Downtowner: A Burger Gem in Hannam-dong
The quintessential American eat, the hamburger. At its base, such a simple thing, just a bun and a ground beef patty. It’s kind of amazing that such a simple thing can be fodder for so much foodie fighting. Luckily, a new argument for the Seoul hamburger debate has hit the meat grinder and its name is Downtowner. It’s a solid argument for people searching for a northeastern NYC, a la Shake Shack-style, burger. In other words, Downtowner keeps it simple, serving up juicy, basically-topped burgers.
If one were to look for it (and you should if you’re reading this), it is tucked away in an upcoming pocket neighborhood down below the main drag between Itaewon and Hangangjin Stations, and just behind the Hyundai Card Music Library. Fittingly, considering its more upmarket surroundings, Downtowner has a clean and modern approach, a sort of anti-greasy spoon vibe. Their burgers, however, are as delicious as they are affordable, and the restaurant’s popularity can be seen in its amount of photos on Instagram.
The neighborhood in question is in the Hannam-dong district, but it’s not comprised of the opulent cafes of the sort that grace the UN Village. No, these streets are a collection of fashionablye small restaurants and cafes that manage to seem inviting and uninviting at the same time. The type of places you want to spend all day in, but your neuroses tells you maybe you shouldn’t. That’s what makes Downtowner so inviting. It’s pocketed in this sort of neighborhood, but it’s squirreled away and hidden, and then boom: it’s bright and colorful, and their giant, 90s font, neon sign is strangely inviting. Especially after passing a cafe-bakery where people share an emptied out sauna pool as their seating and congregating area, or any number of knick knack shops that look as if they have nothing for sale. In contrast to all this, Downtowner is refreshingly straight-forward and lacking pretense.
Since Downtowner is in a neighborhood which this author expected to be eye-wateringly expensive, the bordering-on-cheap prices at Downtowner were a pleasant surprise. In fact, the prices seemed almost too good for the burgers to be of any sort of quality. However, this author was in for a shock because these burgers are a great value. The cheeseburger weighs in at KRW6,800 and is cooked medium well in a soft bun with a thin leaves of romaine, a tomato slice, and their house sauce, which is that wonderfully widespread Thousand Island plus some mystery ingredient sauce. In short, it’s a sauce that’s great on burgers. The other burgers include a double for KRW9,800, a bacon cheese for KRW7,800, a double bacon for KRW11,800, and an avocado for KRW9,300.
The avocado burger is the star of Downtowner. The author has not ordered it any of the times he’s been there, but it’s the star. It’s on every table. Every single person that has chosen to eat with the author has ordered it, and most of them have been so selfishly into their avocado burgers that they refused to share with the author. However, the last time the author made it to Downtowner for one more burger test before writing this article, his co-eater offered half of her avocado burger to him in exchange for half of his precious bacon cheese. After taking one bite of the avocado burger, the author realized two things: the avocado burger is an example other burgers should aspire to be with its heaping piles of buttery avocado and the unexpected sauteed onions, and that he’d made a small but delicious mistake by ordering other burgers from Downtowner.
Downtowner is increasing in popularity daily, but you can still drop in and grab a table without waiting. The author highly recommends you do so before the waits become unbearable. The burger is a solution for people looking for a simple burger but one that tastes more complex than any of the fast food options. It’s definitely in the Shake Shack vein so don’t go in expecting In-N-Out or Five Guys. Regardless, there are better burger joints in Seoul for those two styles of burgers. But if it’s a higher quality Shake Shack-style burger you’re looking for then Downtowner is currently the place to find it.
Address: Itaewon-ro 42-gil 28-4, Yongsan-gu, Seoul