June 8, 2024

Incheon Songdo's Culinary Adventure Part 1: Locals' Top Picks for Unearthing Hidden Gems in Old Songdo


Nestled within the vibrant city of Incheon, Songdo offers a unique culinary landscape that effortlessly bridges the past with the present. This first part of our culinary exploration takes us to Old Songdo (구 송도), an area rich in history and beloved not only by Incheon residents but also by many who reside in the modern expanses of New Songdo (신 송도). Famous for its Songdo Amusement Park and cherished for its nostalgic charm, Old Songdo has become a favored destination for families from New Songdo and beyond, looking for a taste of tradition. Merely a 10-minute taxi ride from the heart of New Songdo's Central Park, this area also offers a refreshing escape with its backdrop of mountains, adding a sense of tranquility and coolness distinct from the urban energy of its newer counterpart.

Keep an eye out for our next feature, where we'll dive into three of Old Songdo's most beloved eateries, showcasing why locals and newcomers alike flock to these culinary gems.

Songdojumak (송도주막): Where Tradition Flourishes in Old Songdo

A mere 10 minutes from the bustling heart of New Songdo lies Songdojumak (송도주막), an emblem of culinary heritage nestled in the scenic Old Songdo (구송도). This venerable establishment at 36 Cheongryang-ro 79beon-gil, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, offers more than just a meal; it offers an experience steeped in the rich traditions of Korean cuisine. 

Beyond its modest facade, Songdojumak unfolds as a warm and spacious retreat, ideal for both grand celebrations and intimate dining. The walls, adorned with the signatures of celebrities and satisfied visitors, speak to its revered status among food lovers. Operating hours from 09:30 to 22:00, with a pause from 15:30 to 16:30, allow ample opportunity for both locals and visitors to discover the flavors that have made this spot a cornerstone of the region's culinary landscape. Here, each dish not only satisfies the palate but also connects diners to the enduring legacy of Korean food culture, making Songdojumak a cherished destination for those seeking authenticity a short journey away from the contemporary pulse of New Songdo.

The Quintessence of Korean Cuisine: Sirae-gi Tteulleogi (시래기털레기) and Jjukkumi Bokkeum (쭈꾸미볶음)

At the very heart of Songdojumak's (송도주막) celebrated menu are two standout dishes that perfectly encapsulate the restaurant's culinary ethos: Sirae-gi Tteulleogi (시래기털레기) and Jjukkumi Bokkeum (쭈꾸미볶음). These offerings are not just meals; they are an invitation to explore the depth and breadth of traditional Korean flavors, prepared with a level of care and expertise that transcends the ordinary.

Sirae-gi Tteulleogi (시래기털레기): A Unique Korean Delicacy

The Sirae-gi Tteulleogi, a comforting blend of hand-torn dough and dried radish leaves, simmered in a savory broth made from barley shrimp, stands as a testament to the simplicity and richness of Korean home cooking. This dish, served bubbling hot in a traditional earthenware pot, is a culinary experience meant to be savored slowly. Due to its warmth, it is recommended to serve portions into individual bowls, allowing it to cool slightly. This method not only enhances the enjoyment but also allows diners to truly appreciate the nuanced flavors of the broth, especially the distinct umami from the barley shrimp. The Sirae-gi Tteulleogi is best enjoyed by combining the tender dough with the radish leaves, savoring the broth separately to fully experience its unique taste.

Jjukkumi Bokkeum (쭈꾸미볶음): A Symphony of Spices and Textures

On the other side of the spectrum is the Jjukkumi Bokkeum, a dish that commands attention with its vibrant array of flavors and textures. This spicy stir-fried webfoot octopus is a masterclass in balance, offering a heat that can be tailored to individual preferences, ensuring it's a delight for both the adventurous and those with a milder palate. The octopus, tender and bursting with flavor, can be enjoyed in several ways. It pairs exceptionally well with a bowl of rice, where its spiciness is complemented by the subtle grains, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. For a more refreshing take, wrapping the octopus in crisp lettuce adds a crunchy texture that contrasts beautifully with the softness of the octopus. Moreover, ordering the traditional "Yeonnal Boribap" (옛날보리밥), a mixed barley rice with an assortment of vegetables like pumpkin, mushrooms, and fernbrakes, to mix with the Jjukkumi Bokkeum elevates the dish to new heights. This combination not only adds a variety of textures but also layers of flavors that make each bite a discovery.

These dishes, Sirae-gi Tteulleogi and Jjukkumi Bokkeum, embody the spirit of Korean culinary tradition, inviting diners to engage in a more interactive and personal dining experience. Songdojumak (송도주막) offers not just a meal, but a journey through the flavors that define Korean cuisine, making it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the authentic taste of Korea.

Location: Naver Map

Woopan Deungsim (우판등심): A Taste of Premium Korean Beef in Songdo

In the bustling heart of Songdo, Woopan Deungsim (우판등심) is a haven for Hanwoo (한우), Korea's finest beef, known for its deep flavors and tenderness. With room for 430 guests, this popular spot at 61 Cheongryang-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, fills up quickly, especially during peak hours. Recognized as the prime destination for Hanwoo in Songdo, Woopan Deungsim prides itself on blending culinary tradition with innovation.

Open daily from 11:00 to 22:00, it's a place where both Korean BBQ enthusiasts and those new to Korean cuisine can explore the rich tastes of Hanwoo in a setting that marries classic techniques with contemporary flair.

A Culinary Craftsmanship Like No Other

The name "Woopan" (牛鈑) translates to the "grill for Hanwoo beef," a fitting moniker for a restaurant that prides itself on a unique grilling experience. Unlike the conventional charcoal grilling found in most Korean BBQ spots, Woopan Deungsim elevates the experience with its use of custom-made grills. Crafted by master artisans skilled in traditional techniques, these "breathing" grills are designed to prevent the meat from charing while facilitating the Maillard reaction, a culinary phenomenon that enhances the beef's flavor and color, making every bite of Hanwoo sirloin a gustatory delight.

Simplicity at Its Best: The Menu

Woopan Deungsim’s menu is refreshingly straightforward, focusing exclusively on Hanwoo sirloin, a choice that underscores the restaurant's confidence in its quality and preparation. Prices reflect the premium nature of the offerings, with dinner servings (150g) priced at 37,500 KRW and a lunch special (120g) available for 24,000 KRW. The restaurant takes pride in its service, with staff expertly grilling the meat to perfection, ensuring that each slice is tender, succulent, and full of the rich, nutty flavors characteristic of high-quality Hanwoo.

The Art of Enjoying Hanwoo

The experience of dining at Woopan Deungsim is not just about the beef; it's about how it's enjoyed. Accompaniments such as grilled onions, garlic, salt dips, and scallion salad are not mere sides but integral components that elevate the taste of the beef. Diners are encouraged to experiment with combinations, finding their perfect bite of beef, whether it's enhanced by the sharpness of raw garlic or the freshness of the salad.

Must-Try Delicacies: Fried Rice(볶음밥) and Yeolmu Noodles(열무국수)

No meal at Woopan Deungsim is complete without trying the fried rice(볶음밥) or Hanwoo Doenjang (한우된장죽, a rich soybean paste stew) and Yeolmu noodles(열무국수), staples that cause much indecision due to their irresistible flavors. The fried rice, in particular, stands out with its distinct preparation—cooked on a hot plate with diced pickled radish kimchi until the grains are crispy yet tender, offering a taste and texture reminiscent of the Spanish paella but with a unique Korean twist. Paired with the tangy and refreshing Yeolmu noodles, it’s a meal that satisfies both the palate and the soul.

Location: Naver Map

Kkotge Damda by Blueberry Farm (꽃게담다by블루베리팜): A Songdo Delight for Soy Sauce Crab Lovers

In the bustling heart of Songdo, Kkotge Damda by Blueberry Farm (꽃게담다by블루베리팜) has become a beacon for those seeking the rich, savory flavors of traditional Korean soy sauce crab, also known as ganjang gejang (간장게장). Located at 34-19 Angogae-ro 101beon-gil, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, this restaurant is a standout spot for dining from 11:00 to 22:00 daily, except Mondays when it takes a well-deserved rest. Recognized across various media outlets, Kkotge Damda has solidified its reputation as a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts.

A Cozy Dining Experience Across Two Floors

Spread across two floors, the restaurant offers a welcoming atmosphere that manages to feel both open and intimate. The first floor, while not sectioned into private rooms, features partitions that create a sense of privacy, allowing guests to enjoy their meals in a secluded setting. This thoughtful layout ensures that every dining experience at Kkotge Damda by Blueberry Farm feels special and personalized.

Signature Dish: Blueberry Farm Set Menu

Among the diverse array of menu options, the Blueberry Farm Set Menu (블루베리팜정식) stands out as the crown jewel. Available for two or more diners at a per-person rate of 21,900 KRW, this set menu is both a feast for the eyes and the palate. Diners are treated to a generous offering that includes female crab soy sauce crab (암꽃게 간장게장) and spicy crab salad (꽃게무침), accompanied by a blueberry salad, six side dishes, rice, and soup. The value for money is exceptional, especially considering that similar dishes elsewhere might cost around 30,000 KRW per person.

The Delights of Dining Here

What sets Kkotge Damda by Blueberry Farm apart is not just the affordability but the quality and taste of its dishes. The soy sauce seasoning strikes a perfect balance without being overly salty or sweet, and the crab is always plump with meat. Upon ordering, the table quickly fills with a variety of dishes, including the soy sauce crab, spicy crab salad mixed with spring greens, which is a delightful treat on its own, and a crab leg miso soup that rounds out the meal beautifully.

How to Enjoy Your Meal

For the ultimate experience, diners are encouraged to mix rice with the crab roe inside the crab shell, wrap it in seaweed, or try it with a crab egg fry (available at two for 2,000 KRW), which when mixed with rice and the soy sauce crab's broth, creates a heavenly combination. Additional rice is available upon request, ensuring that no one leaves the table wanting. Furthermore, for an extra 10,000 KRW per person, the crab stew (꽃게탕) is a highly recommended addition to the meal, providing a warm, comforting end to a truly exquisite dining experience.

At Kkotge Damda by Blueberry Farm, every visit promises an exploration of flavors and a dining experience that celebrates the rich culinary heritage of Korea, making it a must-visit for anyone in Songdo craving the authentic taste of soy sauce crab.

Location: Naver Map

The culinary landscape of Old Songdo is a treasure trove of flavors waiting to be discovered. From the traditional charm of Songdojumak to the gourmet excellence of Woopan Deungsim and the seafood delights of Kkotge Damda by Blueberry Farm, these restaurants exemplify the best of what Old Songdo has to offer. As we continue our exploration of Songdo's gastronomic scene, stay tuned for Part 2, where we will venture into the heart of New Songdo to uncover more hidden gems and culinary wonders in Incheon. Whether you're in the mood for the comfort of traditional dishes or the thrill of modern culinary innovations, Songdo's diverse food scene promises an adventure for every palate, seamlessly bridging the old with the new.

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