KOREAN NAME: 팔도 전선생
LOCATION: Seoul, Gwangjin-gu, Gunja Station (서울, 광진구, 군자역)
OVERALL: On the backstreets of Line 7’s Gunja Station, not too far from the halls of Sejong University, is an unassuming makgeolli house by the name of Pal-do Jeon Seon Saeng (PJSS). The relaxed atmosphere and low prices reflect the fact that it is neither pompus nor desperate; PJSS knows exactly what it wants to be and embraces its customers with good vibes. My one critique is the lack of aspartame-free makgeolli.
LOOK & ATMOSPHERE: Amidst old-school chi-maek hofs, flourescent corner stores, and warehouses spilling over with rusted pipes and the like, PJSS flashes its white Christmas lights like a beacon. As you get closer, you can see the mosaic made of makgeolli bottle caps telling you you’ve arrived at PJSS. It’s a narrow rectangular room with seven tables—the whole place seats 28 comfortably but I’m sure more have crammed in when the makgeolli starts flowing. The walls are speckled with signs advertising menu options, makgeolli labels, more mosaics, and a montage of the bottles served.
PJSS definitely feels like a family-owned place. The ajumma who took our order was very friendly and even asked us how everything was when we left—a rarity in most Korean establishments. When we wanted to pay our bill, the younger guy who came in off the streets moments before politely asked us what we had, and swiped our card. These things don’t seem like much as I write them but it gave me a snapshot into the customer service, and more generally speaking, the labor of love that is PJSS.
In short, PJSS is a homey joint for locals—no pretensions, no expectations—just makgeolli to slate the thirst of the local university students and the neighborhood working class.
MAKGEOLLI & FOOD: PJSS carries around 17 different bottles of makgeolli that range from about ₩4,000-6,000, including:
- Nooroongji (Burned Rice)
- Ggool (Honey)
- Albamju (Chestnut)
- Oksoosoo Saeng Dongdongju (Corn)
- Gapyeong Jat (Pine nut)
- Blueberry Iyagi
- Sobaeksan Keomeunkong (Black Bean)
- Jyusirak Sagwa (Apple)
- Seongryu (Pomegranate)
- Cheonan Bae (Pear)
- Seoul Jangsoo
- Jo Ggeobdegi (Hulled Millet)
- Jeonju Ae Moju
- Jeju Hallabong (Jeju Orange)
(They did not have the Nooroongji or Ggool when Takjoo Journals visited.)
PJSS also also makes a fruit-infused blended makgeolli drink if you’re into that kind of thing. Fruit infusions include banana (바나나), kiwi (키위), strawberry (딸기), and… cucumber (오이). These options are all ₩8,000.
You might notice one glaring problem—a lack of an aspartame-free makgeolli. I know that PJSS is a family-owned place with a host of loyal customers that go there more to have a change from soju as much as anything else. But, with readily available aspartame-free makgeollis like Yetnal or Neurin Maul being as cheap as any of the other bottles in their wide selection, there really is no excuse. In a way, it seems like a losing battle: why do they need to carry those bottles when the majority of customers are content to drink Seoul Jangsoo?
As the name of the place translates to Jeon Expert of the Eight Provinces, we ordered the kimchi jeon (₩8,000). It was on the greasier side but it was very flavorful, even spicy. It didn’t blow my mind but it beat out jeon I’ve tried at fancier joomaks. The gochujang-dressing salad that we got as an extra (or, in Korean, seobeesoo/서비수) was absolutely delicious.
A few of the other items on the menu include 14 different kinds of jeon, boodae jjigae (부대찌개), kimchi jjiggae (김치찌개), fried pig skin (dwaeji ggeobdegi bokkeum/돼지껍데기볶음), spicy chicken stew (dalkdoritang/닭도리탕), and fermented skate (hongeo hwaemoochim/홍어회무침). Most dishes were in the ₩10,000 to ₩15,000 range, with the last two dishes mentioned at ₩20,000. All in all, very reasonable.
BATHROOM: Outside to the right of the premises. Make sure to grab the key attached to the makgeolli bowl and some toilet paper from the roll on the wall. One bathroom shared by men and women. No hand soap. Let’s face it: it’s grim.
HOURS: 5:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. (closed on holidays)
ADDRESS: 서울특별시 광진구 군자동 45-35
DIRECTIONS: From Line 7’s Gunja Station (군자역), come out of exit 7 and walk straight until you get to the first intersection. Turn right here (the street is called 천호대로) and walk straight for approximately two blocks until you get to the first large intersection. Turn left on Gunja-ro (군자로) and walk for about 150 meters. Pal-do Jeon Seon Saeng (팔도 전선생) will be on your left. Look for the white Christmas lights and the inflated advertisement-tube thing with the words “팔도 전선생”.