It’s been three years since I visited Jeonju — the birthplace of bibimbap and other culinary delights — but that visit is still embedded in my brain because it was a one-day, seven-restaurant, Youtube-worthy eating frenzy that covered most of the important places to eat. From the ubiquitous bibimbap varieties to the modern street food concoctions (ggochi, skewers), everything was delicious and memorable — even after 10 hours of non-stop eating and drinking (and heading back comatose via KTX to Seoul). Instead of writing a single blog post about all seven of those fantastic restaurants, devoting one post to each restaurant is the only way to showcase how great the food really is here in Jeonju. First up: Sungmidang.
As per custom when finding authentic places, we first asked the locals and, if lucky, taxi drivers who were willing to share their personal recommendations. Not surprisingly, all signs pointed to one place among the hundreds of restaurants proclaiming themselves as wonjo (original). When asked about the more familiar ones like Gogung, Hanguk Jip, and Gajok Hoegwan, their responses were the same. They were okay, but they appealed more to tourists than locals, meaning the busier and more popular they got, the quality of the food would decline. So, it was a nice surprise to find Sungmidang — with its very distinctive metallic sign out front — half full (half empty?) just after lunch hours.
Our single order of yukhoe bibimbap came out promptly, and it was love at first sight with its vibrant colors and meticulously arranged ingredients. Packed with the usual suspects plus Jeonju’s traditional version, which includes hwangpomook (yellow mung bean jelly), yukhoe (beef tartare), local kongnamul (soybean sprouts), and raw egg yolk, it was the perfect balance of flavors and textures that went beyond your regular bibimbap. This only happens when you have over 30 ingredients in a bowl and each item has a purpose to serve, reflecting the Yin and Yang philosophy and royal lineage of the dish. Needless to say, the savory bowl of deliciousness was finished off in record time and we thanked the owner for the experience.
Sungmidang, serving the best bibimbap in all of Jeonju (and quite possibly Korea), has been family-run for over 50 years. Bypass the touristy places and head over to this beloved restaurant that locals guarantee a memorable meal. And don’t forget to visit Hanok Village, which is a must-visit destination that will help you burn off all that food you’ll be eating in Jeonju.
Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Jungang-dong 31-2, Wansan-gu, Jeonju (전북 전주시 완산구 중앙동3가 31-2)
Hours: Open every day 11:00 am – 9:30 pm except major holidays
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/x0w6E9Hc