I’m a bit late starting this potential series, ‘things I love about Korea,’ since I’m not in Korea anymore. However, I figured I might as well write about it in a nostalgic sort of way. I will probably write about things I love about other countries, too.
Anyway, one thing about Korea is that people get married late. Most people won’t tie the knot until at least after university and often not for a few more years still, because tradition dictates that you need to save up some money to get married (the guy needs to buy a house or apartment and the woman needs to buy stuff to put in it). So marrying age is late 20s or early 30s, typically.
Because land is so expensive, nobody buys a house until later in life. While apartment rentals can be pretty cheap, many people nonetheless live at home until they get married, so that they can then actually buy an apartment.
The country has a very high population density, and because of this and people living at home, privacy is hard to come by. So what are young dating couples to do? Well luckily for them, there are various bangs (방) meaning rooms. You can rent out a room for various purposes and use it as you like. For instance, the DVD rooms all have vinyl couches that are wiped down each time and a large stock of porn.
In addition to those sorts of places, there are also places for friends to gather since apartments are tiny. One of these places is a board game café.
It is exactly what it sounds like. There are some board games (usually, a lot) and you come in and either pay by the hour (about 5,000 won per hour typically) or buy a drink (5-8,000 usually) and then get several hours free. Some places require buying a drink. Some make you buy a drink and pay an hourly rate. It varies.
During our recent trip, we stopped briefly in Gwangju for complicated reasons (in short, the ferry from Jeju to Busan wasn’t running because of the Yeosu expo so we took a roundabout route instead). While waiting for our Couchsurfing host to get home from work, we wandered around downtown Gwangju. We saw a board game café and decided it would be a great way to spend a while.
While some cafes or bars in the US have board games, it’s usually not the kind I most like to play. Board game cafes in Korea generally have a great selection with many Eurogames such as you might find in my friends’ collections or at Gen Con. At this café, the guy running it spoke great English and was happy to explain the rules for you.
We ordered cherry lemonades and Ticket to Ride, which we already know and love. Jeff won.
Then we played Tumblin’ Monkeys which is very simple but kind of fun anyway. This one, I won.
We have also gone to other board game cafes, like one in Hongdae. It’s a good place to take a group of friends and have a fun few hours.
Do you like board games?
It seems that this blog is doomed to be way behind what we are actually doing. In an attempt to catch up a bit, we have compiled a list of the restaurants we have been to recently. Enjoy!
Taco Cielo- Incheon has a new Mexican restaurant in Arts Center and it’s the best Mexican food in Incheon, not that there is much competition, but it is truly good! The fish tacos are amazing! The burritos are pretty hefty. I would rate it as the second best Mexican food I’ve had in Korea behind only the ever popular Vatos. Their grand opening was on May 5th, but we actually ate there three times during their couple-week soft opening period. Their already reasonable prices are further reduced during burrito Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Quesadilla Wednesday. Portions are reasonable; I would go with 2 tacos for a light meal, 3 for a full meal.
Location, Hours, Etc: Incheon Bus Terminal Station (near Shinsegae). Come out of Shinsegae on the H&M side and cross the pedestrian bridge. Take the first right and it will be across the street on the left at the first cross street – it’s the building next to O’Malley’s. Hours are 12-3 and 6-Midnight (2 AM on the weekends).
Fog City International Cafe- A wonderful first trip here was soured by our terrible second trip. They have good pasta in the 10,000 won range and very good sourdough (but not quite this bread). Many other things on the menu are 20,000-30,000 won (ie. pizzas, meats, cheese plate). The woman who co-runs the place is very friendly and will happily chat with you. The second time we went, we ordered things that were only listed on their facebook page menu. The medium-small, fast-food quality burrito was twice as expensive as the list price (10,000W instead of 5,000 W) and not nearly as good as good as Taco Cielo. The price discrepancy was explained to be a result of the couple of chips and couple pieces of lettuce that came with it as well as other added in-store costs. The medium-sized bowl of chili was also twice as expensive as expected (10,000 instead of 5,000) and was almost certainly the worst chili I’ve ever had. It wasn’t actively bad, it just tasted like they forgot to put any kind of seasoning in it.
Location, Hours, Etc: Fog City is next to Jayu Park down the stairs (sorry, I don’t know how to describe it better. Do a Google Maps search for the address on their website). Open 11-10 Tue-Fri, 1-10 on Sat and Sun.
Pumpkin Duck- We finally made it out to Gwangju (the one in Gyeonggi-do) to meet up with the cool people over at World Walk About where I was able to feed my duck addiction. Despite all that we were told how much better the food usually is. It was really delicious. A highlight for me was how the soup gets fattier and richer the more duck you cook in it.
Location, Hours, Etc: It’s next to the E-Mart in Gwangju. You can get to Gwangju on the 1113 or 1113-1 bus from Gangbyeon Station, line 2. I have no idea about hours; it’s not the sort of place with a website.
Burger B- After a wonderful lunch of Pumpkin Duck, we decided a wonderful dinner would be just the thing. Also we were curious whether our memory was playing tricks on us and it really wasn’t as good as all that. How was it? Still incredible. Best burgers in Korea I would wager. We also made a new discovery. Their tomato soup is like being punched in the tongue with flavor. It’s absurdly delicious.
Location, Hours, Etc: Burger B is in Hongdae. Very specific directions can be had here. Not sure about hours, but they seem to be open at lunch and dinner on the weekends at least.
Arabesque- We found this gem right outside Dong Incheon station a little while ago and ever since, we’ve been going as often as possible. The owner is from Jordan and serves Middle Eastern food as well as some Indian dishes. Their naan is quite good. They actually have hummus and fūl which is invariably delicious. And finally, their butter chicken is unbelievable. It is somewhere in the vicinity of the best Rachel and I have had anywhere ever. That’s coming from a tongue that has eaten curries that make me tear up from the beauty of the flavor. This dish is not for the faint of artery. When it comes to you, you can still see a big scoop of butter melting in the already rich dish.
Location, Hours, Etc: Arabesque is on the second floor in the building next to Hana Bank across from Dongincheon Station (line 1) exit 1 (take exit 1, go into the underground and take exit 6). It’s open from noon to 10:30. They speak Arabic (and Korean, and some English), and part of the menu is mysteriously only in Arabic.
Taco Chili Chili – On our way to our fermentation class, we spotted a big sign saying “Taco” across the road. I pretty much couldn’t resist a place just called “Taco” (though, it turns out, the full name is Taco Chili Chili – the “Chili Chili” part is very small). I immediately noticed that they had enchiladas on the menu, and I was sold, despite that being the most expensive thing on the menu. We got the food pretty quick, and I found before me a plate fully covered in enchilada sauce. The flavors were good. It was more a burrito in enchilada sauce than a true enchilada. I wish there had been beans, beef and cheese inside instead of beef, cheese, rice, and veggies. But still, the flavor profile was right. They don’t skimp on jalapenos or cilantro. This is a pretty solid Tex-Mex place, though not super.
Locations, Hours, Etc: Noksapyeong Station (line 6), exit 1. You will see it across the street (look for a big sign saying TACO). Open 11 AM to 10 PM.
Mad for Garlic – We went here with my coteachers on election day. We ordered a whole bunch of dishes and shared everything. It was quite delicious, and not at all disappointing in the garlic department. However, it is quite expensive. The Garlic Snowing Pizza, Garlicholic Rice, and Burrata were my favorites.
Location, Hours, Etc: There are lots of locations. Check the website. We went to the one in Times Square Mall in Yeongdeungpo. You can expect a long wait.