Sunday, April 14, 2013

Vatos Urban Tacos

Last weekend, I finally got the chance to visit a restaurant I have been dreaming/drooling about for the past month, Vatos Urban Tacos. A small and very new restaurant in Itaewon, I have heard nothing but wonderful things about the place. There is always a bit of a wait  if you don't have a reservation, and the last time I tried to visit the wait was almost an hour long and we were too impatient to wait it out. This time, I visited on a Sunday with my friend Katie for dinner. They quoted us a wait of about half an hour but it ended up being barely 10 minutes before we got a table.

The Vatos menu, which details what country each meat comes from.
Cute idea!

Free chips and salsa for starters, of course.

Katie and her Texas Long Island Tea.
My fantastic Watermelon Wheat.

Me enjoying my Watermelon Wheat.

Katie in the middle of the busy restaurant. Every table was packed, and there were others waiting to take their places the whole time we were there. Despite how full they were, our food and drinks came incredibly quickly, arriving about 10 minutes after we sat down. Pretty impressive, if you ask me. I've worked in plenty of busy restaurants before, and that is definitely a difficult feat to accomplish when you are as slammed as this place was.

Vatos hasn't been open for too long. They opened in November 2011, and within eight months they were named the #1 Hottest New Restaurant in Seoul by CNNGo. Their slogan is "Eat, drink and chill". This ideal definitely played a key role in the formation of the restaurant. The restaurant has a nice, relaxed vibe to it, the waitstaff was very friendly and helpful, and their drink list had a fantastic selection.

There are three men who founded the restaurant: Kenneth Park, Juweon Jonathan Kim, and Sid Kim. Kenny, from California, is the mastermind behind the food. Vatos uses fresh ingredients, and they even make their own tortillas. Juweon, raised in Texas, is the genius behind the drinks. And Sid supplies the business know-how. If you want to know more about the business, watch this video on Youtube:

For an appetizer, this place is quite well-known for its Kimchi Carnitas Fries (described as "seasoned French fries covered with braised carnitas, sauteed kimchi and melted cheese. Topped with sour cream, Vatos sauce and chopped cilantro and onions" in the menu). I guess I will just have to go back again, sometime very soon, so that I can try them. It is definitely a Korean take on Mexican food, and I hear they are delicious.

Instead of this popular dish, we decided to start off with a spicy queso dip. It was pretty tasty.


I chose to get the Braised Carnitas Tacos. Described in their menu as "slow braised pork shoulder with a hint of citrus and our house blend of seasonings. Served with chopped onions, cilantro and Vatos hot sauce", this was definitely a good choice.

Vatos has a lot of choices that meld the Korean with Mexican style of food. One example of that would be the Galbi Short Rib Tacos, which are "marinated short rib with ssamjang aoili, Asian slaw and roasted sesame seeds". There are also the Korean Style Pork Belly Tacos, "crispy pork belly marinated in a Cumin-soy glaze with gochujang vinaigrette, Asian slaw, chopped onions & cilantro, perilla leaves and roasted sesame seeds".

Vatos was superb. We did not have to wait an absurd amount of time to get in, but I would definitely recommend a reservation, especially with a large group of people. The restaurant's ambience made for a nice, relaxing meal which was easy to enjoy. The food was incredible, the drinks were tasty, and the waitstaff was kind and helpful.

If you live in Korea and suddenly find yourself craving one of these amazing dishes, check out the restaurant's website at And if you, for any reason, find yourself skeptical of my rave review, check out some more (usually fanatical) reviews from Trip Advisor at:

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