Here is a place that I think all expats will appreciate at one time or another during their stay in Ulsan. Agreed that you could potentially knock out something similar, for some of you who fancy yourselves a bit of a cook then maybe better, at home. But for those nights where you really just don’t feel it is necessary to indulge the domestic obligation following the feast (the clean-up), make your way down to this cosy little rustic diner and let Mr Toolbox put a smile on your little taste buds with his range of burgers and sandwiches.
Upon sliding across that oversized door and entering this eatery, you are welcomed with an open warehouse-like feel. The decor is simple, what I would call modern rustic – very much a reflection of the food. Leaning against the counter, what is better than food itself – your menu proudly displayed entirely in English. This is mostly a one-man-show, and on occasions, you have the luxury of having two staff members on and both speak English well enough so that you can request minor alterations to your order. My daughter is not overly a fan of rabbit food, through my own doing, as I was never forced to eat things I didn’t like, I decided to bring her up without the same imposition. More importantly, she adores Toolbox, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a kid yet who doesn’t love a good burger… or two.
Rumour has it that the inception of Toolbox all came about when a group of Australian expatriates, who worked at the Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) shipyard, convinced a local (Mr Toolbox) to open a burger shop. It is also said that they taught him how to make the burgers and as such Toolbox was born. I actually don’t know how much truth there is to this story, or if in true Australian style, we wanted to take the credit for such a great product, but either way we have something that feels a little more like home without the typical “western food” prices. The first Toolbox has been operating in the Bangeo-dong area in Dong-gu near the HHI shipyard for a while now as I understand it, however I have not yet been there, but my husband enjoys lunch there every now and again.
The burgers, complete with soft buns, generous patties and just enough of the other fillers so that it is not falling out from the bottom when you go to take a bite, range from 8,000 -12,000 Won, making this a moderately cheap eat. They also allow you the luxury of extras on your burger like bacon, egg or cheese for an additional 500 Won each, which in my opinion is reasonable. None of the burgers or sandwiches come with fries, but the “Signature” is served with a side of potato chips (crisps if you’re from the UK). If you like chilli fries, it would be better to lure a friend on false pretences as 6,000 Won a pop is a little steep for chilli fries I find, so it would be better to share the cost with a mate. With a burger, there is definitely more than enough for the two, if not more, of you. Regular fries are 3,000 Won per serving, and keep in mind that the serving does seem to be smaller than that of the chilli fries. In addition, the “fries” are really more like wedges as we know it. Slight technicality, but still delicious all the same!
“Signature Burger” (albeit with the absence of the lettuce and onions that usually accompanies this burger) – 8,000 Won
“Classic Burger” – 7,500 Won
“Hot Club” – 8,000 Won
“Chilli Fries” (left) – 6,000 Won and “Fries” (right) – 3,000 Won
The thing I did find a little surprising, (let me preface this by saying that my beverage of choice is not of the alcoholic variety, and I have not consumed nor attentively purchased alcohol in any way shape or form since I have been in South Korea) was the price of the imported beers that they had on offer – 8,000 Won a can. I will be honest in saying that I did not take careful note of the size of the beers, however at the same price as some of the burgers, from someone who doesn’t have that appreciation for alcohol, it’s a little rich. In saying that, my opinion is completely subjective, and I am wildly unacquainted with the cost of beer at the retail level in Ulsan.
As previously mentioned, primarily this is an owner operated business and to not compromise on the quality of the burgers and sandwiches, they are freshly prepared. So direct from my husband’s mouth – “you have to make sure you get here before you’re starving!”. In fairness, the wait time is not unreasonable but is noticeably longer than many other restaurants in the area. I think it’s very much worth the wait. For the locals, Mr Toolbox has not forgotten about you – the menu is written in Korean on a chalk board leaning against the window outside. Apologies – I know you may have been getting your hopes up as to whether there was a “Kim Chi” or “Bulgogi” burger, but unfortunately you will not find this here. Apart from the fact that you are physically sitting in a shop in Korea and the chef and staff are Korean, this establishment has been so westernised that you forget you’re even in Korea… momentarily.
How to get to Toolbox in Seongnam-dong (old downtown or Jung-gu):
Type either of the following addresses in Google Maps and it will provide you with directions by foot, road or bus.
Street address: 117 Jungang-gil, Jung-gu, Ulsan, South Korea
Alternative address: 105-4, Seongnam-dong, Jung-gu, Ulsan, South Korea
Phone number: (052) 910-5631
Trading Hours: Tuesday-Sunday – 11am-11pm, Monday – Closed
Take Out/Take Away: Yes