3.27.15 UPDATE: Ggwalla has closed its doors and the space will become a Kyochon Chicken. R.I.P. Drunken Otter.
KOREAN NAME: 꽐라
LOCATION: Seoul, Konkuk University Station (서울, 건대입구)
OVERALL: The atmosphere is not great and the food is a bit pricey for what it is. The only thing this place really has going for it is a large makgeolli selection. If you have a better place where you can enjoy your makgeolli (e.g., your home, nearby Children’s Grand Park, etc.), I would recommend dropping by to pick up a take-out bottle or two.
LOOK & ATMOSPHERE: At first glance, this joomak has a lot going for it. “Ggwalla” is slang for “wasted” or “hammered” so you know it’s going to be fun. And there’s the mascot – some kind of anthropomorphic otter (or gerbil) eating soup from a kitchen pot. Most importantly, the exterior looks nice, like the owner converted a proper, two-story home into a makgeolli bar.
And then you step inside. The interior has all the chic of a fallout shelter. The walls and floors are concrete gray and each table is a cubicle of more gray meant to give you a sense of privacy and claustrophobia. What’s more, if you look closely at the walls, you’ll see patches of yellow tape. They’re covering up holes in the wall because the wall is only painted to look like concrete. In reality, it can’t be anything sturdier than plywood.
It’s a shame because I saw some pictures of how the place looked in its previous life when it was동고동락 – an open, all-wood, traditional sit-on-the-floor type of establishment. The kind of place that makes you feel like you’re actually in Korea. It’s clear from the current name and the interior, the new owners were looking to cash in on the younger crowd that sees makgeolli as something hip and trendy.
MAKGEOLLI & FOOD: What this place screwed up in terms of atmosphere, it makes up for with the makgeolli selection. There were at least 16 bottles, including:
- Neurin Maul (느린 마울)
- Sobaeksan (소백산)
- Deoksan (덕산)
- Baedari (배다리)
- White Lotus Baekryeon (백련)
- Jipyeong (지평)
- Gapyeong Jat (가평 잣)
- other fruit and nut flavored makgeollis
Bottles ranged from ₩2,000 to 5,000.
We ordered the dakddongjeeb (닭똥집), or chicken gizzard stir-fry with onions and peppers, for ₩15,000. It was tasty, a little spicy, and the portion size was large. Ggwalla has a pretty extensive menu full of typical Korean bar food – jeon, kimchi chigae, chicken skewers, salads, etc. Dishes started at ₩13,000 while the most expensive was around ₩22,000. Unfortunately, it’s mandatory to order a dish with your makgeolli.
BATHROOM: Inside the premises. Separate bathrooms for men and women. Clean enough.
HOURS: 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.
ADDRESS: 서울특별시 광진구 화양동 9-18 / 서울특별시 광진구 아차산로31길 13
DIRECTIONS: From Konkuk University Station (in Korean, the station is listed as 건대입구, or “Kuhndae Eepgoo”), come out of exit 1 and turn right. At the first intersection, turn right, and at the very next intersection, turn right again. Make the first possible left and walk down the road for a minute. You will see a children’s playground on your right andb꽐라 will be across from the playground on your left. If you’ve gone past the playground or made it to the next major intersection, you have gone too far.