Uber isn't widely used in Korea for several reasons, but mainly it's because taxis aren't hard to catch. Taxis run 24 hours in Seoul, and you've got a whole horde of hungry taxi drivers looking for good places to eat. That's why there are restaurants that cater specifically to taxi drivers. It's even called literally the "driver's restaurant," or 기사식당 in Korean.
Even though it's called the driver's restaurant, regular customers are also welcomed. But the target market they're going for isn't regular people like us, so they have some different selling points that put the driver's restaurant into it's own category.
The service is always quick, the meals affordable, and the food, uncomplicated. The restaurant will have only a few items on the menu. Even though it's cheap eats, you can expect large portions.
When we say quick service, we mean quick service. Usually the dishes are prepared quick for the drivers to get back on the road, but also a driver's restaurant needs to accommodate as many drivers they can, so turnover is also quick. Driver's restaurants always have large parking spaces and are usually located near gas stations, last bus stops, or popular taxi routes.
It gets more intense. The dishes are selected particularly for the clientele; dishes are light so it is easy to digest. Unlike most Korean meals, which are heavy into soups, driver's restaurants often serve meals with no broth because drivers might not have a chance to go to the toilet on the job. Another trait is that they don't sell alcohol. Of course.
We went to one driver's restaurant for our video about late night Seoul, and if you're curious about what one of these places looks like, we highly recommend you try one for yourself.
We realized that if you don't speak Korean or aren't super familiar with Seoul's geography you might have a hard time finding a good one, so we saved you the trouble. Here are four of Seoul's most popular and beloved driver's restaurants you can look to for killer bulgogi sets and lightning-fast service.
If you're planning on visiting Seoul or know someone who is, maybe file this away for reference. We hope these places will help you out, whether you're interested in experiencing an unusual part of Korean culture or just hoping to find a cheap place to eat. We kept all the restaurant and neighborhood names in Korean so you could copy-paste into a Korean site like Daum or Naver and still be able to find it on a map, or find a blog post with pictures of these places.
Address: 서울특별시 마포구 연남로 25 (25, Yeonnam-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul)
This place was on the popular show Infinite Challenge, making it one of the more well known driver's restaurants. Plus it's near the popular spot Hongdae in a neighborhood called 연남동, which means tourists and cash-strapped students alike quite often make their way over here. It's open 24 hours and specializes in pork bulgogi sets.
Address: 서울특별시 성북구 성북로23길 4 (4, Seongbuk-ro 23-gil, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul)
Also known for it's pork bulgogi set, this place came up over and over again in our research. It's well off the beaten path in an area called 대학로, on the north side of the city and only accessible by bus, line 4, or (of course) taxi. It's been run by the same family for over 30 years, so you know they're doing something right.
Address: 서울특별시 용산구 효창원로 218 (218, Hyochangwon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul)
Next to Sookmyung Women's University Station, this place puts kimchi in their bulgogi sets. Also their side dishes are all self-serve, so you can refill them as often as you like, since they come included in the price.
Address: 서울특별시 강남구 논현로85길 5-5 (5-5, Nonhyeon-ro 85-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul)
Just in case you're not into bulgogi, this place is not too far from Gangnam in an area called 역삼동. It specializes in 청국장, a fermented soybean soup reminiscent of the smelly Japanese breakfast food natto, only in soup form. Their stewed pollack (북어찜) is also pretty popular, if you're feeling fish.
There are of course, tons of highly recommended drivers restaurants in other cities. 현암기사식당 is pretty famous in Daejon, and 목화기사식당 has a pretty big following in Busan, but these places should get you started if you find yourself in Seoul. Good luck and happy eating!