What is the traditional food of Gwangju (광주), you may ask? There are a couple of items that could be debated as number one, but one thing Jeolla (전라) is certainly famous for is its wide selection of side dishes, known as banchan (반찬) in Korean. If you’re looking for a great place to try out this traditional Korean food, you’ll want to head to the southern region of the city to find the restaurant Traditional Bapsang (옛날밥상).
‘Bapsang’ literally translates to a dining table. Judging by the name of this restaurant, you can imagine that you’ll be ordering very traditional food in Gwangju. The cooks have certainly been at this for a long time, as most of them show off their graying hair with a wide smile. The front staff are equally as friendly and welcoming, giving off a positive vibe the moment you walk in the door.
The space is wide and will accommodate large parties. You shouldn’t have to worry about lunchtime crowds either, especially considering they close at 3pm during the pandemic. Come in, grab a seat wherever you feel comfortable and make yourself at home (with a party of no more than 4).
Like most traditional eateries, Traditional Bapsang requires an order per person but everything will be cooked and brought out together. We opted for the bulgogi set, knowing that I (the vegetarian)* would have plenty of food to eat with the side dishes. We were right! Although we had to pay the two person price, my boyfriend was certainly happy with the towering pile of bulgogi he got all to himself.
*Side dishes are also vegan friendly, but dishes here do not have a halal option.
What to Order
If you’re looking for something with a kick…
…and especially if you’re a meat lover, the spicy bulgogi is the way to go. It’s the restaurant’s most famous dish and one that my boyfriend was able to scarf down in a mere 30 minutes. If you’re looking at the picture above, it’s the slightly red dish served on the black hot plate.
If you’re not opting for a main dish…
The side dishes offered at Traditional Bapsang are sure to suit everyone’s flavor preferences. The best of the lot, in my humble opinion, are the spicy bean sprouts (콩나물), kimchi pancake (김치전), spicy radish slices (무) and cucumber kimchi (오이김치).
If you want to make it super traditional…
Order a traditional drink with your meal! Most older parties prefer a bottle of soju (소주) with their spicy meat. If you’re focusing on the pancake (전), we definitely suggest the milky rice wine called makgeolli (막걸리).
Address: 광주 남구 용대로119번길 6 | Gwangju, Nam-gu, Yongdae-ro 119-6
Opening Hours: 11AM – 3PM
Price Range: $-$$
Accessibility: Small step at the entrance