This rustic pub is tucked away in a hidden Insadong back alley so narrow that most guests contemplate skipping dinner just so they can be sure they'll fit through on the way out. That idea usually goes out the window when diners see the restaurant's delicious anju (drinking snacks) and entrées, however. The décor includes squatting Buddhas, black and white photos of unrecognizable but friendly faces, '90s movie posters, and jars of miscellaneous roots. Colorful prayer flags add an unexpected touch of Tibet, one of the 90 destinations Choi Il-soon, the free-spirited owner, spent some time in during his decades of travel. The modest hanok (traditional Korean house) interior is loud and the seating is cramped, which creates a comfortable, casual atmosphere for friends not keen on keeping quiet. Blue Star's saeng makgeolli, basically the standard version of Korea's fizzy rice wine, comes from Sangju, a city in southeastern Korea, where it stood out from all the others Choi sampled when scouring the country for the best brew. The makgeolli is delivered in brass kettles, to be poured into individual drinking bowls, Korean style. The light wine is indeed good, and distinctively different from the store-bought stuff. Most of the herbal varieties for sale are subpar, although the mugwort makgeolli, which looks like a gigantic green-tea latte, is to die for.

The food at Blue Star does not disappoint, either. The dueji bulgogi (marinated pork) arrives perfectly seasoned and greasy, just as drinking food should be. For the Western palate, deodeok gui (a root marinated in red pepper sauce and grilled over charcoal) is unusual, but it's strangely addicting after the first few bites. The highlight of the menu is the dubu taebaek kimchi. This pyramid-shaped tofu is made in-house using local ingredients and practically melts in your mouth, pairing beautifully with sour kimchi. Sampling makgeolli and traditional Korean pub food is a must while in Seoul and the Pub of the Blue Star is a great place to do it. Unfortunately, the restaurant has yet to create an English menu, but the staff can speak enough of the language to make sure you have a pleasant dining experience.