Saturday, August 01, 2015

Burger Bay and the Hongdae campus adventure

I met my two former Sookmyung students, Yeon-ji and Da-jeong (I've written about them before here), today at Hongdae-ipgu Station, right by Hongik University (abbreviated Hongdae in colloquial Korean, from Hongik Daehakgyo; ipgu means "entrance"). Da-jeong had told me about a place called Burger Bay, which served massive burgers. I met her in the small street next to Exit 9 of Hongdae-ipgu Station, then Yeon-ji joined us at the burger joint.

Here's a first look at Burger Bay. Click to enlarge:

Burger Bay is located on the second floor of the building it's in, but there's a street-level display with plastic models of the burgers that BB serves. I asked Da-jeong to pose beside them for scale; she did so gamely. Again, click to enlarge:

The place was empty when we came in despite the fact that it was lunchtime on a Saturday in Hongdae, the party/restaurant district—not the best sign. I kind of suspected something was up when I saw a Korean blog that talked about Burger Bay; the blog offered pictures, and the pictures were not very impressive: the burgers looked to be made mostly of bread, with only a stingy amount of meat inside the buns. Sadness.

Below is a pic of the bacon cheeseburger that we ordered. Big enough for three, or so it was claimed. To make serving the burger easier, it was cut into wedges, like a pizza. Also, as you see in the picture below, drinks were canned, so there were no free refills.

Another strike against Burger Bay, alas.

Below, I offer my hand for scale:

In the next photo, below, Da-jeong gets weird, and my finger gets in the way.

Click the next pic, below, to enlarge. I had attempted a close-up shot of the burger's cross section, but the result was an awful, unfocused mess. To see the photo even larger, after you do the initial enlargement, right-click the picture and "open in another tab." It'll be huge.

The burger wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. I probably could have eaten the entire thing myself had I chosen to be a barbarian. The bun made the burger fluffy, which isn't the best adjective to associate with burgers. The bacon, too, was tough and not a bit crunchy. As Joe McPherson once observed, crispy bacon is nearly impossible to find in Korea unless you're willing to crisp it yourself.

With Hongik's campus so close by, I thought we should adjourn and traipse over to an on-campus art museum. Hongik is famous for its art and design majors, and the surrounding district long ago took on the freewheeling, unconventional flavor of the campus, morphing into a much-sought-after night spot and restaurant district. Sookmyung University students often told me that, instead of being loyal to their own campus, they would skip over to the Hongdae neighborhood on Friday and Saturday evenings when they wanted to party. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of the district, but it does have a lot of interesting—albeit overpriced and over-promising—restaurants.

So we walked onto Hongik University's campus. This was the first time, despite ten years in Korea, that I'd actually set foot on the campus grounds.

As it turned out, both of the on-campus museums were closed for prep: there'll be some sort of exhibition eventually, but not today. So we walked around campus and were rewarded with examples of student art in all sorts of random places. Here's a gutsy display:

Next to Club Viscera was this organ-like thing:

Swivel a bit to the left, and you've got people in pieces:

The bottom half of our art victim was off to the side:

This looked like some sort of Buddha head that had been turned to face away from onlookers. I was curious as to what sort of face it had:

My two young ladies showed me the way:

I dubbed this sculpture "The Metafinger":

Art was everywhere, really; there was even cast-off art—some sort of abortive attempt that seemed to be on its way to the garbage, which struck me as too bad:

Our hot, sweaty, humid path took us up some steep-but-short hiking trails, along which were these cairns, of the sort you might find while hiking a Korean mountain:

The ladies stopped at an exercise station to swing their legs on one of several utterly useless exercise machines whose only purpose was to engage you in some sort of oscillating or circular motion that did nothing to improve your health:

Finally, here's a shot of the massive threshold at the front of Hongik University's campus:

We walked about 6,000 steps in all, according to my pedometer. That's really not all that much, but Da-jeong pronounced herself finished. Yeon-ji, who is much more athletic, was ready to keep going. Unfortunately, I had to get back home to talk with my landlady about circuit-breaker problems, so after we passed through Hongdae's threshold and were back on the streets again, I hailed a cab, said goodbye and thank you, and hightailed it to Gwanghwamun, there to pick up my now-familiar 7119 bus. But before I forget: here's a link to a short video of a madly buzzing cicada. Yeon-ji commented on how noisy the campus was thanks to these fat insects, then she saw one sitting rather low on a tree trunk. When she pointed it out to me, I knew I had to video it.

In all, a nice time to spend with my ladies, and not a bad way to begin August. YJ and DJ want to get together to fĂȘte me on my birthday, which might be nice. We'll see whether that actually happens. Things are going to be mightily busy come the end of this hot, saturated month.


Charles said...

I gotta say, the burger doesn't look all that impressive in the photos. The bread-to-meat ratio does indeed look way out of whack.

Nice video of the cicada, though. You know the worst of Korean summer is on its way when you hear those buggers.

Kevin Kim said...

This past Friday night, in a fit of nostalgia, I had gone back to that VIPS burger joint in the basement of the CJ Building in Chungmuro, right next to where I used to live during my first semester at Dongguk. Had myself a very delicious, very messy BBQ burger and a nice, fat chili dog. The VIPS burger was ten times better by comparison.

daeguowl said...

FYI, if you're ever heading to Hongdae again you can get on/off your bus at Yonsei for a shorter cab ride to/from Hongdae.

Kevin Kim said...


That's what I did when I traveled from Goyang to Seoul: I got off at Yonsei and cabbed over to Hongik. When I was done at Hongik, though, I decided to cab over to Gwanghwamun, where the bus is mostly empty when I get on it.