There is no shortage of places to eat in Busan, with restaurants to fit every budget, and the city is known for its fresh hwae (raw fish) and other seafood. Raw-fish restaurants and markets line the shore in Haeundae (on the east of the shore on the other side of the boardwalk away from the Westin Chosun), Gwangalli, and Songdo beaches, and at the Jagalchi Market.
Other specialties of the city include so galbi (beef ribs, usually cooked on a tabletop grill at your table), which can be found in eateries throughout the city. Sanseong Village's restaurants specialize in yeomso gogi (grilled goat meat) or heuk yeomso (black goat), which is usually enjoyed with the local liquor, a type of rice wine. For dweji galbi (pork ribs), there is actually a street, Choryang Galbi Street, dedicated solely to restaurants that serve pork.
You can also get your fair share of cheap street food in the mokja golmok ("let's eat alley"). There are two of them in town -- one in Seomyeon and another in Changseon-dong near the Jagalchi Market. They feature sit-down joints and street vendors serving everything from flatcakes and noodles to meat and dumplings. There is even a street in the Nampo-dong area called the "Original Bossam and Jokbal Alley." Jokbal (boiled pig feet) is actually tender, sliced pork, served with bossam (lettuce leaves) to be eaten with rice, kimchi (fermented cabbage), and other banchan (side dishes).
Open-air cafes are concentrated along the shores of Gwangalli looking out onto the view of the bridge and the ocean. Restaurants and cafes are also clustered at Gwangeogol Food Town near Songjeong Beach.
Almost all of the larger hotels have their own restaurants, but prices are more expensive, since you're paying for the ambience and the view. Department stores have Korean "fast food" (usually on the basement floor) and their own restaurants on the top levels. There is no end of street carts selling a variety of snacks and drinks near market streets and at night.
As elsewhere in South Korea, Korean food is usually cheaper than Western cuisine, since most ingredients have to be imported. Even getting a hamburger or pizza won't be cheaper than buying some ddeokbokgi (spicy rice cake sticks) or gimbap (rice and other stuff rolled in seaweed).
If you saunter along the boardwalk on the beach with the Westin Chosun Hotel at your back, you will come upon a row of hwae restaurants along the shore. Although the seafood here is good and fresh, you're paying a bit more for the location and the view. Haeundae does have its share of upscale restaurants. The fancier ones are located inside the high-end hotels. For less expensive, but equally delicious fare, look for those tucked away in small streets and alleyways away from the waterfront.
For inexpensive and fresh hwae, the Millak Hwae Town at the northeast end of Gwangalli Beach is a place to get relatively inexpensive fare. You choose a fish from one of the vendors on the first floor. They run from about W20,000 to W30,000. For an extra W10,000, they'll slice and dice and fix it up for you upstairs. You can't get fresher fish than that! Be sure you bring your appetite because the meal involves several courses, with the hwae as the highlight of the meal, ending with spicy fish stew and rice.
For a different experience, there is a Kongnamul Haejang Guk (Bean Sprout Seafood Soup Street) next to Millak Hwae Town where a handful of restaurants specialize in this spicy soup.
If you're not in the mood for fish or soup, head on over to the Gwangalli Eonyang Bulgogi Street (on the other side of Gwangalli Beach), which is a street lined with bulgogi (marinated sliced rib-eye) restaurants.
Also on the beach side with a view of the Gwangan bridge is Café Street, a line of open-air cafes, where you can enjoy the nighttime view of the lights on the water while sipping a joe with your loved one.
Dongnae-Gu, Geumjeong-Gu & PNU Area
This neighborhood is famous for its Dongnae pajeon (green-onion flatcakes). You can find them being made fresh on the streets or in most of the restaurants in this area. Not a big enough dish to make a meal, it's a great appetizer or snack or can make a good anju (drinking snack) with your soju or beer.
Jung-Gu & Nampo Dong
Probably the cheapest hwae and seafood can be found at the Jagalchi Market, where you buy the fish from vendors on the street level and have them prepare it upstairs for you. They usually offer three meal options, labeled A, B, and C. Even the A course is quite filling with plenty of hwae, an appetizer course of mussels or other seafood, and maeuntang (spicy hot pot) to finish up the meal. All of the upstairs restaurants serve similar meals, costing between W50,000 and W80,000 for two people. I've listed my personal favorite, Gyeongbuksang Hwae, below. And don't be offended by the ajumma (married ladies) who grab you by the arm and try to get you to eat at their place. The ones who have tables far away from the view have to use such aggressive tactics to get business during slow days.
For more hwae and other seafood, go to the fish market along the waterfront of Jagalchi shijang. The vendors display their fresh catch as you walk through the narrow walkway. You make your pick and sit at an inside table or outside bench or even watch as the ajumma cooks the food right there in front of you. Choices included a variety of hwae, grilled fish, and other fresh seafood.
If you're not in the mood for seafood, you can try your luck at the Changsun-dong Mokja "Let's Eat" Street, between Gukje and Jagalchi markets, near the Art Street.
A Feast Fit for a Monk
Many of South Korea's temples offer meals to visitors and to those spending the night, and while temple cuisine is likely not the best food you'll encounter on your trip, it does stem from some fascinating traditions. The food served at temples is always vegetarian and usually made up of rice and small banchan made from local and seasonal vegetables. However, the monks will not cook with the five "hot" vegetables, including garlic and ginger, because they believe that these foods lead to obscene thoughts when eaten raw and to anger when consumed cooked.
Indeed, Korean temple food is supposed to cleanse the body and encourage spirituality. Meals are prepared as "medicine" for the mind, body, and spirit and are not supposed to be eaten for pleasure. Even so, I find temple food quite tasty, as it's always fresh and subtle in flavor. It's definitely worth skipping a serving of beef ribs to get a taste of South Korea's spiritual heritage.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.