Seoul is a hotbed for fast food. A lot of this fast food is from reputable Korean brands, such as Lotte Burger, KyoChon Chicken, or Milkcow, but littered around the city you can also see international fast food chains that have a presence the world over – including of course the hangout of good old Ronald McDonald. But what makes McDonald’s different – if anything – in South Korea compared to English-speaking countries?
When I first started travelling, I was not too partial to foreign food, especially not Korean food. So during my initial forays around the capital Seoul I was very happy to find familiar fast food joints like Starbucks, KFC, and Smoothie King. What I love more than anything else, though, is comparing McDonald’s menu items from around the world, and check out what they do differently service-wise from what I am used to in Europe.
The first McDonald’s I tried was in a busy street in the Myeongdong district of Seoul, which looked really busy from the outside, and true to form it was very hectic indoors, too. After queuing for a good 5 minutes, I ordered a Bulgogi Burger from the counter. This is the Korean alternative to the Big Mac (though Big Macs are still available in South Korea). Additionally, I LOVE beef bulgogi, and this is one of my favourite Korean dishes. How did the Bulgogi Burger from McDonald’s fare? It was delicious! Perhaps a little too ‘processed’ when compared to the fresher beef strips you would eat in a restaurant elsewhere in Myeongdong, but still tasty enough – and it went down very well with a medium set of fries and a Diet Coke!
I noticed that like Singapore, South Korea has 24hr delivery available from its McDonald’s restaurants. This is not something that will ever be offered in Europe, nor the US, because it would cost too much money to run efficiently. You will see mopeds with big boxes on the back parked outside McDonald’s in the street, and at any moment a driver will walk outside with the latest delivery of burgers and fries, and the odd McFlurry – though not many flavours available in South Korea, from what I could see.
Away from the hyper shopping of Myeongdong, you can find quieter McDonald’s restaurants, and further into the city I also enjoyed meals. I decided to purchase the so-called 1955 Burger, which I don’t think has ever been available in the UK. I don’t know what the significance of the 1955 Burger is – perhaps a homage to the year of the first McDonald’s restaurant to open in South Korea? Anyway, this was another delicious cheeseburger, and it contained no salad, which I imagine is what old-fashioned fast food burgers were like (nowadays we are forced to be too health-conscious!).