On my second full day in Gwangju I wanted to make a better plan than I had the previous day especially in the food department. Traveling solo in Korea and eating is tricky. A lot of restaurants charge by the serving and require a serving per customer and will outright refuse someone whose by themselves. This isn’t always the case, but it does happen often, especially with bbq restaurants. Which is why when I visit people I usually ask them “Where have you been wanting to eat that you can’t eat by yourself?”
I had had a few plans the day prior on places I wanted to eat at but a combination of Instagram’s location with Google maps sent me walking through a residential area where the place I wanted to eat wasn’t at but actually was on the other end of the city. This led to me eating a sad salad dinner at a Paris Baguette utterly exhausted from hiking in areas out of the way due to semi-poor planning. So for day 2 I tried to over prepare. I found restaurants near the main focus of the day (day 2 of the Biennale at the Asian Culture Center). A well liked brunch restaurant, a cafe for lunch, and then a place to hopefully have dinner on the way home. (Hopefully because I always worry as a solo traveler in Korea that I’ll get turned away.)
First up was a small shop called McLeod. It’s an American style brunch restaurant that seems to change up its opening time. I found about four different opening times online all between 10 and 11:30am, so to play it safe I shot for around 11am only to find a sign outside saying it had opened at 10:30am. Their Facebook seems to currently have their correct hours so if you visit make sure to check that here. However their Facebook doesn’t have their current menu. The most popular item seems to be the eggs Benedict, but I’m not a huge fan of eggs for breakfast (Probably because I practically lived off of them at college).
When I arrived there was one person working which seemed to be in the notes online, though once again not fully up-to-date. Online there were lots of notes on the menus saying: “Mcleod is a small, local brunch spot run by one brave man. He does it all. From cooking, cleaning, and serving all the delectables. On busy days, there could be a long wait for your order, but it will be well worth it. Please take a seat anywhere and I will get to you as quickly as humanly possible. There is a self service bar under the counter with water and sauces.”
Because of this statement on the old pictures of the menu I was prepared to wait awhile and for an overworked but totally enthusiastic man to be running around chatting with the regulars. Instead there were no men to be found. Just an occasionally coughing young woman who motioned for me to sit at a large table meant for four (they only have four tables meant for four) and who got me my silverware and a menu before finishing the food for the only other patrons at the time, a couple who were seated behind me.
There is single seating available right next to the kitchen so I was surprised when I ended up at a large table for four. I waited patiently for the staff to finish cooking and come take my order. During this time another foreigner showed up and took the table nearby, leaving one table open towards the back of the shop. When the single jack of all trades staff person came over I ordered their pancakes with chocolate chips, a hash brown, and asked for water since I didn’t see the self-serve bar available, let alone the typical Korean metal cups.
Shortly after another woman came in, donned an apron and awkwardly asked to move me to the bar. I was fine with this. I had after all planned to sit there originally but had been seated at a huge table instead by the other staff person. I gathered up my stuff and set about watching my breakfast be made. This was kind of fun. However I noticed that the man by himself didn’t move/wasn’t asked to move and it was just…weird. There was plenty of space at the bar for both of us to be nowhere near one another yet only I was forced to move while the restaurant still had an open table. A table that stayed open the entire time I was there. A group did eventually come in and take my old-table and for awhile I assumed that maybe the man was waiting on someone who was running late to join him, but he stayed about the same time I did and no one came to meet him.
The food took awhile but I was prepared for that by the notes I’d read. My only true struggle was that I wanted water and had asked specifically for some upon realizing where the “self-serve” water was located. The location ended up being in the kitchen behind the counter/register. I couldn’t figure out where cups were (there were plastic cups of different sizes that looked like they belonged with making drinks) and didn’t feel comfortable going behind the register to “help myself” like the previous iterations of the menu had suggested. I was grateful that my hotel included an over abundance of water and that I’d brought some with me.
Maybe I should’ve also been a little more wary about the cook coughing and touching the butter with their bare hands (The butter seemed to be pre-cut and pre-sliced and in a container in the kitchen). That sort of thing mixed with being the only foreigner asked to move who’d been sitting alone and the confusion/never being brought the water I ordered has left me with a less than perfect experience, though I’m sure there’s probably a reason I didn’t catch for most of it. The food however was good and I did greatly enjoy the atmosphere and vibe.