A Story of Grazie
<Chef Bae Jun Gwon>
The tall handsome guy in the kitchen is chef Bae Jun Gwon who is also an owner of two “Grazie” stores: a restaurant and a bar.
Loving to cook, the chef opened an Italian restaurant in 2002 to serve his own cooking. He started out at a container, which used to be a snack bar, with only three tables and four menus before moving into a new store that was 25m away. In 2009, he opened a bar.
The foreigners living in Gyeongju are big fans of both places.
The chef is playing the saxophone.
The chef Bae Jun Gwon is a cook as well as a saxophone player.When the couple, Kim Sin Yeong & Sin Seong Rok, the stars of the popular program “We Got Married”, went to Gyeongju for their honeymoon last spring, the chef played sweet saxophone melodies. Flying in a hot-air balloon, the chef cooked spaghetti in the sky and played Kenny G’s glorious “Loving You”. Furthermore, he sparkled enough to play teuroteu.
Let me introduce a regular customer- John Angus MacCaull
Angus, one of the regular customers, is a Canadian English teacher. He came to Korea in 2006, and has taught English at Dongguk University. Loving to play the drums, Angus and English teachers organized a band named “Taco Handshake”.
Angus, who is a vegetarian, often enjoys eating vegetable pizzas and loves Grazie pizza dough.
Grazie is the wonderful place for Angus, who visits the bar at least twice a week to meet his foreign friends and hang out with them.
A hot place for foreigners living in Gyeongju
In Grazie restaurant, 10% customers are foreigners; in the Grazie bar, 90% customers are foreigners. The reason is that the bar was first opened to serve foreigners who didn’t have a good place to go.
The chef became great friends with foreign lovers of the Grazie restaurant and deeply understood the difficulties of foreigners living in Korea. One of the difficulties is the Korean drinking culture. There are some reasons that Korean bars have not warmly welcomed foreigners. Westerners love making noise, standing while drinking, drinking their fill and paying their bills separately. Therefore, the chef opened the Grazie bar to suit their drinking culture. On the other hand, some Korean customers felt somewhat awkward in the bar.
1 The “Grazie” restaurant
The restaurant runs from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and it has a setup time from 03:00 p.m. to 05:00 p.m. No matter what you eat, the food prices are a little bit more/a little bit less than 10,000 won.
Chef Bae Jun Gwon’s recommendation is cream spaghetti. There is no particular reason; to put it simply, the customers love it. The restaurant was introduced in a brochure of Hanjin Hostel that has been a popular guesthouse among foreigners in Gyeongju, so foreign travelers have often visited there.
2 The “Grazie” bar
The bar opens only for five hours from 09:00 p.m. to 02:00 a.m. When you go to the bar in person and order what you want to drink, chef Bae Jun Gwon will give you your drink like a bartender. Self-service and prepayment are the rules of the “Grazie” bar.
The bar is crowded with people on Wednesday and Friday; Wednesday is for card games and Friday is for parties. We have a good time by throwing a party on common Western holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving Day. People who have met in the bar organize many bands, and one of the bands performed street theatre at Bonghwangdae, Gyeongju, and the last year. The bar is located at the Dongdae crossroad on a crowded street, but we have a hard time throwing a big party because Gyeongju itself is very quiet. Last Halloween, I was requested to come to the police station with full Halloween makeup.
The bartender Bae Jun Gwon wants the performance culture of Dongdae crossroads to settle into shape and to grow into a cheerful area, so we are trying to adjust the balance between neighbors who want a quiet night and people who want the performance culture.
If you are bored at night in Gyeongju, don’t forget about Dongdae crossroads. It’s waiting for you.
The “Grazie” is not a big fancy place. The restaurant is more like a spaghetti store than a formal restaurant. The bar is more like a Hof than a bar with its glittering crystal. That is the charm of the “Grazie”. The “Grazie” seems to be where it's at because you can sit and eat or chat and drink anywhere. If you want to have a chat with strangers and to savor feelings of backpacking on a night in Gyeongju, head towards the “Grazie”. Of course, you’ll have to let go of yourself and muster the courage to talk to strangers.
How to find The “Grazie”
| The “Grazie” restaurant
Phone No.: 054-775-0489
Address: 620-494 Beonji, Seonggeon-dong, Gyeongju-si
| The “Grazie” bar
Take a 5 minutes’ walk from Gyeongju Dongdae intersection in the direction of Dongguk University. Then you can find a Seven Eleven on your left. The “Grazie” bar is on the second floor of alley across the road.
Phone No: 010-7485-4752
Address: 620-467 Beonji, Seonggeon-dong, Gyeongju-si
Get on the bus No. 40 or 51 and get off at Seonggun Joogong Apt. bus stop, then get to the “Grazie” restaurant and bar within 5 minutes on foot..