Korea’s Old Restaurants: Episode 7. 39-year-old Owonjib Restaurant in Jeonju

In the heart of Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do, lies a hidden gem – Owonjib Restaurant. With a rich history that dates all the way back to 1984, this 39-year-old eatery has become a beloved local favorite. Originally starting as a late-night diner to cater to the limited options available, Owonjib quickly garnered a loyal following, especially among drivers who craved a hot, satisfying meal after a long day on the road. Over the years, the restaurant has expanded its offerings, including their famous “briquette grill gimbap ssam” – a delectable combination of grilled meat, gimbap, and lettuce wraps. The second-generation owners, Ms. Yeo Su-jeong and Mr. Yeo Yong-gu, have carried on the tradition of serving delicious food made with the best ingredients, always keeping their doors open to customers, no matter the weather or time. The dedication to their craft and the constant pursuit of excellence is what keeps people coming back for more.

What sets Owonjib apart is not only their mouth-watering dishes but also their attention to detail. Their anchovy broth, made from a pure mixture of 100% anchovies, adds a distinctive flavor to their dishes that can’t be found elsewhere. The meat used in their grilled dishes is carefully marinated and aged, ensuring each bite is full of flavor and tenderness. The gimbap, while made with ordinary ingredients, is praised for its freshness and well-seasoned flavors. One cannot overlook the importance of their homemade egg jidan, an egg garnish that adds an extra touch of deliciousness to their already exceptional menu. Despite the challenges they face, such as the diagnosis of dementia for their mother, the Yeo siblings remain committed to maintaining the legacy of Owonjib. Their dedication to constant improvement and unwavering service has made Owonjib a true icon in Jeonju, cherished by both locals and visitors alike.

Koreas Old Restaurants: Episode 7. 39-year-old Owonjib Restaurant in Jeonju

Overview of Owonjib Restaurant

Location and history

Owonjib Restaurant is an old and well-established restaurant located in Jeonju, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea. It first opened its doors in 1984 and has gained a strong reputation among the locals and visitors alike for its delicious food and unique dining experience.

Early days and opening the restaurant

Before starting Owonjib Restaurant, the owner, who is now in the second generation, ran a large diner in front of Jeonju City Hall. However, with the curfew restrictions being lifted and the lack of late-night dining options, people suggested that she open a restaurant that stayed open at night. Taking this suggestion to heart, she started a late-night diner in Jungang Market, which eventually became Owonjib Restaurant.

Introduction of delivery service

About a year after opening the restaurant, the owner introduced a delivery service. This decision was made to accommodate customers who wanted to enjoy Owonjib’s food but lived far away. The restaurant received numerous inquiries from places like factories, prompting the owner to start sending out food via cabs. Even to this day, the restaurant continues to provide delivery service, allowing more people to enjoy their delicious offerings.

Unique Menu: Briquette Grill Gimbap Ssam

Origins of the menu

The Briquette Grill Gimbap Ssam is one of Owonjib’s most unique and popular dishes. It originated from the owner’s observation of people eating lettuce wraps with meat and gimbap. This led to the idea of combining gimbap, meat, and lettuce wraps, resulting in the creation of this special menu item.

Preparation and cooking process

Preparing the Briquette Grill Gimbap Ssam involves grilling the meat over briquettes, which requires skill and precision. The flames on the grill vary in strength depending on how the meat is placed, making it necessary to carefully handle the cooking process. The meat needs to be fully cooked without burning it, which can be challenging due to the nature of grilling over briquettes.

Challenges of grilling meat over briquettes

Grilling meat over briquettes presents unique challenges compared to using a gas grill. Unlike a gas grill, the strength of the flames cannot be adjusted easily. The intensity of the flames can vary based on the placement of the meat on the grill, leading to different cooking results. Fatty meats can cause the flames to flare up faster, while lean meats can weaken the flames. Grilling meat over briquettes requires expertise to ensure it is cooked thoroughly while maintaining the perfect balance of flavors.

Koreas Old Restaurants: Episode 7. 39-year-old Owonjib Restaurant in Jeonju

Special Features of Owonjib

Anchovy broth

One of the standout features of Owonjib’s dishes is its 100% anchovy broth. While many other places use seasonings, Owonjib takes pride in using only anchovy broth in their recipes. This commitment to using high-quality ingredients adds a unique and flavorful touch to their menu items.

Fresh and well-seasoned ingredients

The ingredients used in Owonjib’s dishes may seem ordinary, but they are always fresh and well-seasoned. The restaurant prioritizes using fresh ingredients and freshly pressed oil daily to ensure the best flavors in their dishes. This attention to detail and commitment to quality result in gimbap that is highly praised by their customers.

Importance of egg jidan

Owonjib places importance on making a lot of egg jidan, which is an egg garnish commonly found in Korean cuisine. The addition of egg jidan enhances the taste and visual appeal of their dishes. This attention to detail and dedication to quality is what sets Owonjib apart from other restaurants.

Koreas Old Restaurants: Episode 7. 39-year-old Owonjib Restaurant in Jeonju

The Legacy of the First Generation Owner

Development of the gimbap with lettuce wraps and meat

The idea of eating gimbap with lettuce wraps and meat was initially introduced by the first generation owner of Owonjib. Initially, it was only gimbap on the menu, but the owner wondered how it would taste with meat. The combination was well-received by customers, especially drivers who were often hungry. This unique dining experience became a signature dish at Owonjib and attracted many visitors.

Emotional connection to the mother

The second-generation owner, who has been working at the restaurant for 20 years, shares an emotional connection with their mother. They express deep emotions while speaking about their mother, who had a challenging life when they were young. Despite the hardships, their mother should be enjoying her later years, but she was diagnosed with dementia about 10 years ago. This gives the second-generation owner a powerful drive to continue their mother’s legacy and maintain the restaurant’s traditions.

Dementia diagnosis

The first generation owner of Owonjib was diagnosed with dementia, making it impossible for her to continue working. This diagnosis has been difficult for the family, as the mother played a crucial role in establishing the restaurant and its success. Despite the challenges, the family remains committed to maintaining Owonjib’s legacy and honoring their mother’s hard work.

Koreas Old Restaurants: Episode 7. 39-year-old Owonjib Restaurant in Jeonju

Consistency and Commitment to Customers

Being constant in serving food

Owonjib prides itself on providing a consistent dining experience for its customers. While personal taste can vary, the restaurant strives to be consistent in their food quality and service. Customers can always expect to find the same delicious food whenever they visit Owonjib.

Weather conditions and remaining open

No matter the weather conditions, Owonjib remains open to serve its customers. Even during cold and snowy days when the roads might be icy, they stay open to ensure a consistent dining experience. This commitment to staying open demonstrates the restaurant’s dedication to its customers and their dining needs.

Continuing the mother’s legacy

The second-generation owners of Owonjib are determined to continue their mother’s legacy and maintain the traditions of the restaurant. They aim to use the best ingredients, provide exceptional service, and never forget their humble beginnings. By carrying forward their mother’s vision and ethos, Owonjib strives to keep drawing in customers and offering an authentic and memorable dining experience.

Koreas Old Restaurants: Episode 7. 39-year-old Owonjib Restaurant in Jeonju

Conclusion

In conclusion, Owonjib Restaurant in Jeonju, South Korea, holds a special place in the hearts of its customers. With its unique menu items, such as the Briquette Grill Gimbap Ssam, and special features like the anchovy broth and fresh ingredients, Owonjib provides a dining experience that cannot be found elsewhere. The restaurant’s commitment to consistency, even in challenging weather conditions, and the desire to honor its first-generation owner’s legacy set it apart from other establishments. Owonjib continues to serve its loyal customers with gratitude and dedication, always striving to provide the best dining experience and uphold the traditions that have made it a beloved institution for over 39 years.