민속촌 (Min Sok Chon) has been a favorite among Koreans and foreigners alike ever since I first moved to Gwangju. It’s hard to meet people that don’t know anything about the place, and it’s so popular that even taxi drivers seem to know exactly where the bigger locations are. This review will be covering the downtown branch.
My usual partner in crime and I recently visited the usually busy restaurant with a couple of friends for a double date. While there can sometimes be a bit of a wait, we were lucky to get seated immediately. Upon entry, we were greeted with the delicious smell of marinated Korean BBQ and the loud bustling sounds made up of large families and soju-happy businessmen. Though I’ve been to this restaurant multiple times, I still find myself impressed at how packed it seems to get every time.
Though I usually go for the marinated 돼지갈비 (dwaeji galbi), also known as Marinated Pork Ribs (super tasty!), one of our friends recommended that we go for the 마늘돼지갈비 (maneul dwaeji galbi), better known as Pork Ribs with Garlic. Being the huge fan of garlic that I am, I was actually quite excited to try something new (while wondering why I never went for it before). One of our party members was feeling a little under the weather, so he ended up going with a nice hot bowl of 갈비탕 (galbi tang), which is pretty much Beef Short Rib Soup.
Moments after we placed our orders, the wait staff was quick to bring out our sides and salad. After that, a very interesting dome looking grill pan was placed over burning hot coals right before being topped off by our slices of garlicky meat.
Now many Korean BBQ places will usually have a ring of water surrounding the grill to catch grease and other things, but this was the first time I ever saw anyone pour an egg mixture into the meat moat. I was told that this is only available with the garlic option, but I will have to double check on that to be sure. I also liked how there seemed to be little catchers to place more garlic in, though it did take a little practice to wedge the slices in there without losing them into the egg pool.
It wasn’t long before our meat was properly cooked and cut up into bite sized pieces for wrapping. Though it didn’t have the sweet and salty marinated flavor of the usual dish, the combination of pork and garlic turned out to be as tasty as I had hoped. To top it off, we were each given a little dish of a sweet and savory sauce to dip our meat in, giving it that extra flavor I had been craving. We got so caught up in enjoying our meal that we had almost forgotten to flip over our egg mixture, which had been thoroughly cooked. While it wasn’t nearly as tasty as the usual steamed egg dish I love ordering, it was both filling and complemented our meal.
One thing I’ve always liked about this restaurant is how the waiters make it a point to change out the grill pans as often as possible to prevent too much char from forming. This can be a little annoying, as you’re expected to snatch the food off the surface when they do, but it’s a small price to pay to prevent too many burnt bits in your meal. They were also happy to refill our egg moat whenever we asked.
At some point during the meal, I also tried the lone bowl of the Beef Short Rib Soup, which is another dish the restaurant is apparently famous for. Not only was it beefy and delicious, but it was also full of extra ingredients to really add some body and nutrition to what could have potentially been a boring soup. It’s something I would highly recommend enjoying on a cold day.
It should go without saying that 민속촌 is a nice, safe choice for anyone looking for the Korean experience without venturing too far into unknown waters. The food and the decor almost reminded me of some of the Korean restaurants I went to back in the states, except with better food (and significantly cheaper prices). It really is easy to see why it’s so popular with so many people. If you do plan to check it out, be sure to stick around long enough to get your complimentary cup of cinnamon tea, and don’t forget to spray yourself down with some of the odor eliminator located outside the restaurant (in the waiting area).
Address: 광주광역시 동구 호남동 73-2 (located across the street from Megabox Theatres)