Drink and Eat in an Outdoor Market, Indoors
Oh shit, it’s bul geum!! Fire Friday is the weekly holiday where everyone’s off work and tryna turn up for the weekend, and at Hamburo, we’re all about it. To facilitate your debauchery, we’re featuring a drinking spot each week to fit into one of the rounds of your night. Or, you could just grab some green bottles at a convenience store and get slammed in an alley. That’s on you fam.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a Fire Friday post about a chain of Taiwanese night market-themed sul jibs that, while being very dope for other reasons, don’t feel particularly Taiwanese or remotely like a night market. The idea, though, is attractive – drinking can become the thing to do for a whole night when you have access to tons of different kinds of food, liquor, and beer, and especially if all of it is cheap. Additionally, something about the atmosphere of a night market is undeniably romantic; old school stalls pedaling different drinking snacks, hanging lanterns and flashing lights, a blanketing sense of calm and content among the drunken masses.
Kodachaya [코다차야] is the chain of indoor sul jibs that comes closest to achieving this feeling. One part sul jib and one part Epcot, each of the Kodachaya’s 10-ish locations is a large, open space filled with seating, false streets, and food stands behind market stall facades. Roofs on top of seating sections and hanging lights mix with every other element of this place to actually kind of make it feel like you’re eating outdoors. If nothing else, the sheer size of these places, and the number of people in them (they’re pretty popular) is an experience in itself.
The theme is vaguely Japanese, so walls are plastered with Japanese newspapers, and architecture is vaguely 1950’s Tokyo-esque. Some of the food items are Japanese-inspired, and some are plain Korean. The “twigim” [튀김] stall, for example, serves fried bites somewhere between a tempura and what you’d get at a pojangmacha on the street. The “gui” [구이] stall vends skewers that are basically kkochi [꼬치], but arguably with a feeling of yakitori. There’s a sushi stall, and then there’s a tteokbokki [떡볶이] one. There’s even a jjajangmyeon [짜장면]/jampong [잠퐁] one.
The food isn’t particularly cheap, but it’s not crazy expensive, with dishes averaging around 10,000 won. The quality is pretty much reflective of this – it’s nothing amazing, but everything is pretty good. A dinner here wouldn’t be disappointing.
Except, you know, as important as food is, this place is a sul jib. Truly, the alcohol section feels like sul heaven. An enclave off of the main food floor, beer, wine, soju, sake, and everything else is sold market style; a massive row of refrigerators stands at attention, bearing pretty much every alcoholic beverage you could possibly want. Fancy sakes, Korean craft beers, every single flavor of soju. Grab a small wire basket and load up. Water bottles are free (bless up).
You can probably tell already that this place is fun as fuck. But, yo, wouldn’t it suck if, in between all the various drinking and running around grabbing dishes, you had to worry about paying each stall, figuring out when to grab your food when it comes out, coordinating when to get what? No worries – Kodachaya’s theme park-vibe comes out in the efficiency of their system. You’re given a buzzer when you enter, which both lets you know when your seat is ready (there’s often a wait, despite how many seats there are), but you hold on to it through the night as your payment system. After ordering at a stall, you give them the buzzer, they enter some shit into it and hand it back to you, and you sit down and resume drinking. When your food is ready, the buzzer lights up and tells you which stall to go to, in case you got multiple things or just forgot. Alcohol is tallied up at the refrigerators, so that’s a separate thing. Basically, Kodachaya just wants you to have a good time.
This place has been hot for a minute, which both explains their several locations and, honestly, shouldn’t be surprising at all. As mentioned, the food is good enough that it actually is kind of a dinner spot during dinner hours. But kind of like the night market in Spirited Away, after about 11 everything changes. People start getting drunk, horny, and the hunting begins. While this isn’t a hunting pocha, per se, the massive amount of people drinking massive amounts of anything and everything is pretty conducive to people swapping tables. The fact that while all this is happening you can still grab as many snacks as you want leaves very little reason to leave this place.
Kodachaya does a great job of making eating and drinking really fun. These spots are perfect for large groups and, as mentioned, can either be a sloppy dinner, a full night (open till 3am), or both. Locations in basically every neighborhood where partying happens makes this even easier. Hit the night market and be safe out there y’all.
Let us know what you think about this spot or what we said about it. For another article like this, check out last week’s Fire Friday feature about this dope beer spot in a hanok.
Photo credits: @kodachaya_sillim, @hye_mini.dot, @kodachaya___ansan