Western Bars and Hofs (Korean Bars), Seoul
I came here with friends on their first night in business (in June 2004) and came about every 2-3 weeks since then. It's our regular stop after dinner and before noraebang or Bunkers (tip on that also).
It's pretty quiet (which is a good thing if you want a place to drink that's not super-crowded--so you can talk). You can request songs (when I walk in they sometimes start playing my tracks!) and there's a little dance area if you like as well.
The big feature is the 2 ice-bars (troughs of ice in the middle of the table that houses a veritable pot pourri of international beers). Just take as many as you like; the prices are lower than most places and they settle it up at the end by counting the bottles (about 6,000 won/5.50USD each).
Sometimes they have specials...like Jose Cuervo shots for 3,000 won or a whole (700 ml !) bottle for just 46,000 won. Unreal...almost cheaper than at the store and over 50% off any other place.
Food is trypical Korean hof fare: dried squid,
Dress Code: Anything.
Now this is a place I like. Its situated above the road behind the Itaewon main drag.
It has a great Tapas menu including, Jamon, Calamare, Cheese, Shrimp rolls, l'escargot pastries, etc etc.
The Wine List is brill. One of the best I've found in Korea that is resonably priced. There are Good selections from the US, Italy, France, Chile and even some good munties from Australia like Nottage Hill, and Koonunga Hills Wineries. However none from New Zealand yet (Still hopeful).
The Barbeque is brillaint. Its only about $40 for two people and apart from the Shrimps on the Barbie as expected, they have a pretty good Paella to boot.
Beers are same as the Terrace. But the garden atmosphere is FAB!!! A SEOUL MUST SEE, REALLY!
Dress Code: Dress nice. Why not. This place deserves it. And you do too.
This is quite a good place. Although it can pack out in the weeknds, which is a bit of a bugger when your wearing ***ty shoes and all you wanna do is sit down and take a load of.
Geckos offers mostly European and Cajun-style food, well some of the best you can get in Seoul. The food is sent to your table in huge portions, and pretty well priced. I recommend the Fish and Chips.
The drink menu is good, most top shelf that one would expect, and an array of cheap insipid Korean beers on tap; Cass and Red Rock (2500 won for a pint), they also have an extensive wine list and bottled beer from all over the world.
Entertainment is a DJ, Pool, Darts, Rugby on TV and checking out the talent.
Dress Code: Be sure that you don't turn up looking or acting like a Pratt. Geckos has a heallthy G.I. population.
As far as I know a Nopadayaki is a Japanese style Tavern. Traditionally they sold Skae of different descriptions, and various rice wines. But these days the alcohol being perveyed is much more diverse.
Nopadayaki are immensely popular in Korea, especially with the professional crowd. Nopadayaki are essentially pubs, but they also offer food. Tasty dishes like Chicken Teriyaki Kebabs, Teriyaki grilled Tuna, Fish cakes and soup. Barbecued Squid, octopus and many many other fancies from the big blue.
Korean Nopadayaki also sell in addition to Japanese 'sul' (alcohol), korean as well; including Dongdong Ju (rice wine), Cheon Guk, Baek Seju, Sansachon (fruit Rice wines), Soju and Beer (both Japanese and domestic).
Give a Nopadayaki a try. They are great places to get yourself slowly drunk with some friends.
Dress Code: Dress nicely. It is sort of expected. All the other people around you will be somewhat smartly dressed.
Shichon is the neighbourhood that adjoins Hongdae, yet it is a destination in itself. One has to be reminded that Shinchon is the confluence of three of Koreas top Universities; Yonsei (ranked # 2), Sogang (ranked #4), and Ewha Womens' University, (ranked #1 for womens' varsities). This is a lot of students. Yet we are also obliged to add the guys from Honggik, who are about 1km away.
Shichon is very Korean, and is an acquired taste. Most Westerners frequent Hongdae. But after awhile Shinchon will grab you. They cheap kalbi, the atmosphere, the dried squid, peanuts and nasty pitchers of Sang Maekju (draught beer). Hofs (taken from the German - places where you are obliged to buy An Ju- drinking food) and Western Bars (where you are not obliged to by food)
Shichon is also somewhat famous for retro music and MASSIVE record and CD collections. Dotted around Shichon are Music Request Bars. Some are Woodstock, Texas and my fave Bar 33 (Norae Hanun Saramdul).
Give Sinchon a few weekend nights. You'll be plesantly surprised.
Dress Code: Hmmmm. Who cares! ^^*
Wa Bar is one of the many chains in Korea (they love chain-stores and such here--a lot). It has many imported beer as well as Korean anjoo (food to eat with alcohol: Koreans love to eat while they drink, too).
The highlights of the bars are: the many bottles of beer, cider and other beverages that adorn the shelves near the ceiling; and the ice-bars. Basically, an ice-bar is a trough in the middle of a table which is stuffed with beer (and other) bottles then loaded with ice. You can choose your favorites (or order from the menu) and at the end of the night the staff tallies up the damage. With over 20 bottled varieties it makes for an interesting night out.
Oh, and "Wa Bar" interestingly translates similar to the Korean slang for "come here!". Imagine that, naming a bar 'come here'...
Some also have bonuses, too. One in Jeon-Ju has a system where if you collect 70 bottlecaps at that bar you get free nachos everytime you come in that bar--FOR LIFE! It's worth asking if they have something special.
Dress Code: Anything.
Here is the height of Seoul nightlife....literally. 59 floors up in the exclusive Sky Bar it feels like you own the place. Staff is attentive, food is good, and lighting is dimmed. The view..oh the view...is fantastic. From the window tables to the bar (which overlooks the Han River and downtown Seoul) this place at night is just grand.
To gain entry to this little club all it takes is 300,000 won (USD 260) and they throw in a bottle of whisky and a locked cubby-hole to put it in. The deal is that you come there to entertain and empty your bottle...and then buy another one. When they serve you from your bottle they bring over (i) the bottle and for each person (ii) a sherry-sized glass (iii) a tumbler and (iv) a tall glass as well as (v) ice and (vi) sodas. Some have a little ritual they go thruogh where they pour into the different glasses with and without ice to get that perfect drink.
The most expensive bottle they have there is a 1949 MacAllen at 5,100,000 won (USD 4,440), so watch yourself when it comes to ordering.
Dress Code: Suits and business/evening attire is expected. You must be a member (or sign up right there) to get in.
It's a little embarassing: I have been to this hof (bar, short for the German hoffsbrau) so many times that the proprietor knows my name, but i just figured out it's name. Kaiser Hof has an interesting interior design: a big poster of a German beer hall, a Budweiser poster, an R/C (radio-controlled) helicopter and Korean beer ad periphanalia....your typical Korean hof, really.
There is hardly any music, usually a TV is showing a footballl game or talk show. The only beer is Cass/Hite draft and the anjoo (drinking food) is popcorn (mmmmmm....can hardly find popcorn in this town, much to my chagrin). However, the bar-be-qued chicken (sauce on top or on the side) and saugsages are great! They make them right on site (which is saying something because the place is tiny!) and serve them with diced moo (not what you're thinking...moo is a kind of radish) and shredded cabbage with mayo and ketchup on top (better than you might think).
There are many other chicken (and other) hofs in the building this one is in (one of which is populated almost entirely by young girls).
Dress Code: It's mostly businessmen in suits (owing to its location) but I have been here in inline skates lately...so anything goes.
Similar to many hofs (short for the German: hoffsbrau) in Korea, the OB (owned by the beermakers: Oriental Breweries) hofs have local beer (OB of course!), some imported brands and Korean anjoo (drinking food such as chicken, sausage). OB Plaza is more central, and closer to the subway, but the ambiance is better in OB Park (about a 15 minute walk from the station, across the park, in West Yeouido). OB Park also has more TV screens and is a lot larger with a more festive atmosphere.
These places get pretty lively on weeknights as the stressed-out workers make their way to drunken bliss. Many co-ed as well as same-sex groups make for a loud time (feel free to join in) and the brews really get flowing at about 9PM.
Best thing here is the ok-priced beer (check the prices, sometimes it's CHEAPER to get glasses rather than pitchers--some weird economics) and the food. Ah, Korean hof food I love it...but it does destroy any diet you may have yourself on.
Dress Code: Anything, but since they are in Yeouido there are tons of suits and such here.
Looking around this place it seems to resemble a German beer hall, but a few things tell you it's Korea (like the 15" plasma on the wall....where is the jumbotron?). The slogan is typically reserved: We serve you the best tasting beer in the world. (Really?!?)
Here's a hint for you guys out there: sit in the non-smoking section. It is packed with women. Seems that the men head to the smoking section and the gals seem not to.
The food is your regular hof (Korean for hoffsbrau or German bar) fare. So-say-gee (sausages, or bangers to the Brits) and 2,700 ml pitchers (bring a strong arm!). Service is fast and attentive and the bill is on a little cardboard clip that hangs on the back of one of the chairs at each table. Prices are ok and everything is, overall, pretty good here.
Dress Code: Probably anything goes, but most (Koreans) are dressed up a bit (as usual).
Its grand opening was on April 30, 2004 (just in time for Queen's Day (national holiday in The Netherlands). East Holland Company is a trendy tapas bar in Apgujung-Dong owned by a Korean (Rene) who was adopted by a Dutch couple in The Netherlands when he was young (that explains the connection). As a result, his place is a fusion of Dutch and Korean culture and he speaks (at least) Dutch, Korean and English fluently.
There are 3 levels to the place. The entrance is on the main level which is a bar and restaurant. The lower level (I assume) is an open-air patio and dance area. The top floor is a VIP club with wine and whisky bars.
Since I was just there for the opening I can't say how good it is on a daily basis, but I can say that the food was really, really good. (It also seemed to be a great mix of east and west.)
Dress Code: Pretty much anything, I think. Since orange is the national color of Holland it might be nice to have a piece of clothing on of that color--especially on the Dutch national holidays! (check at http://www.holland.com/ca/ and look under General Information, Practical Information, National Holidays for a complete list).
As many know, the G.I.s in town have a midnight or 1AM curfew, thus the MPs (and a KATUSA, or Korean Army Training with the US Army, member--for translation) regularly patrol the bars.
Helios is interesting in that it has A TON of G.I.s in it...mostly flanked by Room Salon girls trying to get them to their lair/bar and wrestle more money out of them. As the curfew approaches the men have to decide between a pretty young thing and possible reprimand (if they are caught). So the girls do all they can to extend the evening, which (if you're into that thing) can be quite a show.
Anyways, apart from that, the alcohol is resonably priced and the music is good (Top 40, hip-hop) and the dancefloor is a good size. There are waiters and waitresses here (unlike, say, LimeLight where it's all self serve) so you can relax in the soft & comfy chairs and sofas.
Dress Code: Almost anything. Some jeans, some suits. Whatever.
This is a hof (local name for a pub, Korean style, derived from the German: Hoffbrau) that looks Korean (lots of Koreans there, small place, dark, food on menu all in Hangul) but the music (a pleasent surprise) is 90s and 00s hip hop and rock. A pretty cool combination.
The food is ok, there are tons of imported beer and (interesting little drink, served in a teapot) oh-ee (or cucumber) soju. oh-ee soju is just as powerful as the regular stuff, but has a unique cucumber/pickley taste to it...give it a try. You can also order lemon soju by the pitcher.
Dress Code: Anything...even six 6x (saw a child in there with his parents...something you don't see everywhere).
Man, you got to try the Bratwurst---you get REAL mashed potatoes and saurkraut! Lots of import beers (Leffe, Stella Artois, Guiness on tap!) and definate pub atmosphere. All the help is fluent in English and owner is an expat...so he knows the drill. One of the only places in Seoul where you hear people apologize for bumping into you (most think they are back home, whereever that may be).
Seating makes for cliques but there is pool and darts as well. Some older (50+) gents hang out there as well. Not a good pick-up place, best to go with a group, and no dancing....but that is what LimeLight is for (which see).
Dress Code: Anything that's presentable.
An excellent menu (lamb, steak, shepherd's pie...ahhhhh), Guiness (et al) on tap, many other spirits, live music (and an area where the music does not invade) and English-speaking staff makes this place a great stop. Prices are higher than average (but Chosun, which it is under, is a top-notch place) but not astronomical (such as some places in Kangnam).
Dress Code: Anything that is presentable. Lots of suits here but also many in casual.
On Hallowe'en the staff dresses up (you can too) and, obviously, on St. Patty's Day things get very green.