Today marks the end of the 5-day weekend that was Seolnal, Lunar New Years. Seolnal is an important holiday for many Asians, Buddhists, werewolves, and English teachers at Korean Hagwons. For werewolves, like myself, it offers an excellent opportunity to visit foreign cities and feast on the flesh of those visiting their extended families.
For Lunar New Year 2011, myself and the Eliot House Crew (tEHC) headed South on the KTX bound for 부산 (You can read it Busan or Pusan, just don’t call it Bu Mountain or Roston Teacher will sue you for trademark infringement). The trip had many worthwhile moments, many of which I hope to chronicle in the near future. For now, let’s delve into the highlight of the trip, the pub crawl through the streets and alleys surrounding Pusan National University (PNU)
All told, tEHC visted seven bars on our second night in the humble port town. Bars were chosen mostly at random, by walking past scores of dak galbi restaurants and noraebangs before finding a bar that appeared to have some charm, grace, or originality. A round (sometimes two) of drinks were ordered at each establishment and each was judged on six criteria. Scores ranged from a worst of 1 to a best of 5. These six criteria were judged:
- Facilities: physical composition of the bar, walls, floors, ceilings, bathrooms, etc.
- Drinks: quality and variety of libations.
- Price: value of alcoholic drinks, disregarding food or anju costs.
- Atmosphere: poorly defined as the quality of emotional response due to sensory and social perceptions of the establishment (duh).
- Service: waitstaff attentiveness, promptness, congeniality, and ability to satisfy customers’ requests.
- Anju: Quality and value of sidedishes served with drinks. Price alone was not a factor for grading anju, but did contribute to value scores. For instance, terrible yet free anju may be rated lower than expensive yet delicious anju (of which we experienced none).
Admittedly, the judging criteria, methodology, and subsequent analysis were anything but scientific. However, my bachelor’s degree does include the word science (twice), so you can suck it (twice), if you think I care.
Now, onto the bars in chronological order:
This aptly name bar could have also been called “cabin bar,” “one-window bar,” or “single-waitstaff-willing-to-leave-you-unaccompanied-in-the-bar bar.” The decor was pleasant and homely, if your house is located at Walden Pond. The squat toilet was less impressive. From the healthy list of drinks, Long Island Ice Teas were selected. They were tall and a respectable ₩7000. I personally found them lacking in pop and heavy in OJ, but the average reception was favorable. Anju was average for the free variety: crackers, nuts, weird salty-sweet stick things. Atmosphere lost points due to the disappointing musical tastes of the lone waitress/bartender. Service was average, but additional points were added for the waitress trusting us enough to leave us unattended in the bar, by ourselves, for extended periods of time.
Similar to Small Bar, Tamarix had an apropos tag-line, “only for your bar,” as it was the second bar of the evening where tEHC was the only patronage. Drink variety, value, and prices were on par with Small bar. Four Kirin Ichibans were ordered at ₩7000 each. Service was polite, quick, and attentive. Atmosphere was simply average, the potential for raucous evenings was apparent, but a chain-bar sensation and lack of originality persisted. The building was of excellent decor, and architecturally sound, and bathrooms were clean and odor-free to boot. Anju was free, but disappointing with sweet, spicy Fritos and simply odd fried shortbread stick things.
Wow. Words can only describe this bar to a certain extent, which falls far short of the actual experience contained within it’s dark, seedy walls. While not the best bar visited that evening, it was unquestionably the most memorable and humorous. The oddities start with the Facilities; everything was some combination or dark, red, or simply out of place. Bathrooms were satisfactory. There were some structural flaws (dents and scratches in drywall, for example), but the unwavering anomaly of it’s design garnered an above average response. Drinks and prices were simply average. The drink list was impressive, albeit riddled with Konglish, and four Cass checked in at ₩5000 apiece. Service left room for growth. Despite the incredibly friendly waitstaff, we were denied the requested rum and cokes because the manager was also the bartender and was away “talking to the police.” The pry-open beers we subsequently ordered came without a bottle opener. The free anju was above average with candy rocks tEHC is particularly fond of and some surprisingly tasty and spicy curried-chicken crackers in the mix. Atmosphere was top notch, with the above mentioned decor and the first selection of enjoyable and recognizable music of the evening. Debate as to the reality of a prostitution ring being operated behind closed doors continues to this day.
What do you get when you cross a TGIF with a Red Lobster but cut out their respective drink variety and seafood? You get Miller Time, a soulless chaintaurant that only serves MBC products. The atmosphere was on typical for a chain, which is below average for anything else. Service was above par; despite being crowded, servers attended to our service button presses promptly. Facilities were average, the decor being corporate but not unsightly, and the bathrooms serving their purposes in a nonchalant manner. Drinks were below average being limited to only one brewery, with no cocktail options. A 2,200cc bottle–an impressive bottle at that–clocked in at a disappointing ₩16,000. Anju was a let down, the worst and only required anju of the evening. An enticing sample platter billed as wings, fries, cheese sticks, fries, potato skins and coleslaw came to fruition several pieces short in the wings and skins department and entirely lacking in the fries division. For ₩22,000, you’d also expect that potato skins would be topped with something other than salsa and mozzarella or that coleslaw would not be made with iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise.
The crown jewel of the evening. Upon entering this incredibly dim bar, we were promptly seated. Possible racism or xenophobia on behalf of the rather mature crowd at the bar may have inspired the waitstaff to move us to a more private room/booth. Once again, racism benefited the white man (well, two white men, a white woman, and a Korean man). Bathrooms were tipped toward the wet side of the lavatory-moisture spectrum, so an otherwise perfect facility score fell to above average. Anju was the standard affair save for the included service of sliced orange, our only service of the evening. The drink list held an impressive variety of bottles, cocktails, and beers. Neat shots were lacking, preventing another perfect score; it’s unethical to award 5/5 for drinks or service when you are denied shots of both Bacardi light and dark and settle upon 151º instead. A round of decently priced Cass were also ordered. Atmosphere was tied with Christmas bar as best of the evening (no actual racism was actually encountered, and the private booth with old school lamp was a nice setting), easily gaining a perfect score.
The Dodo Bar
This is where things started getting sloppy for everyone involved. By this point, we were 8 drinks into the evening (relax m0m), and details became rough around the edges. Anju was mediocre at best, but being sloppily thrown into a large fish shaped bowl brought skepticism of it’s freshness and cleanliness into play. Some threw caution to the wind. Service was simply average, despite the offer of our waitress to sit with us and share in our merriment. Drink selection was deemed above average, and pricing merely average. I was investigating the restrooms at the time of ordering, so I abstained from voting on these categories. White Russians greeted me upon my return to the bar; they were delicious and a reasonable ₩7,000. Opinions on the restrooms were divided, as I was the only one reminded of Texas Chainsaw Massacre when walking along the cupboard ridden stairway to the secluded lavatory. The bar was loud and extremely blue… so… an average atmosphere, I suppose.
The evening ended with my personal favorite, and only by happenstance. Following me along this tangent… We had intended to visit Soul Trane, but met with sheer and utter failure on three occasions. On the first occasion, our “fearless leader” led the group down a maddening array of streets before finding nothing and instead consuming submarine sandwiches. After eating our sandwiches, we decided to commence the bar crawl and accidentally found it while attempting to pick the starting point for our sojourn. After The Dodo Bar, we hoped to end our crawl at Soul Trane. When we arrived it was indeed open, but filled to the brim. It was filled to the brim with a solemn looking crowd taking part in some open-mic event from Hades. We ran in sheer terror. Crossroads was the bar upstairs.
Crossroads was thankfully desolate (save for one really drunk and antagonistic lady). The facilities were the best of the night. The dining area was decked out in blues and greens reminiscent of a pleasant Mediterranean villa (I already told you it was my favorite. Bite me.) and the bathrooms were top notch. Atmosphere received a 5 from me for being relaxing, having several hundred records which the guest were allowed to select from, and for one guest selected and assortment of Bob Dylan LPs to play. Other gave it poor votes for the same reasons. Drink offerings were simply average, but prices made up for it–₩18,000 for a hefty pitcher of vodka cranberry. Anju was coffee nuts. Service wasn’t memorable.
From the data compiled that evening, the bars ranked in the following order, with the total overall scores:
- Elysia (25)
- Christmas Bar (21)
- Small Bar (21)
- Crossroads (20)
- Tamarix (20)
- The Dodo Bar (18)
- Miller Time (15)
Below, the collective data from all bars and criteria are summarized on a radar graph.
I have also included the raw data and some analytical data on the table below. For each of the six judging criteria, I colored the best bars green and worst bars orange/red. Bar Elysia had the best total score of 25 out of 30 points. Miller Time had the worst total score of 15 out of 30. It is also interesting that Miller Time had the worst score in every category except service.
For you convience, here are the notable scores from each bar:
- Small Bar: Best drinks, price, and service; Worst atmosphere
- Tamarix: Best facilities; Worst Anju
- Christmas Bar: Best Atmospere; Worst service
- Miller Time: Worst facilities, drinks, price, atmosphere, anju, and overall
- Elysia: Best drinks, price, atmosphere and overall
- The Dodo Bar: Best drinks; Worst facilities
- Crossroads: Best facilites, price
Lastly, I analyzed the standard deviation (SD) of the judging criteria across all bars and of each bar across all criteria.
Analyzing the SD of the judging criteria across all bars shows which criteria were the most different between bars. For example, atmosphere had the largest SD of 1.35, meaning atmosphere varied from bar to bar more than anything else. Drinks and price, meanwhile, both had the lowest SDs of 0.76, meaning they varied the least between bars sampled.
Analyzing the SD of the bars across all judging criteria shows how much the scores of each bar varied amongst the qualities judged. A lower SD signifies the bar was more consistent across all categories. This does suggest anything to do with the bars’ overall scores. For instance, Elysia had the lowest SD of 0.41 meaning its scores for each category were very close in value, in this case all high. It was given the best overall score of 25. The Dodo Bar, however had the second lowest SD, at 0.63, but its scores were all close value and low. It received the second lowest overall score, 18.
Christmas Bar had one of the largest SDs, tied with Small bar at 1.05. This means its scores for each criteria varied more than the other bars. Also, we noted that service was poor (a low score of 2) due to police issues. With an overall score of 21, Christmas Bar could have easily improved its ranking by improving only it’s service. The Dodo Bar, by contrast, would need to improve more criteria to do better.