▲ Fish and chips are a favorite. Photo by Todd Thacker
“Hi. I’m one of the bitches,” Yoon Hee Kyung said upon my first visit to this relatively new bar in the City Hall area of Jeju.
No, this place is not one of those sleazy establishments that ruin the Korean public landscape with spinning double barber poles, neon signs that scream hard liquor, or pseudo-artistic busts of scantily-clad goddess women plastered on a storefront.
Make room for The Bitches to enter into the Top 5 bar selections of Jeju Island. After a few repeat visits, go ahead and scratch off an old favorite from the list. Despite the name, there’s nothing bitchy about the atmosphere, service and customers. Why?
Simple. The Bitches is cozy, clean, modern, has an interior audible enough to have an intelligent conversation, void of riffraff, and serves different, quality food and beer than the gazillions of other cookie-cutter bars on Jeju.
A Korean belongs here. A foreigner belongs here. All are welcome.
Kang Ju Hye is the owner. While studying English in New Zealand she was inspired by many visits to the Occidental Belgian Beer Café close to Mission Bay outside of Auckland.
“I fell in love with the place, the mussels, the beer, especially Belgian beer, and decided to have a bar in Korea,” she said. “It opened behind reasons like that.”
Kang is the sole owner but credits English teachers Yoon, along with Kim Min Kyung and Lee Mi Jin, for their overall support and naming process. They met 8 years ago. Neither is from the island nor do they have any restaurant experience.
“The name of the bar comes from a scene in the movie [‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’],” Kang explained. “We were watching and some children are playing in the garden, the grandmother called the children, they call them ‘Hey, bitches!’ ”
Semantics aside, The Bitches serves good beer on tap. It is the only place on Jeju to serve Hoegaarden on draft. A mammoth, super-sized 750 ml glass costs 11,000 won (three of these could have a patron on the way to la-la land), and a regular serving checks in at 8,000 won. Guinness (10,000 won), Asahi (8,000 won), Red Rock and Cass (4,000 won) are also available by the pint.
The food is much better than typical bar food. Some selections can stand alone as a meal.
In order of preference, the fish and chips (12,000 won) is a must. Kang goes to Dongmun Market and chooses daegu, which is Korean for English cod.
“It’s more crispy and more fresh than [the easier to find] dontae,” she said. “I make my own recipe for the batter. It’s very complicated. The sauce is special. I’m not going to tell you [specifics] because then I would have to kill you.”
The fresh salmon salad is good. It’s not oily. How about the grilled cheese green mussels? The shellfish are suffocated, and sometimes appeared in differing colors, with the dairy product on top, all baked to a gooey tenderness. Both items are 13,000 won.
Last, for 7,000 won, the hamburger and potato wedges are the newest addition to the menu. One cannot find a better valued burger in City Hall. Beef, onions, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, cheese all contained by a real bun. Eat up.
Two “side dishes” are good. The nachos (6,000 won) come with a Mt. Halla volcanic explosion of nacho cheese sitting in a mini caldera holder and heated below by a tealight candle. The tortilla pizza is thin, but worth a glance for 6,000 won.
Everyday specials are offered, the televisions are crystal clear, the electronic dartboard will keep one coming back, and the seats are new, but take care not to sink down.
On opening night, the first of February, The Bitches gave away free fish and chips. Kang said the place was packed with foreigners. That same night bringing in the correct flyer netted a free draft beer for the customer.
“Come for every reason, it’s unique and special,” said Kang, who has a background in horticulture and construction and still freelances. “Everything is different. I want people to have good memories here.”
That’s possible with more than 30 selections of liquor, 20 imported beers by the bottle, and 15 cocktail choices.
To The Bitches, it’s time to call it a night, a good night.
Will a customer come back?
Probably, because before mopping up with a napkin, the eyes glance down to the writing on the flimsy paper:
I like you Do you like me? Yes ▩ No □ Maybe □
The Bitches Ido 2dong 1771-7 Telephone 064-702-8835 Open everyday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
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