Woonam Sikdang 우남식당 (Dongdaemun, Seoul)

Update: The restaurant has permanently closed after the death of the 94-year-old grandfather owner.

Sometimes I find myself walking in circles to find these old-school restaurants, often tucked away in obscure alleyways and side streets with no names. And that’s kind of what happened when in search of a unique haejangguk (hangover soup) restaurant in the Dongdaemun district.

Run by a gracious and hospitable elderly couple for roughly 50 years, I was spoiled by an unbelievable 6,000 won beef soup that was soul food at its finest. The broth was beefy and refreshing; the kind of broth you eat too fast and get burns on the top of your mouth. As instructed by the owner, I added the kongnamul muchim (seasoned soybean sprouts) to the broth along with my rice, making it the more familiar hangover soup that I’m accustomed to. The beef bones were on the smaller side, but they were cooked perfectly, easily falling off the bone in one bite. The banchan were nice additions as well, leaving me quite satisfied and surprised that such an honest, wholesome meal could be had for 6,000 won–pretty much the price of a cup of coffee in Seoul. Hangover or no hangover, I could easily see myself coming here often for the food and friendly service.

During the meal, I was given a free history lesson from the friendly 93-year-old halaboji (grandpa), who insisted on telling me about himself and the restaurant — and with an enthusiasm that left me inspired and impressed. Here’s a snippet of what he had to say while I inhaled the most satisfying soup of my life:

“We started off by serving hangover soup with beef because we also served seolleongtang (beef bone soup). But the latter took twice the effort, time, and cost to cook. Back in the days, we slow-boiled the seolleongtang broth over yeontan (charcoal briquettes) overnight at a minimal cost. That was eventually outlawed and we had to use conventional gas to cook our soups, which was too expensive. Since seolleongtang took three times as long to cook, we had no choice but to focus on our current dish which is similar to galbitang but at half the cost. We’re gonna retire within the next year or two, so you really don’t need to write about us.”

Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars

Woonam Sikdang 우남식당

Gwanghui-dong 1ga 96, Jung-gu (서울 중구 광희동1가 96)

Phone:  02-267-3929

Hours: Open every day 07:00 am ~ 4:30 pm

Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/x3gw3aIG


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