The King would approve

The King would approve

by Dave Hazzan
Groove Korea (

Above Burger B’s in Hongdae, and a block from the park where every young person in Seoul is already half-drunk by dinnertime, is Beale Street, Choi Suk-jun’s new gastropub and restaurant. Specializing in Memphis dry rub barbecue, it has 10 beers on tap, a beautiful, soft-lit atmosphere and the best — the best — food I have had in years in Seoul.

It’s not the place to go if you’re vegetarian or if you bloat from salt. But otherwise, there are no reasons to skip Choi’s new venture.

We began with drinks, including a mango daiquiri made with real mangoes — we saw the bartender cut them up. The whiskey is obscenely cheap: 3,000 won for a single Jameson, 3,800 for Jack Daniel’s or Jameson 12 Year. There are other liquor options, too. Among the 10 beers on tap are choices from Seoul’s Craftworks, northern California’s Lost Coast microbreweries, and other brands, domestic and foreign. They range in price from 3,500 won for Cass to 12,500 won for Dead Guy Ale. There’s also a fridge full of bottled beer and cocktails.

But make no mistake: The main draw here is the food. This food is not to be argued with. This food is not for eating; this is food to make love to. This is the kind of food you bring your depressed cousin to when even the most expensive Zurich therapist can’t help him. This is the Prozac, the Wellbutrin and the MDMA of food.

Just so we’re on the same page, let me point out that the barbecue menu is mostly pork. The ribs can be ordered dry or wet marinade, but we recommend the dry.  Dry rub barbecue is a Memphis specialty, and Beale Street has clearly succeeded in replicating it. The cooks use a secret recipe of herbs and spices, and there are no clues as to what the secret is, except that it includes cumin and probably onion. The ribs were very tender and come with sweet pickle and a side of tart, creamy coleslaw.

If you don’t feel like eating a succession of ribs, there are other equally delicious options on the menu. The Beale Street BLT went over very well. Served with crispy, home-smoked bacon and hot horseradish on the side, it had a great — if indistinguishable — sauce on it that was a nice addition, and not overwhelming. One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in Korea.

The pulled pork flatbread is just what it sounds like: a piece of flatbread topped with pulled pork and covered in baby greens. You can also get a pulled pork sandwich, but I’d go with the flatbread for your first time out, since you get a better taste of the pork that way. For those into their veggies,   the greens on the flatbread are much nicer than the salad that comes with some of the other mains.

For those who don’t dig on swine, chicken is another option: two very moist chicken breasts with a very good marinade we still can’t quite decipher. Mango chicken wings are available as an appetizer. They are crispy, a bit spicy and come with a thin mango dip. The dip was a bit polarizing: One person wasn’t a fan, while another in the group was dipping everything in it.

Chicharrones, which are dried pork rinds with popcorn, is a decent appetizer, though I wondered if the popcorn was truly necessary. It was also much too salty, which, in a Memphis-style barbecue restaurant, is saying something. The other sides — French fries, coleslaw, baked potato, baked beans and corn bread — were all delicious and authentic tasting.

Choi Suk-jun opened Beale Street in mid-January of this year. He is a fan of the gastropub format, favoring (as he says) “beer and dine” over wine and dine. “I wanted to operate a real gastropub in Seoul,” Choi says in our interview a few days after we ate there. “Burger B’s is the model of the gastropub (in Seoul), but the kitchen is too small to serve all I want. So I opened Beale Street.” He also explains that he “wanted to do the real barbecue. There are no real barbecue restaurants in Seoul, so I think this restaurant is very competitive — the first mover in this category.” Choi first tried dry rub while visiting Memphis last year. It was so good he decided to try offering both options, wet and dry, at his restaurant. Some of his patrons at Burger B’s recommended it as well.

“In Texas, the barbecue mania comes from beef. But in Memphis, it’s pork. Koreans think barbecue is pork, so it’s more understandable to the domestic market.”

Understandable, not understandable. The food here is tops, and I can’t wait to eat here again. 


Getting There

Address: Seoul, Mapo-gu, Seogyo-dong 363-28 2F

Phone: (02) 322-0755

More Info

Open Sunday through Thursday, noon to midnight; Friday and Saturday, noon to 2 a.m.


Groove Korea website

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