Daega is another popular “destination restaurant” for both domestic tourists and Gwangju day-trippers alike. It’s situated directly across from the Gwangju dam and it checks all the right boxes by being comparatively cheap, serving local specialties and having a somewhat quirky “traditional” interior design. Even during the winter months, when everything else is dead, this place is thriving on the weekends with a packed parking lot and a full restaurant.
Even if you don’t like grilled fish (looking at you dad), this place is just straight up fun to be in. Walking through the big wooden front doors, you’re greeted with a large open restaurant offering floor seating, table seating and a few private rooms in the back. There’s tons of traditional kitsch around to keep your eyes occupied while your stomach waits for your food to arrive. They even have a water-way built into the floor with goldfish swimming around!
The menu has a few options, depending on the size of your group, but it’s basically your choice of grilled fish with or without ddeok galbi. Don’t sleep on the ddeok galbi…it’s better than most (all) of the Damyang restaurants specializing in this tasty local treat. The set menus toward the top will give you a mix of different fish, ddeok galbi and the dolsot rice.
The banchan will arrive first, of course, and while it doesn’t look like much they are extremely friendly about refilling the dishes you like, especially if you catch them before the lunch/dinner rush. The kimche is at least a million years old and is phenomenal…refills are a must.
Next out is the dolsot bap. If you’ve never had it before, it’s basically two dishes in one: rice and 누룽지 (I’m not even going to try and spell that in English). Simply scoop out your rice into the separate rice bowl (not pictured). Don’t scrape too hard because the crispy burnt pieces stuck in the bowl is what makes your 누룽지. Next, fill the stone bowl with the barely tea from the pitcher on your table and put it aside until the end of the meal. During the time it takes you to eat everything else, this burnt rice and barely tea will turn into a delicious after dinner porridge.
Shortly after you’ve dealt with your dolsot bap, the fish and ddeok galbi will arrive. The type of fish will vary depending on which set menu you choose, but it’s all delicious! If you’ve been in Korea longer than five minutes you probably know the fish comes out whole…you’ve been warned.