Reviewed by Rachel Lim ETA’12-13
City: Seoul (서울)
Restaurant name: Vatos Urban Tacos
Restaurant address: 서울시 용산구 이태원동 181-8 2층
Directions: From Itaewon Station, come out Exit 1 and walk straight. You will pass a Burger King and What the Book bookstore. The restaurant is located on top of a small hill to the right. From Noksakpyeong Station, come out Exit 3 and walk straight. You will see the restaurant on your left.
Food Served: Mexican
Payment: Cash or credit card
Price: Entrees ₩10,000-14,000.
Vatos Urban Tacos is a rising star on the Korean fusion scene. Founded by a trio of Korean-Americans (one of whom is a former Fulbrighter!) after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Vatos menu offers a creative, mouth-watering medley between Korean and Mexican cuisines. On a usual weekend night, crowds of foreigners and Koreans alike wait on the wooden patio outside the restaurant, clutching pagers and staring wistfully at patrons already munching on the complimentary chips and salsa.
Following the tradition of the Korean taco food trucks that can be spotted in nearly any American metropolis, Vatos Tacos features taste combinations like kimchi pork and galbi that come in taco, quesadilla or burrito form. All are delicious, though I’m partial to the kimchi pork burrito and the shrimp tacos. The drinks menu is full of pricey but exciting options that make Vatos a fun place to start off a night in Itaewon. Giant fruit makgeollitas and coronitas come in Korean-style flavors such as Jeju tangerine or Daehan-Mango.
Overall, Vatos satisfies my cravings for quality fusion flavor, and its success in Itaewon seems to signal that Korean-Mexican fusion is here to stay: a second location recently opened in Sinsa’s ritzy garosu-gil.
Atmosphere (Out of 5)
5- The restaurant’s recently renovated space features a urban grunge atmosphere, with artfully crumbling brick-and-mortar walls. Reservations will likely be needed, especially on weekend evenings when the wait can extend for hours.
Service (Out of 5)
4- The staff is attentive and friendly, even when the crowds are at their peak.
Food (Out of 5)
4- One of my favorite Seoul restaurants, Vatos offers creative and delicious fare — though I often cringe at the high price tag that comes along with it, especially considering the smaller portion sizes.