Guilty Pleasure: Authentic Southern-Style Comfort Food in Itaewon

Something about the cold weather really puts a damper on my mood. So, what do I do when I’ve got the winter blues? I eat! And while I’ve managed to find comfort in certain Korean foods over the years, nothing really puts a smile on my face like the fatty goodness that is Southern food. Fortunately enough for me, there’s been a renaissance of Seoul’s international food scene over the past year, with a growing focus on Southern-style barbecue and comfort food. Yet, no one seems to have hit the nail on the head quite as well as Guilty Pleasure.

Obscurely tucked away on a side alley in Itaewon, Guilty Pleasure exudes the ambiance of a hip city hangout, with its sleek, backlit bar, fanciful lighting fixtures and neon wall hangings. Yet, nothing about it feels pretentious. Which is fitting, seeing that its menu places an emphasis on comfort food.

Although I had heard rave reviews about Guilty Pleasure’s weekend brunch, I wanted to check out its weekday dinner menu, which looked as equally as impressive.

My friend and I started with the Spinach Dip (₩9,000) and the Mac and Cheese (₩10,000). The almost curry-like dip was nice and smooth and tasted good on the accompanying baguette slices. Usually, I prefer my spinach dip to be a bit on the cheesier side, but considering the dishes that followed, it was probably a good thing it wasn’t so rich.

The chef (who hails from New Jersey), killed it with the mac and cheese, which incorporated a cauliflower base, bacon lardons, chunks of tender pulled pork smoked in-house, truffle oil and fantastically gooey cheddar cheese. The top was browned and crispy, just as the dish should be. I was already feeling full and the mains hadn’t even come out yet.

Next up was the Cuban Sandwich (₩15,000), one of a few sandwiches on the restaurant’s varied menu. In addition to the classic ingredients of ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, homemade duck prosciutto is added to give the sandwich a unique taste. The duck was fairly poignant but tied the sandwich together nicely. The pressed Italian roll was also great. Although it wasn’t the best Cuban I’ve ever had, it’s definitely one of the best in Seoul.

The star of the meal was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken (₩17,000). Marinated in Guilty Pleasure’s homemade buttermilk for three days, and then deep fried, succulent chunks of chicken are served over creamy sausage gravy alongside two buttermilk biscuits. The dish was wonderfully rich and the nice combination of textures, flavors and spices paired perfectly. I couldn’t get enough of the crunchy and crispy batter shell. The biscuits were the real deal, bringing me back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood.

The bar has a great selection of beverages, and we settled on a hoppy Lost Coast IPA (beers start at ₩7,000) and a Fresh Limeade (₩7,000), which I’ll definitely be going back for in the summer. Crisp, tangy and refreshing, it makes for a great thirst quencher.

To finish off the meal, we had the Beignets (₩5,000), an item that instantly made me ecstatic the moment I saw it on the menu. I doubted they could live up to those at Café du Monde in New Orleans, and while they were a bit different, they definitely exceeded my expectations. The sugary fried donuts were served a top of a warm blueberry sauce, making it cobbler-like, a great way to end an indulgent dinner.

I know I probably shouldn’t visit Guilty Pleasure very often, especially if I plan on donning a bathing suit this summer, but I have a feeling I will be back fairly often. The ambiance, authentic dishes and value for money make Guilty Pleasure a must-visit for anyone craving tasty comfort food.

More Information: Guilty Pleasure

Address: 1F, 2-10 Itaewon-ro 20-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul / 서울특별시 용산구 이태원로20길 2-10

Phone: 02-794-4332

Hours: Tues – Thurs 6pm-12am; Fri 6pm-1am; Sat 12-3:30pm & 6pm-1am; Sun 12pm-3:30pm & 6pm-12am

Facebook: Click Here

Get There: From exit 4 of Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), walk straight until you reach Dillingers. Go down the adjacent stairs. At the bottom, turn right and walk straight for about one minute until you see the Guilty Pleasure sign on the right hand side. Walk up to the top of the stairs and go in the building on the left; the restaurant is on the 1st floor.

Although this post is partially sponsored by Guilty Pleasure, the opinions are, of course, my own. 

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.