Review: Firebell Burger in Daechi-dong
It’s pretty much impossible to find a decent burger in Gangnam, certainly one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The Alibi near Gangnam station, on the site of what used to be Craftworks, claims to have a 7-star Michelin chef making burgers in their kitchen, but the food and drink there is priced to match and it’s not exactly the sort of place you’d pop in for a quick bite at lunchtime. Basically your choices are to schlep to Seorae Maeul or Samseong for a Brooklyn Burger – admittedly, a superb choice that is well worth the journey – or to check out the new Burger B franchise in COEX, which (if it’s as good as the Hongdae branch) would be a more than acceptable option.
Three cheers, then, for Firebell, which has just opened up in Daechi-dong between Seollung and Hanti stations. Coincidentally, the restaurant is in the same block as my work, which I took to be God’s sign that He needs me to eat more burgers. So in I went. Who am I to question Him?Firebell looks and tastes like an American diner, which I mean as a compliment. They have a red and white theme going on and no more than a handful of tables, I reckon about six. You can watch them making your burger in the compact kitchen. On my first visit I ordered the Habana burger. This has a slightly spicy jalapeno / cheese topping reminiscent of the CREAM burger at Brooklyn, and the similarities do not end there. The 5oz patty was perfectly seasoned and cooked, with a nice char on the outside but pink inside, and the bun was soft (perhaps even slightly too much so). On my second trip – no, I didn’t eat both of these at the same sitting – I just had to try the Mac n’ Cheese burger. This is exactly what it sounds like: a burger with some macaroni cheese, as we’d call it back home, on top of the burger. The effect was nice but a bit odd – it was basically like a cheeseburger with some random pasta shapes on top of it. Is this a thing in America? Whatever, it’s another sign of your nation’s greatness.All burgers are 5oz (apart from the double) and very reasonably priced at between 7,000 and 8,500. For 4,000 won you can add fries and a soda, which include the option of Dr Pepper or Cherry Coke for the homesick expats among you. They also have some decent imported beers available and some very nice-looking shakes, which I haven’t yet tried – more shades of Brooklyn Burger.To be clear, these burgers are great. There’s no bullshit toppings on them, no sweet sauce, no Korean-style eight slabs of lettuce to clear off the bun. Just a really good, well-cooked burger. On the modest size, it’s true, but the fatties can always order the double; for a lunchtime treat, it’s perfect. I’m not saying I’d travel across the city for it – that honour remains with Brooklyn the Burger joint – but as a neighbourhood diner, Firebell is pretty much perfect in every way. If you live or work south of the river, give it your custom, and let’s make sure they don’t go anywhere.
- Category: American
- Price: $$$$
- Must try:Habana burger
- Subway: Seollung (선릉역) exit 2 / Hanti (한티역) exit 1
- Directions: Coming from Seollung station, come out of exit 2 and walk down the street for 6-7 minutes until you pass an intersection with a pharmacy and an optician on the corner. There is a Pizza Hut and a Cafe Nescafe on the left. Turn left after that and Firebell will be on the left side of the sidestreet after about 50 yards. From Hanti exit 1, walk up towards the same spot and turn right at the Cafe Nescafe.
- Hours: Open seven days 11am – 9:30pm. They occasionally take a mid-afternoon break so if you are coming from afar, call ahead or check their Facebook page.
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