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SEOUL — Maybe it was a bad map. Maybe it was navigator error. Either way, I had a hard time finding the Manila Bar.

Lucky for me, the Manila Bar has had a hard time finding customers. While wandering aimlessly up and down the main street in Itaewon, I ran into the bar’s owner, Jovie Gameng, passing out flyers and searching for new clients.

She said the bar opened Aug. 16, and had yet to generate a steady crowd of customers.

At first glance, the Manila Bar doesn’t seem much different than many of the other seedy bars in Itaewon’s entertainment district. It’s a small, dimly lit and smoke-filled room, where the sounds and 80s country music and 70s rock and roll fill the air.

But according to Gameng, the Manila Bar is unique.

She said she opened the bar with her husband, Tedy Gamo, to give foreigners a taste of Philippine food and music, and to give Filipinos a place to meet that felt like home.

The bar boasts nightly music by Philippine bands. And if customers don’t feel like listening to the band, “the stage is open for everyone,” Gameng said.

Customers can sing with the band for free.

The menu consists of traditional Philippine dishes including adobo (a dish made with various meats and served over rice), lumpia (similar to an egg roll) and pancit (rice noodles), though not all of the food is on the menu, and not everything on the menu is available. Gameng said she’ll settle on regular offerings once she has regular customers and learns what they want.

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to

Manila Bar, Seoul

Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. through 2 a.m.Drink prices: ($1 equals about 915 won) Draft beer starts at 3,000 won for a glass of Cass or 4,000 for San Miguel; pitchers range from 9,000 to 18,000 won; bottles run from 5,000 to 6,000 won. Hard liquor is 5,000 won a shot and bottles start at 120,000 won.Cover charge: NoneFood: Filipino favorites including lumpia, caldereta and pancit. Availability of these and other dishes depends on what was prepared for the day.Entertainment: Nightly live music and patrons are welcome to sing with the band.Clientele: A pretty diverse mix of locals and foreigners in the “thirty-something” age bracket.Dress: Come as you areLocation: The bar is located just off Itaewon’s main drag. Coming from Yongsan Garrison, turn left onto a side street adjacent to the “New World Plaza.” The Manila bar is on the second floor.


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