When my husband and I went to Chicago back in June, we went to a lot of great restaurants, which (someday) I’ll get to writing about. But if I’m very honest about it, we didn’t always go to the top places mentioned on Eater.
Let me tell you a secret.
We went to Chipotle.
As much as I detest fast food, Chipotle is an exception to the rule. I love their burrito bowls and I am guilty of being one of those people who use strategies to get more bang for my buck when the server makes my bowl.
So imagine my glee when I heard that Cuchara (meaning “spoon” in Spanish, or so they say), a Chipotle-like restaurant, had just opened about 10 minutes away from our house. We promptly decided to head on a lunch date, dreaming of finally satisfying our Chipotle cravings that had been brewing for the last uh… three months.
We were glad to find that the location wasn’t a difficult to find. In the Samsung Electronics building, connected to the Gangnam subway station, the restaurant is in a prime spot for both passerby visitors as well as Samsung employees (those lucky ducks).
I’m not quite sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but the interior is scarily similar to Chipotle. We got in the line and started the ever-familiar process of ordering our food. The Man opted for a burrito and it wasn’t even a question – I went for the burrito bowl. One of the main differences that you notice right away is that the rice is extremely different. The classic cilantro-lime rice is replaced by plain white rice with the alternative option of brown rice. This makes sense for Korea, as a large chunk of the population has an aversion to cilantro (fun fact: it’s a genetic mutation that many people have that makes cilantro smell like soap!), but a friend told us that they do give cilantro on the side if requested, so that was comforting as we’re both huge fans of the herb.
Prices were relatively reasonable considering the prices of most Mexican eateries in Korea are quite high. The options ranged from around the 6-8000won range, and with guacamole at an additional cost of 2500won, our meals came out to about 10000won each (roughly 10 dollars).
I got my first-ever bowl at Cuchara with brown rice, fajita veggies, a mix of carnitas and al pastor, tomato salsa and corn salsa, with a good helping of romaine and cheese. I was quite happy with the flavors, but noticed that the corn can overpower the bowl as corn in Korea is rather sweet.
The Man opted for the burrito – or rather, a small brick. The burrito gets the same treatment as the Chipotle burrito – wrapped in classic aluminum foil. Judging from how our date consisted of me looking at the top of his head as he scarfed down his burrito… I’m guessing he enjoyed it.
After our date we agreed that it was about 80% similar to Chipotle, but that it was a great effort, satisfying the Chipotle-shaped hole in our hearts.
The next day we took two of our friends there, and we proceeded to again, not talk to each other and commence stuffing our faces. At that point I realized that it’s not fair to compare Cuchara to Chipotle. We can say things like “it’s not exactly the same” or “I wish they had cilantro-lime rice” but (interior decoration aside), the experience at Cuchara can be so much more enjoyable if you just think of this as its own restaurant and not a Chipotle copy. Those who go in expecting Chipotle might a) be disappointed or b) be willing to settle. But if you go in knowing that you’re going to get great “Mexican” food for a reasonable price – you’ll have a grand ol’ time.
To head to Cuchara, go to Gangnam station (line 2 or Sinbundang line), and come out of exit 8. You’ll see a set of escalators heading up. Right in front of the escalators is Cuchara. Open Monday-Sunday, Weekdays 11am-10pm, Weekends 11am-9pm.