KOREAN NAME: 건대골 막걸리집
LOCATION: Seoul, Konkuk University Station (서울, 건대입구)
OVERALL: Yes, the name is prosaic and uninspired. And yes, there are plenty of makgeolli houses with more noteworthy bottle selections. But Keondae Gol Makgeolli Jib straddles that sweet spot of a party bar that is raucous and fun, and an establishment that has worthwhile makgeolli and menu selections to back it up. After having been to the majority of makgeolli houses in Keondae, Keondae Gol Makgeolli Jib (KGMJ) is the best by a long shot.
LOOK & ATMOSPHERE: KGMJ has that sort of old school Japanese look that is being done to death by modern, price-gouging izakayas found in Hongdae, Gangnam, Apgujeong, and elsewhere. The difference with KGMJ is that it is a bit old (at least, if you are to believe the sign that reads “established 1998”) and certainly grimy and well-weathered.
Inside the building is no different. The first floor has the kitchen in back while the front has a scattering of five or six tables that look like they were purchased from a defunct samgyeobsal restaurant. You know the kind of set-up I’m talking about—tinny metal tops with the accompanying oil-drum chairs. I’d recommend taking the stairs up to the second floor where you have the choice of proper tables or a section where you can sit cross-legged on the floor and enjoy the game on the big screen if your company happens to be a little too staid/drunk. You could probably sit three to four times as many people as the first floor.
The ceiling is festooned with Christmas lights, toilet paper, and the various bottles that KGMJ serves. The walls complete the picture: dusty recesses with the odd tchotchke break up the waves of graffiti scrawled on every surface.
As Keonkuk University is right across the street, and Keondae, in general, is a popular place for college-age kids on the east side of town, you can imagine all the loud declamations of ssibal and jasiki and orders for hubaes to drink more. As you would expect, the waiters were also about the same age so service was fine but nothing remarkable.
FOOD & MAKGEOLLI: The food menu is really quite extensive (I counted over 40 dishes) and in the price range of what you’d expect at other joomaks. I won’t list all the dishes here but to give you an idea they had seafood jjampongtang (₩17,000), budae jjigae (₩15,000), jaeyook bokkum (₩17,000), fiery chicken feet (₩15,000) sausage and vegetable bokkum (₩15,000), tofu kimchi (₩15,000), 11 different types of jeon (₩15,000), and so on. We opted for the siwonhan jogaetang (₩15,000), which is a shellfish soup in a white broth. It was salty, a bit spicy, and totally delicious!
The makgeolli is quite reasonably priced—all bottles are ₩4,000 to ₩5,000 except for the two 1700ml bottles which price out at ₩7,000 apiece. They have at least one aspartame-free makgeolli, Neurin Maul. I also noticed they have “kettle” (주전자) makgeolli, nureungji (누릉지) dongdongju, and “clear” (맑은) makgeolli that can be infused with honey and possibly other options. These last three can be ordered in various kettle sizes in case you have a big party or you are just really, really thirsty.
Makgeollis available at KGMJ:
- Jipyeong (1700ml)
- Pocheon (1700ml)
- Neurin Maul
- Gongju Albam (Chestnut)
- Nonsan Ddalgu (Strawberry)
- Seoul Jangsoo
- Gapyeong Jat (Pine Nut)
- Oksoosoo (Corn)
- Keomeun Kong (Black Bean)
BATHROOM: Separate men’s and women’s bathrooms are on the second floor. They’re not air-conditioned or heated, no soap, and about what you’d expect from a university bar. As my friend would say, it gets a one wipe on the bathroom-rating scale.
HOURS: 4:30 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. (open every day except for holidays)
ADDRESS: 서울특별시 광진구 화양동 9-72 / 서울특별시 광진구 아차산로31길 7
DIRECTIONS: From Konkuk University Station (in Korean, the station is listed as 건대입구, or “Keondae 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 KGMJ will be on your left. If you’ve hit Ggwalla (my review here) or the playground, you’ve gone too far.