Pakito is a little Spanish tavern tucked in an alley at the end of Hongdae's busy main strip. Drawn onto the front path by a quirky, hand-painted sign, we were further charmed by a stone painted "abierto" and propped casually near the entrance. It was precisely 6pm, their opening time, which seemed too serendipitous for us not to walk in and give it a try. Everything about the place felt cozy, creative, and well-loved. There were so many fun details, like the giant bull poking out from either side of a wooden pillar, the mural of Spain painted on an outside wall (viewable from the window), and even the name spelled in flower petals in the bathroom! (This marked the second time that day I covertly took my camera into a Hongdae bathroom, hoping no one would notice the bulge in my pocket and think something perverse was afoot.)
To make things feel more social, there's a big communal table in the center of the room in addition to smaller tables throughout, as well as bar seating next to the open kitchen. I got the sangria, which was tasty and refreshing, and we also got a couple of orders of bread--one topped with tomatoes, olives, and melted manchego, and one topped with shrimp-stuffed mushrooms. As expected, the food was just fine, but not excellent. This is a place to come for the warm, convivial atmosphere and order some wine or Spanish beer. Once you're a bit buzzed, the appetizers are satisfactory and inexpensive (each of ours was 4,000 won), but order the paella at your peril; I'll be sticking to Mi Madre for my major Spanish food cravings.
The tavern was already filling up at 7 on a Sunday evening, but I can't wait to go back on a Friday or Saturday night around 9, when I bet the place really comes alive.
Pakito is open from 6pm-2am, seven days a week. To get there, walk out of Hongik University Station ex. 5, take a left, then another left at Man Studio. Several blocks down, you'll see the sign on your right.