Just when I thought I’d heard of every variety of modern day food verve, I met Dustin Wessa and Halme Lee. They opened Dandy Pink on January 1st this year, and they’re calling it a “grub lounge,” a spot to meet, imbibe and be easy.
Wessa grew up in Battleground, Washington and Lee is from Jongno. They’ve built their lives around food, deciding two years ago when they married to turn this shared enthusiasm for good company and good food into a business—an extension of the entertaining the couple loves to do at home.,
While Wessa grills in the open kitchen, Lee takes cares of their guests. I asked them how they handle a busy night without extra help.
“When I was in Spain, I drew a lot of inspiration from tapas bars. The restaurant would be packed, with platters of food piled high on the bar, and the chef behind it would slide a mug of beer from one end of the bar to the other. It was constant motion, a juggling act, but the chef always handled it. It was always just him,” says Wessa.
Tucked up away from the main roads of Noksapyeong, Dandy Pink doesn’t attract many passersby. Instead, once inside, you feel as if you were given an invite to escape the city’s clamor. Cobalt walls, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, boxy furniture and hand-selected relics, like Italian leather wine bottles and a 150-year-old heirloom silver tea set, all meld together into a cool hybrid of romance and novelty. The couple designed the interior and Lee’s father built it. Noksapyeong was not their first choice of locale, but a chance encounter abruptly ended their search: when they arrived at the site, the former occupant greeted them at the door by asking if they planned to serve alcohol. She was a shaman, she said, and she had dreamed they were coming.
Each beer at Dandy Pink comes on a gilded coaster with a snack on the side – sometimes house-fried pork rinds if you go on the right night. Details like these make the haunt memorable. Magpie’s pale ale and porter are on tap. A tight but thoughtful menu offers small plates like meat and shrimp skewers and smoked bacon rubbed with spiced cocoa powder. Seasonal items are to be added, including drinks.
Come spring, Wessa and Lee spend a lot of time in their rooftop garden. All of the herbs, oils and marinades they use for Dandy Pink’s menu are house-made with components they’ve grown, like fennel for a seven-spice powder and habaneros for their signature jerk seasoning. What they don’t grow, they buy directly from small nearby markets. Jars of fennel oil, jerk seasoning, mojo sauce and spiced cocoa powder sell for 8,000 to 15,000 won, and are only available at Dandy Pink.