About a week after trying Coffee Florian, I was exploring my neighborhood once again. Nestled at the northwestern edge of Beobhwasan (법화산), which to my surprise unexpectedly has a huge Korean Wikipedia entry about it, is the fairly new campus of Dangook University. I’d been to the Dangook University area a few times to eat with friends, but now I was there to explore, and eventually find coffee.
In early April 2011, I was still exploring my new neighborhood of Jukjeon, and learning about all of its ins and outs and side streets. Along one of these side streets, I found a rare rough and underdeveloped area of Jukjeon, which is typically known to be well off and fully developed. Near the small rough area, there was a café and an ice cream shop. But I was on my way to get dinner, so I decided to go there another time.
But! That other time conveniently happened to be the next day. After dinner at home, I figured why not try this new place now rather than later. So I walked there, and arrived when it was already dark, but a bright cube light and the promise of double espresso beckoned me in. I had found Coffee Florian.
Now here’s a place a little closer to home. My friendly neighborhood café, to be precise! (after 2010’s Liesgen Haus and before 2013’s Risio Coffee). In our fluid back-and-forth chronology, were are now in early 2011, when I moved to Jukjeon-dong. As I mentioned that I was happy about, the Jukjeon café street was about a 20 minute walk away. But even closer to home, which was a block away from the border with Seongnam / Bundang, there was a small selection of cafés too. Much as I loved the café street, sometimes I wanted something quickly, or a change of scenery. Fortunately, the coffee gods complied, and provided me with a pleasant place to go to in a pinch. Let me introduce to you the tiny but charming Cafe Nell.
The story of the Jukjeon café street started with rumors. I had returned from GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea) orientation in the middle of April 2010 with a few hundred other foreign teachers, and about a dozen or more of us were left in Jukjeon station, as that was a central transit point for all of us. We were all wondering what to do… whether to hang out for a while or just go home after a busy few days. One guy had a great idea. He had heard about or past by a tiny neighborhood with many cafés not very far from the station, somewhere to the south. It was a really nice place, and everybody would like it! But somehow, the group didn’t agree, and we all went our separate ways. But I remembered that rumor, and soon it would become a pleasant and repeating reality.
A few days ago brought a period of heavy rains to the Seattle area. So I tried to think, what would be my favorite café to go to on a rainy day? Interestingly, it wasn’t one in Seattle or Seoul. I thought back to my days about a decade ago in Washington DC, when I lived in Arlington, just across the river from the capitol city. Not too far
inland, er, into Virginia, two metro stops over the Potomac River on the Orange line, was a neighborhood called Courthouse. Yeah, not the most inspiring name, but it had its charms. Including an awesome independent café right at the border between the commercial and the residential areas of the Courthouse neighborhood. This café was The Java Shack.
So here’s an anomaly. A place that I went to only once, that I barely remember, and is now closed. But hey, its memory can live on through this blog, right? And some day the ex-owners might do a Google search instead of a Naver search and be surprised upon finding my blog posting about their old shop. Or maybe I’ll find a way to get onto Naver searches so more Koreans will find CaféSeaSeo. Hmmm ~
Anyway, this café was called 13oz. It was on the periphery of the Jukjeon café street. While the streets of the central café street area are traversed 95% of the time by pedestrians, this café faced the heavily trafficked Jukjeon-ro. It had snowed that day in Cheongdeok, so I was hope to see a snowy café street, but unfortunately it wasn’t as snowy there. Still, I was in the mood for coffee, so I stepped inside 13oz before meeting a friend for dinner.
You might remember from my Starbucks posting that I started drinking coffee while in college. It’s an age where one can start to safely drink coffee without any developmental effects, and it happens to be an age where one desperately needs to stay awake a lot! Korean cafés, of course, know these facts. So, therefore, one can easily find an over-abundance of cafés near university entrances, or in university neighborhoods. I’m not sure how it was before the Korean coffee boom, but it’s especially pronounced now! Today’s review, my first of a café near a university, is of a typical university neighborhood café, Swingby.
On a busy Friday in early September 2010, I went to the busy commercial area just outside Dangook University in Jukjeon-dong (apart from, by near, the Jukjeon café street). At the time, I still enjoyed going to Caffé Bene, so I went there first for coffee and to catch up on e-mail (sometimes it seems like a never-ending process, sigh…). 😉 After a few hours, I still wanted to hang out around there, so I looked around. Just across the street was Swingby, and it caught my eye with its deck, bright colors, and wink logo.
Here’s another café on the busy and popular Jukjeon café street, but one that I didn’t go to very often: TakeSide. Actually, I only went there once! It wasn’t bad per se. As I wrote in my journal, it “was comfortable and delicious but pricey.” Short and succinct. You see, there are some cafés that think they are in Sinsa-dong (a trendy district in Seoul) and charge almost double the standard price for a drink than the average. Takeside wasn’t as bad, but at ₩6,000 ($5.23 on the day I went, $5.40 today) for a mocha, that’s still about 50% more than the usual price. So even if I like the coffee or drink, and even if the place is nice, I will ding points off of a café unless there is a really good reason to charge such a premium. So, sorry TakeSide, I enjoyed my visit, but didn’t go again.
Before the conclusion, here’s the delicious café mocha macchiato that I drank:
The next place I’ll review is another place that, like The Coffee Bean, has lots of locations, and therefore visibility, but somehow is just part of the landscape and doesn’t get praised or criticized much. But I quickly became fond of it, I supposed partly because I went there with friends and even met new friends there during the first few times I went there. This place, another Korean chain, is Beansbins. (also stylized as Beans Bins, BeansBins, BEANS BINS, or BEANSBINS).
Okay, time to return to the wonderful Jukjeon café street for the next awesome café!
This one is a place called Tomo Tome, right next to I’m Home and at the north entrance to the café street. Now, while my posting on I’m Home had a heavy focus on desserts rather than the coffee there, at Tomo Tome I rightly focused on their drinks. For example:
A delicious mocha, and a nice presentation too. It was August 28, a rainy and windy day in the Seoul metropolitan area, and even though the picture focuses on the coffee, you can really sense the dark atmosphere surrounding it. Ah, it was a great day for coffee. And this was a really good mocha. ‘Tomo Tome,’ I decided, ‘I will be back!’