Korean barbeque is the most iconic food coming from this tiny country. Reaching far beyond the borders of Korea, you can find “hub-cap” grill restaurants in all of Asia, Europe, America and more. While those who have been staying in Korea for a long time might have tried everything from pork belly, beef, brisket, chicken and even all the way to intestines and other innards, there’s a chance even veterans have never heard of “Standing Galbi”.
Filled with smoke and drum barrels that look like they were stolen from a seaside dock, Yeonnam Standing Restaurant (연남서식당) is one of Korea’s oldest restaurants (est. 1953). The secret to their logevity? Keeping it simple.
If you want beer or soju, walk over and open the fridge yourself. That can be pretty standard across the country though. Here’s where things get really simple. If you want rice or kimchi, go down to the convenience store to buy and bring it yourself. The Standing Galbi specialty is meat, and meat only.
Why do people come here if there are no chairs, everything is self-service or BYO, and looks old and smokey?
It’s simply delicious.
When you arrive, put your jackets in the provided plastic bags to prevent the meat smell from penetrating the fabric and letting everyone who passes a 5ft radius of you for the rest of the day know what you ate for dinner. For an extra layer of protection, you can bring a poncho too.
An auntie will come by and ask how many people. Why she asks, I’m not sure, as she’s gone in a split second after counting herself. If you want to feel useful, you can hold up your fingers I guess. There’s no receipt on the table, as the staff have been working long enough to memorize what’s going on at each table. While the whole building is chaotic, these guys work like a well-oiled machine.
Meat comes out immediately along with garlic and some dipping sauces, and the portions are plentiful. The worker will place the marinated beef on the grill, cut open the ribs and take out the bones, then is off to another table. If you’re lucky, some days they will give you peppers or other random vegetables. Take out your rice and kimchi from the convenience store, and dig in.
If you’re interested in trying a Standing Galbi place, we recommend 연남서식당, or search 신촌 서서갈비. There are many franchises like it, but the original is in Sinchon, near exit 7. Be prepared to wait in a line during peak hours, but if you go on a Saturday around 2pm, the line is minimal. But be sure to go before they run out of meat, usually around 7pm.