KOREAN NAME: 정이주가
LOCATION: Jeollanam-do, Gwangju, Dong-gu (전라남도, 광주, 동구)
OVERALL: Jeongleejuga is the signature joomak in Gwangju and, as such, a necessary must visit for anyone interested in the sool scene. They maintain a small but nicely balanced stock of inexpensive aspartame makgeolli with pricier all-natural, premium makgeolli. Everything we ordered from the food menu was superb—even the side dishes!—and it’s an added bonus that customers can order à la carte dishes in addition bigger shared platters. Jeongleejuga is a smart option if you’re starting an evening of drinking, looking for a nice date spot, or need to hold a business dinner in a swanky setting.
LOOK & ATMOSPHERE: Jeongleejuga is situated at the entrance to Gwangju’s “Café District”, keeping company on the block with an upscale pizzeria and one of them new-fangled bottle shops. This up-and-coming side of the Dong-gu neighborhood signals that Jeongleejuga’s interior lives up to its surroundings. Orange and white paintings of carp swimming at vertiginous angles are splashed on the walls while bits of pottery and peculiarly shaped bottles, like mini sojutgoris and flasks of Leegangju, peak out from backlit recesses. The squarish room seats 44 but, while it might seem like an ideal venue for a large-party event, the simple décor and moody lighting are also apt for something more intimate.
SOOL: Jeongleejuga keeps a small but impressive stock of bottles. The prices are definitely on the expensive side but, when you consider some of the establishments it shares the block with, they don’t appear out of place. Two side notes:
First, it appears that their inventory was undergoing some changes as their menu did not reflect everything that was in the fridges. Second, the last page of the menu features a list of 16 specialty drinks: each one costs ₩10,000 and comes in the equivalent of a sake cup.
- Jaheehyang Yakju (₩16,500)
- Jaheehyang Nabi Saengtakju (₩14,000)
- Jaheehyang Takju
- Pungjeong Sagye Chu Takju (₩20,000)
- Mangang-e Bichin Dal (₩22,000)
- Boksoondoga (₩25,000)
- Homo Ludens (₩20,000)
- Hongcheon Gang Takju (₩15,000)
- Ihwa Baekju (₩22,000)
- Haenam Haechang
- Song Myeongseob
- Hampyeon Danhobak (Pumpkin)
- Buan Julpo
- BHJ Doga Yuja
- Uleong Issal
- Neurin Maeul Lite
FOOD: This might very well be the best joomak I’ve eaten at. Some of the dishes have a fusion bent while others are old classics that are simply excellent. I particularly liked the fact that Jeongleejuga has a “Meal Menu” (식사 메뉴) that offers some smaller dishes that can also be shared. We opted for the Pork and Doenjang Sauce Bibimbap, or 우삼겹 된장 비빔밥 (₩11,000) and the Seafood Tofu Stew, or 해물 순두찌게 (₩11,000). By the names, the dishes sounded a bit simple for the price but, like I said, the food was very tasty and I would come back again just to eat here.
BATHROOM: Separate bathrooms for men and women behind premises that are shared with the bottle shop next door. Pros: reasonably clean and soap provided. Cons: a bit small and only has cold water.
HOURS: 5 p.m. – 1 a.m. (If busy, Jeongleejuga stays open later Monday through Saturday.)
ADDRESS: 광주광역시 동구 제봉로 114
DIRECTIONS: Take the subway to Culture Complex Station (문화전당역) and leave via exit 4. Walk east across the Asia Culture Complex. Walk across the crosswalk and turn left. You’ll immediately cross an intersection and Jeonglee Juga will be on your right, past Piazza Pizzeria but before the bottle shop. It’s the building with the following Chinese character on it: 正.