Omija alcohol (5,000 won per jar)
Hyehwa is a spirited neighbourhood, half university town and half theatre district. The alleys off the main thoroughfare are dizzy with shops, eateries and theatres, providing interest in excess of the usual Seoul cookie-cutter neighbourhood. We’re here to visit a traditional Korean pub with a twist. This place infuses its own alcohol, and serves it at a dangerously low price alongside makgeolli-house-style food. It’s a dank basement room down some unsigned and nondescript stairs, and has the distinctive scent of soft furnishings in a smoking area. Racks of glass bottles of alcohol steeping, potplants and fake flowers decorate the space.
This is a drinking place, and as well as the expected makgeolli, dongdongju, soju and beer, there is homemade alcohol in Cornelian cherry (산수유주 Sansuyu ju), mint (박하주 bakha ju), plum (매실주 maesil ju) and jujube (대추주 daechu ju) flavours. Omija alcohol (오미자주) ( is made from dried berries and is so named because it has 5 distinct flavours (오 is five in Korean). It’s pale pink, sweet and bitter and dreadfully easily to drink.
Golbaengi at the 2nd location.
These drinks are interesting, homemade and affordable, and the food competes. Free tastes of dried octopus and soft spicy tofu are high quality, disappointing only in that they’re not refillable. Jeon (전), the standard dish in a place like this, is a cut above. Crisp, puffy and devoid of raw patches that plague this dish, it’s packed with vegetables and seafood, a happy surprise for kimchi jeon. It may be all that omijaju but we dive on this platter with zeal.
Mindeulle Cheoleom (민들레처럼) means ‘like a dandelion’. The second branch of this restaurant, poetically named ‘like a dandelion spore 2’ (민들레처럼 홀씨 둘), is above ground and is an altogether more pleasant place to dine. The prices are slightly higher, but to enjoy the same food outside on a summer evening is worth it. Half and half jeon (it’s commonly described as Korean pizza, to which I strongly disagree) is available, we order haemul pajeon (해물파전, seafood and spring onion pancake) and kimchi jeon (김치전) (15,000won). It arrives moon sized, crisp and full of seafood. The beautifully presented golbaengi (골뱅이, sea snails, 15,000won) are fatter and chewier than is usual and we over-eat the spicy sauce which is freshened with greenery and spring onions. This is too much food for three people, but we clean the plates regardless, with a pot of dongdongju (동동주) for company.
Jeon and dongdongju at the 2nd location.
Dongdongju (동동주) and makgeolli (막걸리) are traditional Korean rice-based alcoholic drinks. They are fizzy from fermentation and come in flavours like scorched rice (누룽지, nurungi), chestnut and honey. The former is sweeter, unfiltered, and is my favourite drink and one of the great things about Korea.
If you find yourself in Hyehwa, visit 민들레처럼 for the home-infused alcohol and the impressive food.
Mindeulle Cheoleom 민들레처럼
Open 5:30pm – 1am
Jugs of alcohol from 5,000won
Food from 15,000 won.