For any American who lives in Korea this title might either make you laugh, or it might make you cry as you walk toward the closest thing you will get to an American burger... McDonald's. Fear not my fellow burger loving Americans, there is hope for us all.
I can't really call myself a foody. Foodies are people who love all kinds of food no matter what it might contain... I do love burgers though, and being a Texan, I'd say I know a thing or two about an all beef patty. But in Korea, at least outside of Seoul, a good burger is like trying to find a unicorn. It's just not going to happen.
So on my recent trip to Daejeon I read about a place called House Grill and I was intrigued but I knew not to get my hopes too high. Burgers just aren't the same here. In any case, I figured I would give it a try, and I headed to the subway with a bit more excitement than is appropriate for a fully gown human being.
It wasn't too hard to find but if you aren't looking for it, you definitely will miss it. I must admit that if I had walked by this place I would have thought it was a dry cleaner's or something. To my delight it was indeed the House Grill I had been looking forward to and I stepped in not sure what to expect. Inside was small with about four or five tables most of which were meant for about two people to sit at. All around the place there was also drawings much in the style I am interested in. Interestingly enough there were some foreigners already eating there as I walked in which really got my hopes up.
I sat down and was greeted by a nice lady who offered me a menu that had Korean and English. I can read Korean but it is nice to have the option for English since I don't know the words for some things. The menu itself was simple enough, burgers, burgers, and more burgers. Just the way I like my menu. What really got me was that there wasn't just the normal cheese burger, cheese burger with another patty, and burger with no cheese options. No there were burgers with egg, bacon, hashbrowns, and a whole load of other stuff.
I read through the menu wanting to try everything and that's when I saw it... The Monster Burger... Two patties, two hash browns, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pineapple, and egg... How could I pass that up? It was basically everything on the menu thrown between two buns. Yes please! I was NOT disappointed I must say.
So then this must have cost me a fortune right? Actually, no. With the optional chili fries and a soda, the whole thing came out to 20,000 won. I was blown away by the price and even more by the taste. This burger was cheap and damn good, just the way an American burger should be.
I ate that whole thing... and I regret nothing. My whole trip was made with this one burger and I just had to meet the owner.
This ladies and gentlemen, is Brian Kim. He is the owner, chef, and artist behind House Grill. I asked him about his amazing burgers and learned that he spent a few years in the states both in New York and in California. He said that he felt Korean burgers didn't taste right because the ingredients were too over complicated. In his burgers, to get that true American taste, he uses very simple ingredients. As an American, I can appreciate this and I can agree that whatever he is doing, he is doing it right. He also told me that when he had opened originally 7 years ago, there was more on the menu, but the burgers were so good that there was really no need for anything else. Again, I agree.
It is interesting that such a place can exist in Korea outside of Seoul. Typically when a restaurant opens anywhere, the taste must be tailored to suit the palates of the locals. Meaning that, when a burger place opens in Korea, it must have a recipe that pleases the Korean palate. Brian Kim is interesting in that he takes a "no compromises" approach to his burgers. He does not change his formula to make his burgers more "Korean" but instead tries to stay true to what an American burger tastes like. I respect that.
So my thoughts should be clear on this place but I will sum it up anyways like this... House Grill has some of the best burgers in Korea. If you are looking for a real American burger, look no further than House Grill. If you are in Daejeon it is a must. The owner is friendly and speaks good English, the place is small but cozy, and the food is amazing. Ten million stars to House Grill.
How to get there: Head to Yongmun Station and take exit 4. Once you exit just keep walking straight towards all the big buildings off in the distance. It's a little walk from the exit but keep an eye over your left shoulder until you see a Paris Baguette. Just past that Paris Baguette will be a little hall, go in and head all the way to the end, House Grill is on your right! The address is: #119 Orange Town, 423-3 Goejeong-dong, Seo-gu, Daejeon.