Music, Melodies, and Metal at Jazz Story
One of my favorite things about Seoul is that it is scattered with hidden gems, unsuspecting and obscure, that offer those that are lucky enough to discover them a special treat. Restaurants, cafes, galleries, and bars are easy to find in Korea's capital city, but it's the ones tucked into back alleys and inconspicuous buildings that allure me the most, making me feel as if I've been let in on a secret when I find them.
One such gem is Jazz Story, a music bar located in the theater district of Hyehwa (or Daehakro). It's easy to miss this rustic establishment, as its exterior is nothing more than some patchwork of sheet metal and an unwelcoming wooden deck on a quiet street near Marronnier Park. Once inside, however, patrons become immediately hypnotized.
The interior of Jazz Story is a feast for the eyes.
The first thing one notices upon entry is the eclectic decor. Shrouded in metal work, it seems as if a very talented and creative blacksmith had a heyday with the interior of Jazz Story. Metal molds of scissors and knives cover the walls. Metal wires stretch out the overhead loft and wind upward, as if they're dancing. A metal chandelier hangs from the ceiling next to a hand-crafted airplane, threatening to fall at any moment. Yet, for as industrial as the metal intends the bar to be, velvet-covered chairs, shelves of vinyl records, and clusters of candles create a cozy, romantic atmosphere.
Airplane seats on the second floor.
When the decor-induced trance wears off, visitors can enjoy the live music performed by Jazz Story's house band every night of the week beginning at 8:30 (or 8 on Sundays). Although one might expect jazz music in a jazz bar, the set list consists of everything from Abba to Marvin Gaye to Maroon 5. Yet, the band makes it work, making each song their own. The vocalists are especially impressive with voices that are intoxicating as the liquor on the bar's menu, which is a good thing because drinks are quite pricey.
In addition to a 5,000 won cover, customers must order drinks at Jazz Story. Domestic beer begins at 7,000 a bottle, cocktails at 9,000, and bottles of wine at 50,000. The prices are more than what I would usually pay but I like to think that I'm paying for the atmosphere, which is definitely worth every penny. I've only eaten there once but the Fried Kimchi Rice (15,000) and fruit plate (25,000) were just okay. (For a complete drink and food menu, click here.) Again, the unique environment is what makes Jazz Story worth a visit.
Jazz Story provides an English menu, which can be doddled and written in by patrons. I found "The Jabberwocky" with my name... well, sort of. ;)
Hyehwa itself is off the radar to most expats and visitors, as its days of being the nightlife hotspot of Seoul have come and gone. But, for locals and those in the know, it is a neighborhood well worth exploring and Jazz Story is definitely a must-visit when in the area.
Info: Jazz Story (website) is open daily from 5PM until 2AM. To get there: Take the Seoul subway station to Hyehwa Station (Line 4). From exit 2, walk about 70 feet and take a left onto the main walkway. Walk straight for 3-5 minutes, passing the GS25 convenience store. Take a right at Cafe Marion and walk straight for 100 feet. Jazz Story will be on your right (map).