The number of restaurants in Korea is pretty amazing. There are so many restaurants that in some districts, it is possible to eat at a different restaurant every day for a year. There are some restaurants that you will see in multiple locations around the city, these are Korean chain restaurants. Knowing about the best chain restaurants in Korea can be useful when you are visiting a new area and want to eat a particular type of food. Keep reading to learn about some of the top chain restaurants in Korea, and the types of food that they serve. Once you find one that you like, remember its name and you will find it easier to choose where to eat when you are hungry.
Saemaeul Sikdang (새마을 식당)
Baek Jong-won is Korea’s answer to Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey. The most well-known Korean celebrity chef also owns several chains of restaurants, coffee shops, and pubs. The most successful and long-lasting of these is Saemaeul Sikdang. The restaurant sells standard Korean barbecue options like galbi, but also has a few signature dishes of its own, such as its seven-minute jjigae (stew), or its spicy yeoltan bulgogi (열탄불고기). If you are struggling to find somewhere to eat, then you can often find this restaurant in any nightlife district for an easy meal.
When winter sets in and you need some warm comfort food, Bonjuk is the place to go. This rice porridge, ‘juk in Korean, restaurant sells warm filling food that is perfect for a cold winter day. There are plenty of different options here, from samgyetang (chicken and ginseng) porridge, to pumpkin porridge, and even octopus and beef porridge (I’m not kidding!) The portions are so large and filling that you will struggle to finish your dish. This restaurant can be found in almost every neighborhood in Korea, not just the main restaurant areas. It also does take-out, if you want to order some ‘juk’ and take it home.
Korean restaurants are often specialized towards one particular dish, and Yugane is no exception. The restaurant chain sells Dalkgalbi (닭갈비), a spicy chicken stir-fry that is cooked in front of you while you wait. Dalkgalbi is the signature dish of Chuncheon, Gangwon province, and people will travel there just to experience the Dalkgalbi Street in that city. If you want to save yourself a trip, just visit Yugane instead. As well as the regular dalkgalbi, yugane offers several other options like octopus and chicken dalkgalbi or cheese dalkgalbi. The pre-barbequed dalkgalbi option is also excellent. If you find the dish a bit too spicy, take some of the sauce out before it gets stirred into the meal.
One of Korea’s many chain chicken restaurants; Oppadalk’s name means ‘big brother chicken’. The restaurant’s full name, Obeune bbajin dalk (오븐에빠진닭) means ‘the chicken that fell out of the oven’, and there are many other chicken restaurants that have copied Oppadalk’s naming style. Unlike many Korean chicken restaurants, Oppadalk specializes in baked chicken (hence the ‘oven’ part of its name), rather than fried chicken. The restaurant also lets you choose half-and-half chicken menus, so you can have a mix of fried and baked chicken, or chicken with spring onion mixed with roast chicken for example. Among Korea’s many chicken restaurants, Oppadalk stands out due to its quality, so it is worth looking out for when you are feeling like having some chicken or chimaek (치맥 – chicken and beer).
Jaws Ttokbokki (죠스 떡볶이) and Mimine (미미네)
Ttokbokki (떡볶이), the spicy red cylinder-shaped ricecakes that you see being sold in food stalls on the street in Korea, is often seen as a snack rather than a full meal. However, anyone who has eaten it before will tell you that it is very filling and could easily pass for a meal. There are lots of ttokbokki stalls, but sometimes you want to sit down indoors to eat it. Two of the most well-known ttokpokki chains are Jaws and Mimine. Jaws has been around for a long time and can be found almost everywhere in Korea. Mimine has fewer stores, but rather uniquely, uses smaller ricecakes than usual. This can be useful if you find it difficult to fit a whole ricecake in your mouth. When ordering ricecakes, Koreans often order sundae (순대), intestines filled with blood-soaked rice, which is kind of similar to English black pudding. If you’re not up for the sundae challenge, rest assured that Mimine serves tempura shrimp instead!
Hongma Banjeom (홍마반점) / Hong Kong Banjeom (홍콩 반점)
Hong Kong Banjeom is the most well-known chain for Chinese food in Korea, although rather confusingly it underwent a semi-rebrand so half of its restaurants are called Hongma (Hong Kong and Macau) Banjeom instead. It might seem odd that this is on a list of best Korean chain restaurants in Korea, but Korean Chinese food is very different from Chinese food in the West, let alone Chinese food in China. Common dishes in Korean Chinese restaurants include black-bean noodles, spicy seafood soup, and sweet-and-sour pork. Hongma Banjeom has a selection of other Chinese dishes that you can order too, such as kung-pao chicken, which are hard to find in other Korean Chinese restaurants.
Andong Jjimdalk (안동찜닭)
Andong Jjimdalk sells a hearty chicken stew that is great for a group meal. The stew is originally from the Andong region, hence the name, but the restaurants can be found around most Korean cities. The chicken is slowly cooked in a broth with potatoes and glass noodles. It usually comes in its spicy variety, but you can order the milder soy sauce version instead.
These are just a small selection of the various restaurant chains in Korea. There are many other chains in Korea, often specializing in other foods like pizza or sushi. Have you tried eating in any of these restaurant chains? Do you agree that they are the best Korean chain restaurants in Korea? Let us know in the comments below!