Nov 30

Taco Amigo

by in Food, Reviews, Travel

TacoAmigo7As I have mentioned in multiple essays and reviews here at The Rock Traveler, I am a huge fan of Vatos Urban Tacos, which now has three locations in Seoul. While Vatos specializes in a unique fusion of Tex-Mex and Korean-Asian fare, it has gotten so big and so popular, it is sadly beginning to feel a bit like a chain restaurant. The signature appetizer, Kimchi Carnitas Fries, are well worth the trip (and long wait) and should not be missed at some point during a stay in the capital city.

However, there are also a lots of terrific smaller (and more intimate) Mexican restaurants worth investigating in Korea as well. My current favorite is Taco Amigo in Itaewon. While Vatos offers an impressive variety and an unbeatable atmosphere and style, there is something to be said for the small, unassuming, hole-in-the-wall type owner-operated joints like Amigo. If you close your eyes and try real hard, you can almost imagine that you are in a small Mexican cantina South of the border and not just a block off the main drag in one of Seoul’s busiest neighborhoods.

Taco Amigo offers most of what you would expect from your favorite Mexican eatery back home in the states and in large portions. On both visits I have opted for the Mole Chicken and Enchilada Special over the ala carte or mix-and-match option. Because I miss refried beans more than any other “Western” food option from North America, I pigged-out and got them on the side with Chips and Salsa, too. With just water to drink, my bill came to about 19,000 KRW.

With seating for around 20, the kitchen here is small and everything seems to be homemade; including  a nice variety of hot sauces which are available upon request. Like most Korean attempts to duplicate Western dishes, the food here is hot, fresh, and delicious, but something is just off a little bit. It is hard to really say what exactly, I guess it is ultimately just not and can never be the same. That is in no way a dig on Taco Amigo or other restaurants like it. After two visits, I still find myself preferring (and recommending) it over the big-name competition for its overall quality and value, as well as the cozy family-style setting. I was completely ignored at the bar on my last visit to Vatos because the place was just a loud and overcrowded madhouse. I walked out in a huff and stumbled upon Taco Amigo instead, so I consider it a blessing.

If you crave a big hot plate of tacos, burritos, and enchiladas with the feel of a small town Mexican dive, Taco Amigo offers more of what you are looking for at a fair price and without the long lines, loud crowds, and corporate feel.

(Please click on each image below to view full-sized or in a slideshow)

Taco Amigo is close to Itaewon Station, Exit #4. At street level, simply turn back toward the main intersection (and Taco Bell) and turn right at the Baskin Robbins, keep walking just a minute or two up the slight hill until you see Taco Amigo on the right. It’s easy to miss but it is just before you get to the bus station.

They are open Weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Weekends from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.


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