It has been a few months since the introduction of new female MC Geum Sae Rok on Baek Jong Won’s Food Alley. The show had its prime days back in 2018~2019 (crazy how quickly the trend changes!), and though it does not generate as much buzz, it is still known to be a popular and loved show. It’s loved because it’s a variety show that is trying to save the dying Korean restaurant industry. More specifically, the show visits small alleys that are either not well known or not doing well economically. These dying restaurants receive “solutions,” and advice on how to change the restaurant from the big man Baek Jong Won himself, and the show broadcasts the one-month journey with Baek and portrays the restaurants' comeback from near-bankruptcy and even more tragic stories. It can be slightly compared to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but Baek is not as brutal.
As of June 17th, 2021, the show has visited 33 alleys, and they are currently broadcasting the 34th alley. Needless to say, this show has placed hope for many in the restaurant industry. Check out the top three alleys that generated the most buzz on this wholesome program!
#4) Jisepo Port Geoje, Gyeongsangnamdo
This is a must-watch alley because this was when Food Alley was at its most peak. It was the first time the restaurant filmed an alley outside the greater Seoul area. The alley was especially funny because the show portrayed the three lady owners as “strong” characters because they live in the South.
It turns out they were all sweet ladies – their expressions are slightly different due to dialect. The alley ends with a wholesome finish, and it was especially meaningful because it was Cho Bo-ah’s last alley of the series.
The three restaurants featured all had a rough start but ultimately ended with a happy ending with a wholesome solution that worked for all three restaurants. People all over the country were visiting the small alley in rural Geojedo, illustrating the influence of this variety show. Check out this alley and the owner’s stories below!
#3) Railway Alley, Gongneung-dong, Nowon-gu, Seoul
This alley is the only alley that made it into this list that doesn’t have female MC Cho Bo Ah. Jung Insun is the female MC in this alley, and this alley received a lot of attention for having no “villain” owner (an owner who does not listen or cooperate with Baek). It was extremely wholesome, and one of their episodes was the 10th most viewed episode in the entire series. All the alleys that were featured in the top 10 list were during the Cho Bo Ah era, showing that this alley was indeed very popular.
The restaurant that received the most attention was the jjigae (stew) and baekban restaurant. The lady owner in her 60s was portrayed as a selfless character who knows nothing but to give to the locals. Viewers praised her selflessness and wanted to support the restaurant. Short after, this restaurant became so busy and popular that they had to set a one-hour timeframe where only regulars and locals can dine. This was her way of making sure that even her regulars are not forgotten despite the rising popularity.
#2) Boarding House Alleys, Cheongpa-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
This alley ranks at #2 as three of the five episodes in this alley series made the TOP 10 most viewed episodes. The best episode came in 4th place, where a whopping 10.4% of the country was watching the broadcast live. May we mention that this happens on a late Wednesday night, and as viewership ratings have declined over the years, 10.4% was extremely impressive.
We also have to give credit to the #1 alley, which happened right before the Boarding House Alleys, and the #1 alley was what truly sparked the buzz for this show. Regardless, this alley was still very successful because it features a villain owner, who eventually ends up being the first restaurant where Baek gives up on.
Not only that, the burger restaurant and the naengmyeon restaurant receive praise for serving great food, and they had their fair share of attention as people were lining up an hour before opening time to get a taste of these food items. Check out what all this talk is about below!
#1) Fortune Market in Hongeun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
If you are an avid viewer of this show, anyone can agree that the best alley and the most influential alley that this show has made was the Fortune Market alley in Hongeun-dong, Seoul. Each of the four restaurants received lots of love, but there are two restaurants here that really made this alley shine.
The first is Hongtak Jip, owned by a mother-and-son owner. This restaurant received attention because Baek severely scolded the son for calling himself an owner yet doing nothing to contribute to the restaurant. Baek deemed that it was unacceptable for him to be calling himself an owner like that and demanded immediate reform. The owner, Kwon Sang-hoon, tries to deceive Baek by claiming that he practiced hard; however, Baek notices the lie and errors immediately and blows up on Kwon. Because of this restaurant, the alley extends their series to six episodes for the first time. Many viewers respected Baek for having patience and not giving up on the restaurant until the very end.
Second is the legendary donkatsu restaurant that changed the donkatsu game in South Korea. Yeondon received attention from all parts of the country as Baek praised the donkatsu as the best in the country. The owners also have a deep passion for their business and donkatsu, demonstrating that this is an epitome of a successful alley restaurant in Korea. The restaurant received SO much attention that the small town filed complaints that people were camping out the night before to wait in line. The two owners eventually had to close their original restaurant due to the increasing complaints, and Baek helps them settle down near his hotel in Jeju Island. They begin their new business, and it is STILL receiving so much attention. The line system has changed to reservations due to COVID-19; however, it is still not easy to secure a spot to try the country’s best donkatsu.
That was the TOP 4 must-watch alleys of this restaurant. The show is continuing to offer solutions to many underrepresented alleys in the country, and it truly serves a good purpose, so thank you to Baek Jong Won and his team for helping one of the hardest-to-survive industries in South Korea! What was your favorite alley? Comment and let us know below!