Being a true standout as a food-and-drinks establishment in Itaewon or HBC can be an almost impossible feat, but the entertainment, menu, and vibe at Leo’s might just make it an exceptional hangout worth your while.
The owner and chef formerly ran a small cocktail bar called The Concorde at the foot of the same building. Last November, he completed the renovations of the second floor and expanded the place into a remarkable live band and jazz music venue.
Though the usual bar music and indistinct (or wildly animated) chatter are fun forms of entertainment, live acoustics can be a refreshing and laid-back way to chill out, and that’s exactly what Leo’s serves. The owner even had soundproof windows installed to keep the HBC noise out and the soothing sounds in.
The music at Leo’s is jazz-heavy, but it isn’t exclusive. Bands from other genres love to play at the venue with its spacious stage and airy vibe. Customers, on the other hand, can be seated at any table and comfortably watch the show wherever they are in the room.
The Food and Drinks
What makes the food here special is the process that Leo painstakingly takes to perfect each serving. It takes about a month of curing and eight to nine hours of slow cooking to perfect the meat for his simple yet carefully curated menu. Once you take a bite of the divine pastrami sandwich, corned beef on the rye, or their top-rated Reuben, you’ll somehow realize how true that saying is: slow and steady wins the race.
As for the drinks, expect anything from the usual cocktails like an old-fashioned or a mojito to intricate classic drinks like the Boulevardier (with bourbon, vermouth, and campari—done the way they used to in the U.S.) There are also some craft beers to select from (Vunderbar Pilsner is a must-try, we hear).
Also try Leo’s signature cocktail, the Steve McQueen, a whiskey concoction of The Macallan, Canadian Club, and Jameson (three countries in one glass right there) with a drop of triple sec and amaretto, shaken and served in a martini glass.
What’s great is that the menu is terse, so you can zero in on what you like easily, unlike places with an endless list of things you can’t choose from. Of course, there are also daily specials to make your decision effortless if you want, and as long as he has the ingredients, the chef and bartender will happily whip it up anything for you if you have a specific thing in mind.
Leo’s is open from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. every Friday and Saturday with a live band performance (kitchen closes at midnight) and 6:00 p.m. to midnight every Sunday to Thursday (kitchen closes at 11:00). The place is closed on Tuesdays.