Vatos Urban Tacos offers a taste of Mexico
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Vatos Urban Tacos is a trendy restaurant that serves fresh, made-to-order food like braised carnitas tacos. There are so many delectable reasons to eat at Vatos. It’s located a 10-minute walk from Yongsan's gas station gate off the main drag in Itaewon. Owners Kenneth Park and Juweon Kim, are two Korean Americans who know how to please customers. Within minutes of being seated you are served a basket of fresh tortilla chips accompanied by two homemade sauces – a roasted chipotle and a tomatillo salsa verde. If you look closely you’ll spot flecks of cilantro. Park, 29, came up with the original idea for the establishment. He said it’s always been a dream of his to open a restaurant. Park originally posted a video with information on a website called kickstarter.com to fund his project. He received lots of backing from family and friends. “I come from a family of cooks,” Park said. He grew up in Los Angeles and was heavily exposed and inspired by Mexican cuisine. Park said he finds the constant evolution of food both classic and modern. “I love braising meat,” Park said. He’s a clever and creative chef who isn’t classically trained but knows how to prepare and pair good flavors. It’s obvious that Park delights in bringing food into people’s lives. Depending on the day and your luck, you may get to order Vatos' guacamole. Itaewon is always changing, Park said, and there’s a lot of development. “This is a good spot to organically grow and try out our cuisine,” he said. A signature dish that’s very popular is kimchi carnitas fries. Do you dream of fish tacos? Vatos serves a panko-crusted, Korean pollock taco on a fresh tortilla. It lies under a bed of salsa fresca, Asian slaw, and chipotle mayonnaise. You can order two or three. They also serve delicious shrimp tacos. Park runs the kitchen while Kim, 28, manages a majority of the business and tends bar. Kim recommended a tangy, yet sweet drink called a makgeolita. You can order an orange, apple, mango, peach or strawberry one. This unique beverage is Korea’s cloudy rice wine mixed with a margarita. Vatos should have a patent on it. “The texture makes it,” Kim said about the makgeolita. This 21-ounce drink doesn’t burn in the throat but has a kick, he said. Vatos also serves Mexican and craft beers. When Kim isn’t taking orders, or running the cash register, he may be found talking with customers about his recent trip to Antarctica. Kim grew up in Austin, TX, and the Mexican martini he serves might make you want to don a pair of cowboy boots. This concoction (served in a shaker) is tart, sweet, and spicy, infused with jalapenos. This establishment has been open less than a year. Reservations are highly recommended.
2F 66-8 Itaewon-dong (behind the McDonald’s and Converse Store)
Phone: 02 797 TACO (8226)