The previous restaurant in this location, a steamed chicken place, shut down late last year for unknown reasons. A shame because it was a tasty restaurant and also the location Uncle Jung chose to introduce us to the village when we first bought property here. They also served some of the oldest and funkiest kimche around.
Both 들플 restaurants are run by the same family. The mother runs the larger 한정식 (han jung shik) restaurant serving ddeokgalbi (of course) and the son runs the nearby bibimbap restaurant; the focus of this review. They’re both located right across from the Gwangju Lake dam (map) and because they’re just a few kilometers from the house, were some of the first restaurants we visited. Unfortunately our first visits to both were lackluster and because there are so many other restaurants around, we never really went back and simply forgot about them.
That is until about a month ago. During at least three unrelated conversations with three very different people, the name of this place came up. It’s not exactly an inconvenient location and our initial visit wasn’t necessarily bad, so we headed back to see what, if anything had changed.
Sure enough, the signage outside was new. Possible renovation? A good sign (no pun) nonetheless.
I remember our first visit being sort of uncomfortable because it was so empty and quiet inside. Needless to say we were shocked when we walked into a full and absolutely bustling restaurant. I had to go back the next day just before opening time to get the second (people-free) picture of the dining room.
The bibimbap comes out just about when you’ve finished these snacks. It arrives as a stacked combo; the heavy dolsot bowl/rice on the bottom and a large brass bowl filled with your bibimbap selection on top. Another large brass plate with homemade kimches. A+ for presentation for sure.
This little gem of a restaurant has been sitting under our nose for the last year and a half, and for one reason or another we never walked through the doors and sat down for a meal. Thankfully a day out with the Gwangju Birds Korea Group put this place on our radar and we’ve been back multiple times since.
The restaurant is located directly in front of the parking lot entrance for the Gwangju Lake Eco-Park. Here’s the google map.
Upon entering it’s pretty clear chunggukjang (청국장) is the star of the show at this spot. If you’ve never had it, it stinks…in a good way. The interior is small, but that’s understandable considering the entire operation is run by an adorable elderly Korean couple. The 할아버지 (grandpa) runs the front of the house and the 할머니 (grandma) cooks the food. They’re both ultra friendly and a little Korean and a smile goes a long way in a place like this.
The menu is simple and reflective of the location by offering some true Korean countryside classics.
The steamed chicken (백숙) is served EVERYWHERE around here and I can almost guarantee I know a better place to get it (남향가든 just around the corner) so stick with the cheaper (and faster!) menu items. The zucchini stew (애호박찌개) isn’t shy with either the zucchini or the pork and uses the 닭도리탕 broth (a bit on the sweet side). It’s delicious, but the Chunggukjang (청국장) is much better in my opinion. It’s the real deal.
청국장 (to be fair this was take-out)
Additionally, if you’re a fan of Korean food and strong flavor, you’ll love the banchan at this place and similar places around the neighborhood. They’re made with local ingredients, in-house, with pride and without short-cuts. Restaurants in North America would advertise this to ad-nausea, but around here it’s just what’s expected. Those massive re-purposed water jugs behind you with fermenting locally-grown garlic? They’ll be on your table in a few weeks. The owners were making the dried anchovy banchan when we arrived and were so proud of it they gave us a healthy portion to take home when we left. Amazing.
Not interested in locally grown food cooked with care? Here’s a few more options you proably wont’ like.
The SanSuOk Momil (soba/buckwheat noodles) franchise is a staple around Jeolla-Do. They’re littered throughout the neighborhoods of Gwangju, but oddly vary in terms of quality and consistency. The most famous one is downtown and the same family owns operates this one adjacent to the Duam-dong Home Plus (동광주). The Duam-dong location (specifically) offers hands down the best buckwheat noodles in town and is a convenient option for lunch if you find yourself at Homeplus picking up some last minute items for the weekend.
The Duam-dong SanSuOk restaurant is located on the northside of Homeplus, directly across from the parking garage entrance (map). It’s an unassuming storefront to say the least. Inside you’ll find chairs and tables in the front and floor seating in the back. It’s guaranteed to be packed during peak mealtimes, but the wait is never long as Koreans tend to inhale their noodles at warp speed.
The menu offers a variety of different momil dishes, both hot and cold, as well as some other traditional favorites you’d expect to find in a place like this (만두, 돈까스, 떡만두국,etc). I’ve honestly never been disappointed with anything on this menu and for just over ten bucks between two people it’s surprisingly affordable and filling (and vegetarian friendly!).For a cold noodle dish I would recommend the 마른모밀, which comes with a small bowl of broth and a cup of cold sauce to either dip your noodles in or simply pour into the bowl of noodles. For a hot dish I’m a big fan of the 냄비모밀, which comes with bits of fried tofu as well as a cooked egg in addition to the momil noodles. And don’t sleep on the buckwheat mandu (메밀왕만두)…they’re amazing!