Words and shots by Bryce Weibley
Texas Street may strike you as a strange name for the small lane opposite Busan Station filled with Filipino, Russian, and Uzbek joints. The name originated from the American soldiers who once frequented this notorious district. Since the U.S. military closed its Busan facilities, the GIs have largely been replaced by Russian sailors. By night, the booze and bargirls remain, but it’s not all debauchery. Texas Street also serves as a commercial district for local residents from the Philippines, Russia, and Uzbekistan, who have established a number of authentic eateries. And in the land of kimchi, the opportunity to sample such foreign flavors is too rare to pass up! Here’s a look at a few of Texas Street’s best ethnic restaurants.
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Samarkand A unique treat in the local restaurant scene is Samarkand, a bright Uzbek family restaurant. Here, the great range of delicious homestyle Uzbek and Russian dishes (W5,000 – W20,000) are intended for sharing, so bringing a group is recommended. While English is hit-or-miss on the menu, there’s a photo of each dish accompanied by Cyrillic and Hangul captions. Samarkand offers popular Uzbek dishes such as shurpa (lamb stew), samsa (meat-stuffed pastry), manty (dumplings), and hefty grilled meat skewers, as well as typical Russian fare such as borscht (beet and cabbage stew), cabbage rolls, and stuffed peppers. Uzbek food is certainly hearty, but it’s not all meat and starch. A full menu page is dedicated to a wide range of fresh salads. And to wash it all down, there’s Russian Ice vodka for W20,000 a bottle! 051-466-4734
Kamustahan The 24-hour Filipino-run Kamustahan restaurant has a small interior, but the scrumptious homemade Filipino cuisine keeps the customers rolling in. The menu includes Filipino favorites such as adobong manok (chicken adobo), lumpia (Philippines-style fried spring rolls), and sinigang (sour, tamarind-based stew), all for around W10,000. There aren’t any English descriptions of the dishes, but the English-speaking staff gladly help interpret the menu. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Filipino joint without San Miguel Beer, though Kamustahan also stocks the same brewery’s extra-strong version, Red Horse, a rare find in Korea. 051-466-3364
Amby’s Probably the most well-known of the area’s eateries, Amby’s restaurant and pub exemplifies the cultural mishmash that is Texas Street. Amby’s serves up a range of Filipino, Russian, Western, and Korean food from a mongrel menu that seems to change font and language throughout. Despite the fact that the Filipino waitress had no idea what borscht and cabbage rolls were – and the fact that the cook was Korean – the food was actually quite tasty. Dishes start at W5,000. Wi-fi and hilarious conversation with drunk Russian sailors are free of charge. 051-467-6206
Viking Club Though most of the nightlife in the area tends towards the seedier side, the exception is the Viking Club. It does actually have a food menu, but it’s definitely more of a drinking and dancing kind of place. It’s worth a mention, however, for the house band – featuring a trio of Russian blondes – who perform the latest pop songs from their motherland on weekend nights.
Getting There Take the subway (line 1) to Busan Station, exit 7. Turn left at the Family Mart and Texas Street will be the first right. For Samarkand, keep walking eastwards past Baskin Robbins, cross a road and continue another 50 meters past KB Bank. It’s on the second floor.
10 Tip Although Texas Street remains the commonly used term for the area (at least among expats), don’t expect to find it on a map. The city government has officially rebranded the district as the innocuous-sounding Choryang Foreign Shopping Street.