Foreign bloggers have long described Bukseongro bulgogi tents as “Daegu’s best-kept secret,” “a must-see spot” and “the best bulgogi” they’ve ever had – and for good reason; these tents live up to the hype. Featured several times on Korean television, this spot may not be a secret, but it truly is a gem – a diamond in the rough to be precise.
By day, Bukseongro is home to industrial tool shops, but after dark, a nocturnal world springs from the neighborhood’s vacant lots. Bukseongro is a golmok, a street that offers several restaurants and vendors specializing in the same food. Daegu is home to many of these specialized alleys including chicken gizzard alley, jjimgalbi alley, seafood at Chilseong Market, karguksu at Seomun Market, etc.
The bulgogi tents are spread out over a couple blocks. However, the liveliest area is a row of about five restaurants under a single canopy. From the Bukseongro branch of Daegu Bank, walk one block north and take the first left – or just follow your nose! Upon turning the corner, you will be greeted by a chorus of apron-clad women steering people toward their restaurants, shouting out their menu and prices.
This reception was quite unlike anything I’d ever seen in Daegu, so we asked one of the “bulgogi ladies” about this. We’re all friends here, she said. It’s not a serious competition; it’s fun. It makes people feel welcome. They get customers from all over Korea as well as foreign visitors. We watched as she worked her magic, making conversation with regulars and sometimes physically pulling people into her section! It doesn’t matter that it’s quite crowded already.
“Ah, jaemee eetda,” she said with a smile, her eyes shining in the light of the tents and the glow of the charcoal stoves. “Ah, it’s fun.”
People come here to let loose, she said. The party lasts from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.
“Here they can talk loudly, laugh loudly, sing loudly, argue loudly,” she said.
The tents are an intersection of nightlife and street food. Patrons sit on plastic stools around plastic tables in what is essentially a parking lot. The tents are lit by bare bulbs, and, in lieu of napkin dispensers, rolls of toilet paper are hung from the ceiling.
I’ve been to the tents on a Tuesday night and a Saturday night, and the vibe was the same: lively, crowded and, yes, loud! Walking into the tent, the air is thick with the smell of cooking meat, smoke, the clinking of soju shot glasses and steam rising from bowls of noodles.
A young, mostly-local crowd flocks here to consume copious amounts of meat, noodles and alcohol. The regulars we talked to said it’s the cheap price that keeps them coming back. One group of university students said they come there twice a week. When I asked what their favorite menu item was, without hesitation, they gestured to a green, glass bottle of soju on the table before breaking into laughter.
There’s no mistaking that people come here to drink. It’s a great place for a cheap night out. However, the cheap and delicious food makes the trip more than worth it. All the restaurants serve more or less the same food, so don’t get too stressed about making a decision. The menu is simple: bulgogi and udon noodles. Some restaurants offer spicy gochujang bulgogi and chicken feet too.
Marinated pork is charbroiled over a charcoal stove. The meat is tender and slightly chewy with crispy edges and a sweet, smoky flavor. The bulgogi is piled high and served family style. The greasy goodness pairs well with sides of pickled radish, kimchi radish and onions in soy sauce. A bowl of udon noodles rounds out the meal. Each steaming bowl is filled with thick noodles in a flavorful broth with fish cake, green onions, seaweed paper and chili flakes.
Even if you don’t speak Korean, the menu is simple enough to easily decipher. The left side of the menu has the bulgogi serving sizes. 특대 teuk-dae is extra large, 대 dae is large, 중 joong is medium and 소so is small. Under that is 우동 udon soup. The right side of the menu has the alcohol selection. The smallest portion of bulgogi (5,000 won) is a generous amount for one person or enough to share between two people if you order soup too. The largest (20,000 won) is enough to feed four or five people.
How to get there
Bukseongro bulgogi tents are a 20-min walk or a short taxi ride from Jungangro subway station. Ask the taxi driver to take you to 북성로 돼지불고기골목 Bukseongro Dwaeji Bulgogi Golmok. The taxi driver will let you out in front of the Bukseongro branch of Daegu Bank (대구광역시 중구 서성로 81 Daegu, Jung-gu, Seoseongro 81).