Asia South Korea Travel Destinations

Korea, Searching for Chuncheon Dak Galbi Street

Written by Duke Stewart

I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure ― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

 


Searching for Chuncheon Dak Galbi Street

We find Chuncheon after a longer-than-expected drive through holiday and road construction-aided traffic. Yes, I shouldn’t have gone driving like a salmon against the waves of other eager drivers looking to see Korea’s wonderful Gangwon Province. But I’m a hungry man and want to visit a place famous for my favorite Korean dish – dak galbi. Is it  going to be worth the trouble? A little background will explain why we’ve come all this way.

Just Dinner, after a Walk and Ride

I’ve written about dak galbi’s Dinner for Two mantra as an insight into Korean food culture, and feel like my words wouldn’t be worthy without visiting the place where the dish got its start. As with most original locations, we know this trip might be met with feelings that it’s too touristy and overblown but for me, it’s for a special meal. After all, it’s just dinner. There’s no need to make a fuss, right?

After sitting through road construction-aided gridlock for hours, negative feelings stir around inside me. Maybe this adventure isn’t worth the hassle, and turning back is maybe a better option. Thankfully, we deal with the traffic and arrive in Chuncheon with time to spare before our goal-fulfilling dinner. We celebrate first with a bike ride and walk along the Soyang River through some truly charming parts of this little city. Riverside walks and rides are always wonderful when the sun is cooperating and not too powerful.

Searching for Dak Galbi Street in Chuncheon, South Korea

Dak Galbi Street

The hunger grows as we walk and enjoy a coffee at a spot overlooking the river. I’m also starting to anticipate the thought of meeting my favorite Korean food at its source. The car eases through the small-town traffic and finds an underground parking garage, something every town could use in this space-challenged country. We find “Dak Galbi Street” shortly after the sun has gone down and when everyone else’s appetite has drawn them towards dinner as well.

More of an alleyway than street, my feelings harken back to times inside toy stores when I’d follow Mom and Dad around shopping malls in the hopes that we’d stop at a toy store. This is the moment I’m waiting for and of course, I’ll get a toy in the form of a truly wonderful meal. We walk through and immediately, familiar smells surround our noses. This place is like Chicken Heaven and full of restaurants that are here to fill our bellies with something good. Eventually settling on a place with no line outside, we find a seat just in time to snag the last table.

Chuncheon Dak Galbi, South Korea

Good Stamp, Convince Me

Some corn-flavored makgeolli gets us started and we look around at the happy faces of families and friends who are here from all over Korea. Outside, a line starts to form and convinces me as the confirmation necessary to put a good stamp on this restaurant. Hopefully the food would live up to the hype and we’re about to find out. Our uncooked meal quickly gets places on the table and the waitress-cook ignites the flame to get things rolling. My mind loses those minutes and seconds watching the steam rise and the dak galbi cooks to the point where she gives us the “okay” to get started.

I’ve eaten great, good and bad dak galbi in this country and rank my palate up there with the best. First impressions from my first bite of the exquisitely marinated chicken are hard to capture with words. It’s probably the most tender and hottest in temperature I’ve ever encountered. Nappa cabbage and a variety of onions provide the perfect crunch with large rice noodles completing the experience. Sliced sweet potatoes are there for an extra bit of color if that is even necessary. The sauce holds that perfect balance between spicy and sweet and leaves that subtle, oh so wonderful burning sensation around my lips that only the best spicy foods can bring.

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Traveling for Food

This is truly a food adventure and a memory I will always smile about while imagining those tastes and smells. As we search for the car underground, I fail to realize that this meal in Chuncheon will be the best dak galbi in my life and future creations will work hard to reach it. I’ve come out of this recharged and comfortably full, enjoying the post-meal euphoria as it wears away. The lip-burn will follow for at least and hour during our customary “meal walk-off.” This experience with Chuncheon Dak Galbi proves that traveling for food is okay, as long as the meal holds up.

Like a great writer once mentioned in a guest post here, some of my favorite experiences have involved food. It’s an essential part of every day so why not make it worthwhile? Seeing Chuncheon for its dak galbi was truly a journey with bumps along the way, but certainly an experience. As we pull away from the scene and begin the search for a room that night, a moment during our meal comes to mind. Christina asked if the food was worth driving all this way. She waits for my answer as I savored those last precious bites.

“Absolutely!” I responded without a thought.

 

What do you think of dak galbi? Ever tried it? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below:) 

I’ve written a lot more about Korea and would love for you to read those stories on that wonderful country. 

Visit Korea for this meal on Chuncheon Dak Galbi Street!


Getting to Chuncheon

Courtesy of Korea Tourism

Train: If wishing to visit Chuncheon via train, Seoul’s Gyeongchun Line operates trains from the city to Chuncheon. Trains run from Cheongnyangni Station to Chuncheon all day between 5:25 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Bus: Bus travelers can visit Chuncheon from the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal with departures every 15 minutes betweet 6:00 a.m. and 9:20 p.m. Buses also run from Sangbong Bus Terminal between 5:40 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. The journey from both terminals runs about an hour and a half but keep traffic in mind. We got stuck in some pretty big jams and travel time more than doubled.

Getting to Chuncheon Dak Galbi Street

Courtesy of Korea Tourism

Bus: Across from Chuncheon Intercity Bus Terminal, buses No. 7, 9, 64, or 64-2 will take you there. You’ll arrive after a 10 minute ride to Chuncheon’s Myeong-dong stop. Train travelers can take a bus from the front of Chuncheon Station. City bus 63 will take you to Chuncheon’s Myeong-dong after about 10 minutes. From Namchuncheon Station, take city buses 1, 32, 32-1, 35, or 67 and get off at Chuncheon’s Myeong-dong after a 15 min ride.

Taxi: You can taxi from the Bus Terminal and arrive at Myeong Dong in 5 minutes. Fares run between 4-5,000 won. Leaving from Chuncheon Station? You can also get to Myeong Dong in 5 min from there with roughly the same fare. It takes about 10 min from Namchuncheon Station and costs about 4,000 won.

About the author

Duke Stewart

As a recovering Expat, I write about Life through Travel and want you there with me through captivating stories followed by guides on how to do the same. My work has been featured in various magazines throughout Korea and in online publications including the awesome Hipmunk.com. I am also a nerd and love to point out a situation's similarities to any of my favorite movies, books, or tv shows. You've been warned:) Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily updates.

27 Comments

  • We are planning our Seollal weekend in Gapyeong this weekend…we are planning on making a trip to Dak Galbi Street thanks to you! This is our favorite meal and we already decided we are going to eat it for lunch and dinner for extended weekend here. My hope is that I eat it so much that I get sick of it and never want it again. Sounds strange, but I cant quite make it like the ajummas in the dak galbi restaurants and I want to leave Korea knowing I had the most of my Dak Galbi days! Perhaps we will do a post on our gluttonous weekend in Gapyeong?
    Megan Indoe recently posted…What I learned from my friend’s visit to SeoulMy Profile

    • Thanks, Megan! I didn’t realize that Seollal is happening right now even though millions of Lonely Planet articles have been out about it. Mindless me. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy the Dak Galbi there in Chuncheon. Not sure how you’re getting there but those interstates definitely clog up (as you know) on the holidays. We left early and even stayed the night before in Jeonju to get a head start but got stuck in horrendous traffic on the way to Chuncheon. I remember inching past the sign for Gapyeong, which is why I’m telling you this. Is there a train option for you guys? I hate the highways during the holidays there. Anyway, let me know when you make that Gapyeong post. I’d love to check it out!

      Have a wonderful holiday and all the best to you guys.
      Duke Stewart recently posted…Five of the Best Cities in New EnglandMy Profile

  • I can totally relate to your passion for travelling to your favorite foods. Since our first meal in Korea, we’ve loved Jjimdak and make semiannual pilgrimages to Andong to get it from the source. Andong is an awesome historic city, and their plates of the delicious brazed chicken are the best anywhere. travelling just to find the best version of your favorite…I get that.

    We also love dakgalbi, corn makgeolli, and Gangwon-do, so a trip to Chuncheon might be in our future! Would you say that all of the restaurants are created equal and above average when compared to what you’d find elsewhere?

    • Yeah, Andong wasn’t a bad place when we stopped by. Also had some good Jjimdalk in Juwangsan National Park (not far away from there) so yeah, I’ll definitely stand by that awesome dish.

      I’d say they are all equally good but just follow Bourdain’s law of sticking to the crowded places. They are full for a reason:) That’s what we did. Looked for the biggest set of happy looking faces with full bellies and jumped right in.

      You won’t go wrong, though.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • I love Dak Galbi as well, so I can imagine traveling for food, but I’m a bit surprised because it doesn’t seem like you guys did anything else there. If you’re ever near Seoul another place with really nice Dak Galbi is Nami Island. That place is really popular for this dish, too!

    • Oh man, thanks Jackie! Now I’ve got another place to see in Seoul:) I’d almost run out, actually. I’ve heard good things about Nami Island. What’s to do there aside from eating awesome Dak Galbi?

      • There’s quite a few, actually. You can bike around the island, take a really nice walk, go check out the museums…it’d be a good date place for you and your wife 🙂

    • I stopped by and loved that post! Never got the chance to visit Oganae, but wonder if its brother/sister chain is Yugane. We used to stop by there on occasion in Gyeongnam.

      Thanks for sharing the post!

  • Hi, it was nice meeting you during the Kobserver tour last Saturday! Looks like you’re quite the chicken galbi aficionado! Nice blog!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Ryan! I do love me some Dak Galbi, so I’m glad it showed:)

      Great meeting you in Suwon, as well! Hope to stay in touch.

  • I love Dalkgalbi, and would love to make my way over to Chuncheon for some authentic dalkgalbi…but it is just so far away! I love trying new food, as you mentioned “traveling for food”. Maybe I should force myself to got there before my contract ends.

    • Yeah Rafiqua! You should definitely make it to Chuncheon, if not just for the Dak Galbi. It’s a nice little river town and pretty in the summertime. I bet it’s great until Winter!

  • I have zero knowledge of Korean food, other than what you have taught me:) But this looks wonderful…I could almost smell it with the way you described it. I would say that if Dak Galbi is one of your passions (clearly, it is) then the obstacles you overcame to taste it where it was invented were well worth it! So another one to check off:)

    • Ah, bummer that you don’t know about Korean food! Are there any restaurants where you live? I could give you a few suggestions for what to try for first timers, if so:)

      You’re right about it being worth it. That Dak Galbi was certainly worth the hassle!

      Thanks for commenting, Jacquie!

  • My family and some friends also went to Chuncheon for their famous dak galbi this spring… and that big playground for kids requiring all their physical strength because it was all ropes… again,I eenjoyed reading your post.

  • I love spicy Korean food. My daughter, who lives in Seoul, made Dak Galbi for us when she was home recently for a visit. It would be great to try it directly from Dak Galbi Street!

    • Ah sweet! Good to know you’ve had Dak Galbi! Did she make it super spicy? I made some while at home as well and when my wife wasn’t around, the spice dropped just a bit:)

      Thanks for commenting, Shelley!

  • I’m not very experienced with Korean food, but that dish looks fab. I love good food, am definitely no food snob, but I’m quite happy to travel to get great food. The journey to get there somehow makes the food even more enjoyable!

    • Thanks for stopping by Jo! I think I’m definitely going to miss Korean food after leaving, so journeys like this one will be in good storage for the memory books!

      Ever had a similar experience to this one? (traffic, frustration, etc.)