The neighborhood sandwich spot you’ve been missing in Seoul
Sandwiches, soups, salads, wraps, and baked goods —, the foundations of American college town cafes and restaurants, are unsurprisingly scarce here in Seoul. It’s a lamentable fact that there are few truly neighborhood sandwich spots where everyone knows your name: – the kinds of places with fantastic, recurring daily specials that keep you coming back. Fat Cat is one of the few neighborhood shops that can fill this hummus wrap-shaped hole the expat’s heart.
Located in Haebangchon (HBC), Fat Cat stands out as an institution that has stuck around even after having gone through ownership and menu changes. Throughout it all, the restaurant has stuck to its core concept: great sandwiches that don’t decimate your bank account. Lately, the concept is at its zenith with some really excellent and hard-to-find sandwiches and salads.
The menu is split into two main sections: salads and sandwiches. No surprises there. Nevertheless, the salad menu rotates with the seasons to assure the freshest produce, which means by the time this article prints the salads could be different. Sandwiches don’t change with the seasons, so let’s talk about them.
The sandwich menu is interesting. It includes a range of sandwiches from standard to downright uncommon — –it may be the only shop in Seoul selling a torta ahogada. Plus, they have their tiger beef, a roast beef sandwich with a kicking horseradish sauce. There is also the Fat Cat staple, a chicken pesto sandwich; because Fat Cat, in all of its incarnations, has served a chicken pesto sandwich. For the vegetarians, there is hummus and avocado and then a chicken and avocado number for the meateater craving avocados. Last but not least, the humble meatball sub. There are also special sandwiches that come and go when inspiration strikes.
"Throughout it all, the restaurant has stuck to its core concept: great sandwiches that don’t decimate your bank account. Lately, the concept is at its zenith with some really excellent and hard-to-find sandwiches and salads."
Fat Cat is most likely the only restaurant in Seoul making a pulled pork ahogada. It is possible, but not confirmed, that they are the only place in Asia making itas. A torta ahogada is a Mexican sandwich originating from the city of Guadalajara which is submerged or drowned in spicy tomato sauce — –think a cross between hot sauce, salsa, and BBQ sauces. Luckily, eaters who’d prefer not to have their pulled pork drowned in spicy salsa can have the sauce on the side. The ahogada at Fat Cat comes out on a large plate and it is knee-deep in a pool of tangy red sauce — –yes, it is actually only media ahogada, or half-drowned. The part of the sandwich dunked in sauce literally melts in mouths. The dry part of the sandwich is composed of crisp, perfectly baked bread, seasoned meat, pico de gallo, and Mexican cheeses. This is a sandwich worth travelling for, especially for those who miss ahogadas from their hometowns.
Another sandwich that has to be tried is Fat Cat’s Tiger Beef. It is a roast beef sandwich on the same crispy Maybell Bakery bread as the ahogada, but its taste profile is less Mexico and more Philadelphia-meets-Southeast Asia. The sandwich is stuffed with succulent marinated beef, cheese, pickles, and onions. It’s topped off with horseradish sauce that punches like wasabi. It’s not the sweet Ottogi horseradish sauce that is sold at Korean marts as an to insult horseradish admirers. It’s the real horseradish that takes a sandwich from OK to “I want to eat two of these.”
The sandwiches at Fat Cat are some of the best in the city and are worth travelling for. When you go, make sure to couple them with their natural brethren —- soups and salads. Also not to be missed are the desserts. Fat Cat has a bakery, too, and it’s producing some of the best desserts in Seoul. Desserts that are very Instagramable, which is important in today’s social world. At the moment there is a collection of pumpkin spiced goods and, this winter, there is talk of ginger-based desserts. So, check out Fat Cat. It’s not the same place it was a year ago. It was good then but nowadays has some near impossible-to-find sandwiches that should not be neglected.
Prices: Salads KRW 9800 won, Sandwiches KRW 8000- to 9000 won, Soup KRW 5000 won
Recommended dishes: The Pulled Pork Ahogado
Drinks: Beer KRW 3000- to 7000 won, coffee KRW 3000 won and up, Kkombucha KRW 6000 won, and an assortment of seasonal speciality drinks for KRW 5000- to 6000 won