KOREAN NAME: 카페 마레 & 막걸리 31
LOCATION: Seoul, Jung-gu, Euljiro 3-Ga, Pine Avenue Building (서울, 중구, 을지로3가역, 파인에비뉴)
OVERALL: Despite the odd location and environs, Café Mare & Makgeolli 31 is definitely worth a visit. Bong-seok, the owner, is a personable guy who is enthusiastic about introducing people to new and different kinds of makgeolli. And for such a small place, the makgeolli selection is huge! It’s also very reasonable. Makgeolli 31 is the perfect place to hit up before a big night out in Jongro, or one last night cap on your way to the station.
LOOK & ATMOSPHERE: If you see a sign saying Café Mare then you know you’ve arrived at Makgeolli 31. That is, Café Mare & Makgeolli 31 has a bit of split-personality disorder: by day it is an Italian restaurant, while by night it’s a joomak.
In terms of décor and atmosphere, the café side is the more dominant of the two. It seats 24 making the place ooze with a cozy, intimate vibe. Dim lighting, modern, functional furniture, and 60s-era jazz combine to make it feel like you should be ordering a cappuccino rather than a bottle of Daedaepo Blue Label. The fact that Café Mare & Makgeolli 31 are in the basement of the ritzy Pine Avenue building only add to this impression.
On Takjoo Journals’ visit, owner Joo Bong-seok was very friendly and knowledgeable. His English is limited but he genuinely wants to share the word about good makgeolli. He opened several bottles for customers insisting that they try a taste of something different. When you visit, give him an idea of what you like, and he’ll find the perfect bottle for you.
MAKGEOLLI & FOOD: Makgeolli 31 has a wide variety of bottles (31 to be exact) organized by province. Bottles range from ₩5,000-7,000.
- Sobaeksan Keomeunkong (Black Bean)
- Albamju (Chestnut)
- Odi (Mulberry)
- Baekryeon (Lotus)
- Cheonan Bae (Pear)
- Gugi Dongdongju
- Ddalgu (Strawberry)
- Ibjang Takju
- Wang Maesil
- Geumjeong Sanseong
While Takjoo Journals visited, about a half dozen of these bottles were unavailable.
Since Makgeolli 31 is in an Italian restaurant, it was only fitting we try a pizza. We ordered the Funghi & Cipolla (₩10,900), a thin-crust pizza loaded with mushrooms, onions, and cheese. Although it looked delicious, it was ultimately rather bland.
Much better was the Banga Buchujeon, or 방아 부추전, (₩8,000) found in the anju section at the back of the makgeolli menu. It was cooked to perfection—crisp on the outside, soft on the inside—with fresh, flavorful vegetables and a spicy kick. Bongseok says this a Gyeongsang-do specialty. Definitely recommended.
BATHROOM: Separate bathrooms for men and women on the same floor. Very clean and sanitary.
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. (closed on weekends and holidays)
ADDRESS: 서울특별시 중구 을지로 100 파인에비뉴 지하 1층
DIRECTIONS: From Line 2’s Euljiro 3-Ga Station (을지로3가역), leave via exit 12. Before you completely come out of the station go through the doors on the left and you’ll be in the basement. If you see the Craftworks, you know you’re in the right place. Café Mare & Makgeolli 31 will be on your left.