Reviewing Craftworks Taphouse and Bistro is tricky because I’ve been there countless times over the course of my time here in Seoul, and like any relationship it has had its ups and downs. It was love at first bite, then we hit a rocky patch, and now, after a roller coaster ride of a relationship, I’m happy that I’ve settled with Craftworks as one of my go to spots for great beer and good food.
How to get there: Although Craftworks is tucked away at the bottom of the hill in Noksapyeong, it is not that difficult to find. Take the subway to Noksapyeong Station (Line 6) and depart from Exit 2. Walk down the hill. The military base will be on your left. Once you get to the bottom of the hill, you have to cross the street. There is a bridge there that will take you across. Walk straight once you are the bottom of the stairs, and Craftworks will be on your left.
LP’s Description: The guidebook suggests that you get the sampler of craft beer and choose which one you like the best. It also mentions the trivia night, which is on Wednesday and various specialized dining nights throughout the week. It is a glowing review and claims that Craftworks has secured a special place in the hearts of ale lovers in Seoul.
Atmosphere and Service: The atmosphere at Craftworks is lively, but at the same time, you can have a conversation with your dining mates. One thing I appreciate about Craftworks is that there isn’t loud, banging music that is common with so many pubs. It is nice if you are into that thing, but when I think of a pub, I think of a few beers, some laughs and some pub food, not having to listen to Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping for the 20th fucking time while some European drunk is swinging his mug of ale around. The atmosphere is casual, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bring a date to Craftworks. It’s not a traditional wooden table, dartboard, pool table type of pub. Instead it’s clean, comfortable and provides an intimate setting for people to enjoy conversations.
Service has never been a problem at Craftworks, and this visit was no exception. The servers were friendly and attentive even though it was a busy Saturday night. They even had time for some light banter and a joke. We had about a 30 minute wait, but to be honest, this was my fault because I know that Saturday night is busy, but I didn’t make a reservation. That said, we drank our beers outside and waited for our table.
There were three of us who were eating. I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, JP ordered a full rack of BBQ Ribs and PK ordered the Chicken Teriyaki sandwich. We also ordered two orders of fries: chili fries and gravy fries to start. Damn we were hungry!
The Fries: My visit to Craftworks previous to this one, was somewhat disappointing in the appetizer department. My wife received brown bread with a couple teaspoons of brown broth and a sprinkling of cheese and they called it French Onion soup. I received a soggy, unseasoned plate of fries with a thimble of gravy. It was very uninspiring. However, on this visit, the fries were well seasoned, and even had a little kick to make things interesting. I’m a huge fan of the seasoning. The gravy and chili were still pretty small. They need to get back to when they first opened and there was boatloads of gravy and cheese covering your fries, not a little thimble full of gravy which makes you feel like Oliver Twist begging the chef kings for more. The chili was flavorful with a little kick, but had too much of a tomato taste for my liking. My compadres however, rather enjoyed the chili.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich: I ordered the Buffalo Chicken burger. The chicken in the burger is covered with their Buffalo Wing sauce, and is also laced with bleu cheese dressing. Personally, I look forward to the balance between the cheese and the sauce, but the sauce was overwhelming. There was no counter with the bleu cheese and resulted in a spicy meal. I only finished about half of my sandwich because it was too spicy. Now, that said, I’m not exactly Mr. Iron Tongue, so to some people the burger might be the perfect spice. The chicken was good, a little dry but still fresh. The bread was fresh, soft and warm.The fries, like the ones served during our appetizer were nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked.
The BBQ Ribs: After an underwhelming experience with BBQ ribs at JR’s, JP was hoping to redeem himself and finally dig into some great ribs. He was not disappointed. The ribs were so tender they fell off the bone, and the sauce was flavorful. JP ordered the spicy Chipotle BBQ sauce and said that it wasn’t too overwhelming. However, his tolerance to spice is higher than mine, so if you have a Sally foreigner tongue, you have been warned. His sides included a coleslaw, which appeared to be more like a salad and fries, both of which were appetizing.
Teriyaki Chicken Burger: PK ordered the Chicken Teriyaki burger. PK loved the portion. It wasn’t too big, in that you could hold it in your hand and not be slathered in Teriyaki sauce, but it was filling. The Teriyaki sauce had a little bit of kick to it, and the pineapple sweetened the burger, creating a nice balance. The bun was soft, not stale and was served warm. The two pieces of chicken were grilled perfectly, and had a nice amount of sauce on them. As before, the fries were seasoned perfectly and cooked until they were a crispy, golden brown.
Drinks: Craft beer is king here. Craftworks makes their own beer in small batches in Gapyeong in the province of Gyeonggi. They also use only natural spring water. They really are refreshing beers. One thing I have to say, if you go to Craftworks regularly, you will eventually choose one beer and order that continuously. For me, that beer is the Jirisan IPA, however tonight I tried the Hobak Pumpkin Spice IPA and was not disappointed. If you are new to Craftworks, or just beers in general, my suggestion is to order the sampler and try them all. It costs 9000KRW, but it is a nice selection and you get to tease your palate with some of the tastiest beer in South Korea.
Value: The full rack of BBQ ribs cost a hefty 39000KRW, the Buffalo Chicken Burger was 13000KRW and the Chicken Teriyaki Burger was also 13000KRW. The beer sampler was 9000KRW and various other alcoholic beverages brought the bill up to 140000KRW between three people. Ouch! But in this case, it is rare that you are going to find brew like this anywhere else in Korea. As one friend put it, “I would go to Craftworks even if it was in America.” A bold but true statement. The food has improved mightilyover the course of the last few months. In the spring, I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable recommending Craftworks, at least from a food perspective, but this last visit has changed my opinion.
Who Should Visit Craftworks: Beer enthusiasts who are looking for a new place to wet their whistles. Also, if you are looking for a comfortable place to take the wife or girlfriend out, this could be your spot. It is fairly family friendly as well, at least in the afternoon. I don’t know if I would take the kids during the evenings when things can get a little rambunctious.
Who Should Avoid Craftworks: A bit pricy. If you are on a budget, and you can’t afford to spend 8000KRW on a craft brew, there are cheaper options out there.