What is ‘HBC’, you ask? Oh, that’s just the shortened version of ‘Haebangchon’, a large foreign food district in the heart of the city. It’s in HBC that you can find cafes and restaurants boasting food from all corners of the world. Morocco, France, England… they’ll have the croissants, fish & chips and eggplant stews waiting for you.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any great Korean joints lurking down dark alleyways. In fact, there are several options for potato pancakes, gooey rice cakes and soju. But there’s one place in particular that has me coming back.
‘HJC’ stands for Haejangchon, with ‘haejang’ translating to ‘hangover’. Basically, you could call it Hangover Village. It sounds like the owners understood HBC pretty well when naming this second-story joint. The laughable nature of the name is echoed inside by its bright decor and display of old record covers.
Let’s take a peak inside.
HJC has another title: Pojangmacha (포장마차). A pojangmacha is an outdoor eating area that used to be common on the streets of retro Korea. Low plastic chairs and tables, food cooked in questionable ‘kitchens’, and of course… a lot of booze. You could spot them by their red tarps and steamy plastic windows holding plenty of drunken secrets.
As the city got bigger, many of these roadside joints were pushed out. You can still find them, but certainly not all over. As HBC is now a trendy area, these are impossible to find. Unless you look up, that is.
HJC is an adorable replica of these beloved outdoor eating stalls, as it embraces the traditional plastic decor but this time on the inside. It’s complimented with records, both Western and Korean, of times gone by. Even most of its visitors are slightly older, reminiscing on these familiar spaces.
While the restaurant’s layout may not be great for hosting large groups, it’s the perfect place to head to with your S.O. or a few friends for a quiet or rowdy evening.
The menu isn’t the kindest towards vegetarians and vegans, but if you’re a drinker, there are still plenty of options. Plus, there’s always banchan (반찬), side dishes, of pickled radish and corn. Yum.
I’ll always suggest the tofu kimchi (which does have meat inside the kimchi – beware) for something warm and tangy. My partner, on the other hand, is often a fan of the dried fish options or beef brisket. The most classic item? Of course, army base stew.
Truthfully though, it’s hard to go wrong in a place like this. These are dishes that have been popular for decades, if not centuries. If the cook didn’t know what he was doing, the place wouldn’t even be open. Whatever choice you make, it’s sure to be a winner.
If you’re in HBC and looking for some fresh Korean comfort food, look no further than HJC. It’s a nostalgic joint bursting with cozy energy and great oldies jams. Head to the second floor of the buildimg and make this your ’round two’ stop of a great evening out.
Address: Seoul, Yongsan-gu, Sinheungro 37, Second Floor
Opening Hours: SUN – THUR = 18:00 – 2:00 / FRI – SAT = 18:00 – 3:00
Price: $$, Designed for sharing
Handicap Accessibility: No