I’m in my week vacation, which means I’m working my butt off on my other projects. This vacation, I’m mostly working on figuring out what I’m going to do after I quit the hagwon industry in September. I’ve already had a couple of meetings. I’m going to another meeting tomorrow for a project I can’t make public yet but is very exciting.

Since I spent all day yesterday walking around Seoul in the July heat, I wanted to really take it easy today. But after a long afternoon, EJ and I were getting restless. And I was getting hungry. We’d found a bunch of Korean restaurants, including a good fish joint, near my workplace last week. We thought we’d head out there.

Unfortunately, as we feared, most restaurants were closed, as they catered mainly to salarymen. EJ had already eaten a good bit before we left, but I hadn’t, and I was getting crabby. The smell of pork from one place was intoxicating, but EJ said she wasn’t in the mood for grilled food. And we both didn’t want to spend a lot of money. She was more in the moved for patbingsu–which is a snack, not dinner. So I was in a foul mood. EJ got tired, so we headed home on the bus. I just decided I would make some spaghetti at home.

When we got off the bus near our E-Mart, EJ suggested we go to Boriso Maul, our favorite grill house in the ‘hood. It’s also the most expensive. I protested, pointing out that before she was talking about saving money. But she was in the mood for their doenjang jjigae.

We got in there, and it was packed. No tables. We didn’t want to sit on the floor, so we waited. EJ asked for a menu to peruse. After a while, we started laughing at the English translations. She took it upon herself to point it out to the busy floor manager. He explained that it was a chain restaurant, but he would take it into consideration. But after a while, he introduced us to another man. He was the owner of the chain.

Oh, the big cheese himself.

So EJ started telling him again that they had translated pork ribs as “beef ribs” and said their meat was “live” instead of “fresh.” He asked if we could help tell him the right translations. He handed me a pen and pad, and I translated the bulk of the awkward English. Before handing it back to him, I joked, “50,000 won, please.”

He instead gave us over half of our meal for free, and we had a long conversation about his career in the beef industry. I had had some questions for a while about exporting Korea’s Han-oo beef. People had told me that there were laws blocking it. But he contradicted it, saying that there were no laws. He said he could set up shipments himself.

So we have a new friend.

Don't make mistakes other travelers have made!

Get regular emails with insider tips on how to maximize your visit to Korea. Sign up now!

Tour Tips Newsletter

You have Successfully Subscribed!