, but they have it. The buns were also not too exciting. 

What was more exciting were the Kimchi Beef Fries smothered in sour cream. They have salad and coleslaw options as well. There were no milkshakes, however. For a place that looks like an old American diner to not have milkshakes is a little ridiculous. They do have beer, but nothing special. Korean beer on-tap and a few bottle beers. The ketchup situation was also disappointing. They served one of those small dishes that are shallower than they appear, so it went from not enough to gone before I knew it. 

Prices range from mid-8’s to high 12’s.


Scores:  Burger - 6  Sides - 7  Drinks - 4  Condiments - 4  Location -  7


#9 Smokey’s Saloon


Smokey's Burger

The second location, after the popularity of the Itaewon location, has been in Apguejeong for awhile, and its still going strong for many reasons. Those reasons are not the location (it is a long way from anything else), or its decor (very small and not really interesting at all), or its milkshakes (there are none). So why the popularity? The burgers. They have a really good selection of burgers; like the Vampire Burger (yes, garlic), Louisiana Bourbon Burger, Spicy Bomb, and the Ambulance (Breakfast in a burger - egg, bacon, and hash browns). The real draw for me; however, is the BBQ sauce. The Smokey Burger is BBQ sauced and bacon-ated goodness. The burgers are all on their own, so you have to order fries separately, which is pretty lame, and you get very little ketchup when you do. I wouldn’t bother anyway, though, because the fries are very school-cafeteria-esque and bland. They do have Indica and Watermelon Wheat on draft and a decent selection of beer in bottles as well. Prices range from just above 8 to just under 12. 


Scores:   Burger - 8  Sides - 5  Drinks - 6  Condiments - 5  Location - 5


#8 Vegas


Vegas Burger

One block off of Garusugil, this unassuming location is upstairs and hard to find. Keep an eye peeled for the sign out front. It's a small wooden room with a few tables and a bar. I have heard that this burger is the descendant of the Diner's Pub burger, so I was excited to try it because that one was so good. Turns out, this one is not quite as good. The patty on the Vegas Burger (6.8) was nice and soft and juicy with two thick slices of bacon on it. It had 1000 island dressing, disappointing processed cheese, and red lettuce - very minimalist. Besides the cheese, the bun is also where they let it slide for me. The Diner's Pub used a nice sesame seed bun, but this now was more of a standard bun. Still an overall good burger, but just not as good as the Diner's Pub version it descended from. They also have a Garlic Steak Burger (9.8) which was a handful of thick chunks of garlic steak (surprise) on the very same set-up. This was a little too much to handle for chewing and just not as good as the cheaper, more traditional, burger. The sides were very limited on the menu. The fries were forgettable and came with a spicy ketchup that was far too small of a serving for my tastes. They had Heineken and Max on draft along with Guinness and Bernini bottles. I ended up going to the number one spot after this meal to get dessert in the form of a milkshake, so I probably won't be back, but if you want a change of pace and pretty good burger, but not much else, you can stop by.

Scores:   Burger - 8  Sides - 5  Drinks - 6  Condiments - 5  Location - 7

#7 Golden Burger Republic

LOT Burger

This humbly titled place is in an actually unassuming location in the backstreets of Apgujeong. The glass facade hosts a small cafe-style seating area on a patio outside and wicker seats and picnic-style tables (with ketchup and mustard bottles) on the inside. They have a baking station to make all the ‘Golden Souffle Buns’ in house before heading over to the kitchen to be put together lovingly. The patty was nicely cooked, the bun is over-hyped, but not bad, and the crispy lettuce ratio was a little on the high side. I ordered the LOT Burger that came with bacon (so small it was nearly irrelevant), pineapple, BBQ sauce, and topped with a fried egg that bursted upon touch that dripped down my hand for the duration of the meal. It had a generous slice of tomato, however. Overall, it was a nice tasting burger, even amid the yolk-cano erupting down my hand. They also have a Spicy BBQ Burger and a Black Burger (because of the black bun) for interesting choices. They offer onion rings and good chili covering mediocre chips for their Chili Cheese Nachos, too. They have Sapporo on draft but more importantly, they have a really nice Vanilla (or Double Chocolate) milkshake that comes in a metal tin, though only half filled, not like the diners back home. And the X-factor - they are the only place on this list that delivers! Prices range from 8 and a half to 12 and a half.


Scores:  Burger - 7  Sides - 5  Drinks - 6  Condiments - 8  Location - 6


#6 Brooklyn


"The Works"

In the basement of the posh department store, Galleria, is Gourmet 494 with many restaurants in the ubiquitous food court style alongside food markets. One of said restaurants is the Brooklyn American Burger Joint. No matter how chic the department store food court is, it is still a food court where you are surrounded by shoppers and many other types of food. There are pros and cons to that, I suppose, but I would err on the side of that being a big con for atmosphere. That being said, the burgers here are actually really nice. They are misshapen, juicy patties with nice crispy bacon and sharp cheddar cheese blanketed securely by a sesame seed bun. The soft cheesy patty was offset nicely with the crisp lettuce and crunch of the pickle for the over all texture of a good burger. If you order the set you get the fries and a drink. The fries are thick-cut decent fries, but nothing amazing or out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary in Korea is the root beer float with Dad’s Root Beer. I ordered that first, I was so excited. They also have wonderful, thick milkshakes in vanilla, strawberry, peanut chocolate, and Oreo. Prices range from 9 to 11. 

(Note: The full-sized store in Gangnam would be higher on this list had it been in Apgujeong)


Scores:  Burger - 8  Sides - 5  Drinks - 8  Condiments - 5  Location - 6


#5 Deli Heinzburg (Closed, possibly moving)


Lord of the Onion Ring

On the corner of the street one block behind Garusugil is this little Edelstein. It hosts a few small deli-style tables (not great for groups) with wood beams and exposed ceilings (“Excuse me, your ducts are showing”) and spaceship-esque light fixtures. It is open and airy, though. The burgers include the Frankenstein Burger (“It’s alive”, but you might not be after pounding this triple decker), the Chili Burger, The Lord of the Onion Ring, and the Dracula (no need for fangs - the hot sauce, bacon, and cheddar attack your blood from the inside). You are able to choose your sauce for each burger, I went with the Bourbon BBQ sauce. It was a good, sweet and tangy sauce with a little bite. The burger was covered with two kinds of cheese. The patty was large, well-cooked, and juicy. The bacon was wonderful - thick, and you could bite through it without it sliding out of the bun like a teenage boy out the window when his girlfriend’s parents get home.   The menu was short on sides but they had a root beer float. They also had Silk Shakes in coffee, 3 cheese, peanut butter (which was just rich chocolate with nuts on the top), and blueberry cream cheese flavors. Prices range from just over 11 to just over 17. 


Scores:  Burger - 8  Sides - 5  Drinks - 7  Condiments - 6  Location - 6


#4 Charcoalo


Bacon Cheeseburger

I first went to this place for it’s grilled meats and Philly Cheese Steak, but they also have a few burgers. Set inside a bright red shipping container, this comfortable and spacious place is nice to relax and enjoy a meal without the loud music or crowds of other places. Also, this place uses Webber grills to grill up their meat and burger patties. That chargrilled flavor is nostalgic and delicious. It has fatty, flappy bacon on it but an underwhelming single slice of cheddar. It did have a nice dollop of mayo on it to complete that backyard flavor appeal. The fries on offer are also wonderful. The Philly Crunch Fries are addictive. Thin, crispy fries topped with Philly sauce and cheese with a side of special tartar can’t get into you face fast enough. It also gets a plus for the variety, like the Chili Meat Gratin Macaroni or the Pit-smoked Ribs. There are no shakes but a decent wine list. Prices range from just under 9 to 11. 


Scores:  Burger - 7   Sides - 8  Drinks - 6  Condiments - 6  Location - 8


#3 Jacoby’s


Bacon Cheeseburger

Roll up your sleeves because you are in for a mess. These burgers are huge, some have to be dismantled even to attempt to eat them. This place is fit for an American appetite. Each burger is customizable. You can choose the bun, patty seasoning, how it’s cooked, onions, tomatoes, cheese type etc... and the burgers are nice and juicy. They have a stacked menu including hot dogs, pasta, and a good selection of burgers including the Nacho Burger, Double Cheese Salame Burger, and the Guacamole Burger. If you have a friend with a stretcher on-call you might try the Gut Buster Burger. The fries are good thick-cut wedges with tartar (They serve a basket that includes ketchup, mustard, mayo, and Jacoby’s sauce as well), but a word of warning on sides at this place, I always think I want more than the burger and end up giving up on my hopes and dreams and going into a coma after I eat that much. The serving sizes are so big the good choice of sides is nearly irrelevant. Share, share, share - I swear! No milkshakes reside on this large menu, but it is a legitimate bar, so there are plenty of alcoholic drinks, including a decent selection of beer. They have an open patio for nice weather and, if you are into these things, there is a car shop across the street with many exotic cars going and coming for some des-eye-n candy. Prices range from 10-ish to 23, which seems a lot, but the serving sizes are the largest on this list.


Scores:  Burger - 7  Sides - 7  Drinks - 7  Condiments - 9  Location - 7


#2 Burger B


Bacon Cheeseburger

When this place opened I was so excited to get a decent burger place in the neighborhood. Since then, many of the other places have opened, but this still remains near the top of the list holding strong. The burgers are juicy and weighted nicely in the hand like it belongs there. On the Bacon Cheese Burger the 1000 Island dressing really takes me back to burgers at home. They have delicious original buns, thick-cut bacon, and the patty has that chargrilled tinge that makes you feel like you’re at a 4th of July party at the lake and it’s all balanced together in a good ratio of meat, cheese, and lettuce etc...It’s a small place with the kitchen in a shipping container, but the burgers are good and they have Tillamook Cheese! They don’t have a huge selection of burgers, but they don’t need it. The BBQ Burger is one of the best I’ve had in this country. The menu includes quesadillas and a chili dog, but what I recommend is actually the Chicken Caesar Salad. The chili fries are thick wedges with chili and small chunks of onion but they also have thin ‘Crunch” fries for the more traditional flavor. The big bonus at this place is the drinks, however. They have one of the best Strawberry Milkshakes in the neighborhood and also a really good selection of beer - including San Miguel on-tap and bottles of Rogue, Indica, and Guinness among others. Prices range from high 6’s to 13. 

Scores:  Burger - 8  Sides - 7  Drinks - 9  Condiments - 7  Location - 7


#1 Gilbert's Burgers and Fries


The Gilbert Burger

The Burger B killer has entered the ranks. This place feels very much like the owner read my blog and added everything I was looking for. I wasn't expecting much, to be honest, when I entered on a side street one block off Garusugil. It is downstairs and decked out in wood. I sat under the window with the glowing green sign reflecting off the wooden stage-seating and small round table with a bottle of ketchup and Grey Poupon next to the square diner-style napkin holder. As soon as I saw the menu I was already on the way to loving this place. A large Milkshake list including the new Strawberry milkshake champion, Monkey Business (banana, peanut butter, marshmallow), Oreo, and S'mores flavors, among others. They also had a good beer list including draft of Lost Coast, Ballast, and Fuller's among others. They also had two kinds of root beer (Dad's and A&W) and Dr. Pepper on the menu which leads us to the large bonus - a root beer float and a Dr. Cow (Dr. Pepper float)! So let's get to the burgers. I ordered the Gilbert Burger (10.5) that came with American cheese, bacon, red onion, tomato, and a fried egg. It was nicely cooked and melted in my mouth. It was very similar (I even asked if the owner worked there) to Brooklyn's burger. I was told there was a second location in Seocho, but no connection to Brooklyn's was mentioned. I also had a side of chili fries, which were pretty good, much better than Burger B's, for sure, which is the nail in the coffin putting this burger joint at the top of my list. Prices range from around 10-13.

Scores:  Burger - 8  Sides - 9  Drinks - 10  Condiments - 9  Location - 8

After thought


I have watched two great burger joints go under in the last few months and it is disheartening. Salt & Butter and Diners Pub have both closed shop even though they had some of the best burgers in the country. I really hope people get a chance to come out to Apgujeong and get a feel for what is here. 


What to skip - There are a few burgers that are not worth the time. Valance Burgers is a fast food burger place that I would recommend any other fast food burger over. The Butterfingers burger is confusing to say the least. It’s almost entirely bread (perhaps leftover from the French toast?) and bland. Just do yourself a favor and order breakfast, no matter who dragged you here and how much you want a burger (the breakfast is good). Then there is the pair of afterthought burgers - Hedonism and M Plate. Both 16,000 won and neither is worth half that. Both places have it on the menu, seemingly, to fill up the menu. That is not their focus and it is glaringly obvious. Don’t waste their time or your money. 


If you have any ideas for reviews, places I missed, or death threats to send me, please comment below. Thank you.


Eat up Apgujeong!