Books and alcohol, it’s a beautiful pairing, really. And Book by Book, located in Sangam-dong near Digital Media City Station, is a perfect place for it. Once you step into this spacious 2 story venue filled with novels, essays, comic books and used books, you’ll get right into the mood for “books and beers.” This bar/bookstore is also known for its guerrilla meetup events, where readers get to meet authors and casually talk, all the while nursing that all important beer in their hands. The cover for the event is only 10,000 won, and it includes one free beer or soft drink. This month, in November, Book by Book will be welcoming the writer Kim Eun-hee (who has written the scripts of the Korean drama Signal). You can find more details on the event and author schedules on its continuously updated blog. Solo drinking tip: Read responsibly. I mean... yeah.
If the best of Hongdae could be encompassed in one bar, it would look a lot like Bar Da. Accessible by one of Hongdae’s backstreets; a table on the rooftop requires a climb up some questionable stairs. Cheap beers and cocktails are served with dried anchovies here where musicians and artists flock before or after shows. Their conversations are well offset with the dim lighting hanging from the low ceilings and the postcards and drawings on the walls. Bar Da is a play on the Korean word for ocean and with its blue overtones, the bar’s breezy feel suits both the large crowds and intimate couples that frequent the place.
If you’re looking for a wine bar with a nice, homey atmosphere for a romantic dinner, Le Mere is the perfect candidate. Located in Mangwon-dong, this new bistro is already gaining popularity among hip couples, with its modern and chic interior: dim glow of lights, dark grey interior, plants hanging on the wall, flower decorations. The most important part: you can taste about 30 different wines, including natural wines (made without chemical and minimum technological intervention) selected by the owner, who has won the 2015 Korea Sommelier of The Year awarded by the world's best master sommeliers. Among the selections, we recommend the La Cuisine de ma Mere, a biodynamic wine made from 100% Cabernet Franc in Loire region priced at 60,000 won.
The heart of Sangsu-ri is its eccentric, warm-hearted owner, a graying artistic soul with a passion for whisky and a penchant for chess. He takes his drinks seriously, spending three months biking through Scotland in search of top-notch whiskies. Back in Seoul, he sometimes hosts informal chess tournaments, as well as the occasional jazz concert (“whenever they drop by and feel like it”). The half-basement room is dark and a little cave-like, scattered with memorabilia, lit by candles and Christmas lights. Order a drink from the menu (handwritten ink on cardboard), preferably a whisky (there are many), and settle in (it’s affordable).
Every so often, one outpost of a national chain will somehow gain a cult following, and it’s not always clear why. Is it the air? A secret ingredient? We’re not entirely sure, but Ddobagi Chicken’s Sangsu location is its best known, and is always full of Hongdae art students, giggling couples, and elderly drinking buddies. The attention is not undeserved—Ddobagi’s signature boneless chicken is fried with a thin layer of seasoned batter crisped over tender flesh, and a deal at 9,000 won. The interior is nothing fancy, which only adds to its 90s Korean drama charm. Wash your chicken down with a stein of cheap beer for the full Korean “hof” experience.
Jam sessions among musicians don’t happen only in New York City. It can also be easily seen at Le Salon du Lapin, located in Hapjeong. Although it’s not a live club, you’ll see random performances by musicians who come to just hang out with the owner. Performance genres vary between blues, jazz and rock. There are a variety of drinks, including whiskey, cocktails, beer at relatively affordable prices while the bar also offers non-alcoholic cocktails and coffee for those who are not drinkers.
Bali is well-known as a hotspot of surfing culture and beach lovers, having stolen the hearts of surfers and adventurers alike. It was only a matter of time before someone in Seoul took Bali beach culture as a theme for their venue—which is exactly what gastropub Bali Superstore has done. Stepping through the doors feels almost like stepping onto Kuta Beach, or at least like walking into a Balinese beachside eatery. Furnished with antiques and decor brought straight from the island, the shop is also decorated with fascinating pieces of art from Ubud, an art community in the center of the island known for its traditional culture. As for the menu, Bali Superstore sells satay skewers along with other local foods to go with their well-stocked beer selection.
Craft One… Located in Yeonnam-dong, this bar opened last June combining good craft beer with a local flavors. Made by locals, they exemplify the next stage in Korea’s beer evolution. The vibe… While the bar feels young and vibrant, it’s quite devoid of decoration or daintiness. It’s not Itaewon and the crowd here has considerably many more Koreans, and more males than females. Trek out here for the Mingle (the beer), but not necessarily to mingle.