12.301 Shrimp Tacos

Cycle 12 – Cycle 301

2 (Tue) November 2021

Shrimp Tacos


at El Pino 323

-Itaewon, Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea-


Long history short: I was born in Korea (1972), immigrated to the States (1976), and moved back to Korea after graduating elementary school (1985).

At that time, I was a voracious book-a-day reader, mostly fiction, of course in English.

So, when we repatriated to Korea, I was very disappointed to discover that English-language books were virtually impossible to come by.

Sometime around 1986, I discovered Itaewon Foreign Books.  It was a tiny shop, perhaps 1/4 what it is now.  But to me, it was my favorite store in the world.

The store has had various homes; in 2004, the owner purchased this building and set up shop for good (he lives upstairs).

Itaewon Foreign Books is a used book store.  Deals exclusively with imported titles, 99.9% in English, a few random titles in Spanish, etc.  The owner started the business in 1973 by selling books discarded by the US Army base in Yongsan.  The store has been designated as a cultural heritage site by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

As I remember it, the original store comprised a single narrow row, with books on either side; the current store has 4 rows, still narrow.

Every month or so, the owner now comes to Tongbang Books to buy stock.  Full circle.

When I first met him last year (technically, we’d “met” back when I was a customer), I gushed about how important his store had been to me.

After work today, I dropped by the store.  I ended up staying for 2 hours, buying several books (e.g., out-of-print James Bond novels) – he gave me a discount.

The cookbook section.

El Pino 323 is a Mexican-American restaurant.  Specializes in Southern Californian cholo-style tacos.  Currently ranked 93 of 26,581 restaurants in Seoul on TripAdvisor.

Located a few buildings away from the bookstore.

The main drawback of living in Wirye is the dearth of non-Korean dining options.

As such, any opportunity to eat in Itaewon is a blessing.

Pilsner Urquell on tap!

Excellent tacos.  The shrimp were huge, juicy, nicely seasoned.  Topped with avocado, cilantro, pico de gallo, sour cream, jalapeño, fresh lime.  The homemade corn tortillas were deliciously nutty – I can’t recall if I’ve ever experienced anything like them.  Every bite was a burst of dynamic flavors.

Looking forward to exploring the menu.

(See also BOOZE)



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