llustration By Ann Da-young
If you want to know what the young and the trendy are eating in Seoul, the city's thriving college hangouts may be your best bet.
For the particularly discerning connoisseur looking for a stylish and tasty, yet reasonably-priced, place to eat and drink, the neighborhood around Ewha Womans University in northern Seoul is an ideal destination.
The area spans about a half-kilometer from Ewha Womans University subway station to the college's main gate. It's packed with beauty salons, clothing stores, restaurants and cafes and is popular among students and nonstudents alike.
Throughout the week student Kim Eun-ju can be spotted rummaging through the racks of clothing in the area's small fashion boutiques.
"Items sold here are more up-to-date than other parts of Seoul and help me stay attuned to the latest fashion trends", said the twenty-year-old. "Plus, the romantic, ivy-covered architecture of the college campus nearby definitely adds a classic, feminine vibe to the place".
Another fan of this female-friendly neighborhood is Park Jae-ryoung, a twenty-something student at Ewha Womans University who says she spends most of her free time with friends in the area, even on weekends when she doesn't have class.
Unlike Kim however, Park says her top priority for her repeated visits to the area is to venture out to the school's back gate, where quaint coffeehouses and restaurants line the pristine, tree-lined street.
"The atmosphere here is more serene than the overly-commercialized area near the main street, with more room for me to relax and just laze around", she said.
One of her favorite places includes Princeton Square, a large book cafe that holds more than 3,000 books for its visitors to browse through.
The ambience, like the name hints, is quite preppy, with college pendants and posters hanging on the walls along with wooden tables where visitors can sip on a cup of espresso while reading.
Inside La Bonne Tarte, a dessert cafe just a few doors down from Princeton Square, the sweet scent of freshly baked tarts and pies filled the room covered in ivory-colored wallpaper.
The owner, Kim Hee-yun, bakes over 27 kinds of tarts herself, ranging from white chocolate cheese to sweet potato tart, using only organic and trans-fat free ingredients.
Since the street is tucked between two prestigious universities - Ewha Womans University and Yonsei University - the restaurateurs there say they primarily cater to students and academics looking for a quiet, atmospheric vibe along with quality cuisine.
With these customers, upscale establishments including Loft, Lord Sandwich and Chef g 101 have been regarded as well-kept secrets among alumni with hard-to-please palates.
At Loft, visitors can savor quality French cuisine while taking in a romantic view of the neighborhood replete with gingko trees and century-old buildings.
"Our menus include a mixture of both the East and West", said owner Jung Hyun-min.
Lord Sandwich, a two-storied faux-fortress deli with pale concrete walls and portraits of 18th century English monarchs, has made a name for itself with tasty sandwiches using freshly-baked bread.
Lee Jung-eun says that she stops by at least once every two weeks with friends to get her hands on the sandwiches.
"The bread is lightly crisp on the outside but warm and filling on the inside", she said.
Owner Kim Min-soo says that he is strict when it comes to using the freshest ingredients possible. According to Kim, all the veggies used to make the sandwiches are brought in from his farm in Paju, Gyeonggi.
Meanwhile, the area's other landmarks like Ttalgigol (Strawberry Town) and Painter and Cook have become popular hangouts among foreign visitors as well.
Opened in 1969, the iconic Ttalgigol was once a famous strawberry ice cream shop until it decided to specialize in bunsik, or light Korean meals.
The owner, Chun Choon-ok, says that cheese kimchi soft tofu stew and bulgogi dolsot (stone pot) bibimbap made with butter are original meals he created to help his foreign customers familiarize themselves with spicy Korean food.
Adjacent to Ttalgigol is Painter and Cook, which has been a draw among visitors for its variety of original donkkaseu or deep-fried pork cutlet and fried rice offerings. The establishment is also a family-run business.
Amidst a slew of cafes and restaurants in the area, there are a few bars as well including Yesterday and Paganini - a rare find in a neighborhood that is for the most part, booze-free.
Upon stepping into Yesterday, which is modeled after a classic bar in the West, one can easily encounter professors and graduate students casually lounging around with beers in their hands.
If Yesterday is famous for its pop rock music, Paganini has been adored among visitors for its classic jazz music that it plays on its state-of-the-art, hand-crafted speakers lined around its bar.
"As long as I remember, the street near the university's main gate has always been bustling with visitors coming in to shop in one of the bohemian clothing stores that has settled there since the early 1990s", said Oh Eun-jin, a graduate and professor of Ewha Womans University.
Lord Sandwich / Yesterday
Located in a modern concrete building, Lord Sandwich provides a gallery-like space for visitors with European portraits from the 18th and 19th centuries draped on its walls. The restaurant has made a name for itself for its daily baked ciabatta rolls, organic basil, thyme, and complimentary salad. The BLT and Eggmoney sandwiches are top sellers. The place also sells mushroom sandwiches which are specially made for vegetarians.
Prices of sandwiches range from 8,000 won ($6.70) to 13, 000 won.
Hours are 11.30 a.m. to 9 p.m.daily.
Opened in 1987, Yesterday is a Western-style bar decorated with knickknacks imported from Los Angeles along with antique pictures of Hollywood stars James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. The bar has played old pop and rock songs since it opened and has drawn regular customers, including professors from Ewha and Yonsei, back for decades. Along with beers sold at reasonable prices, Yesterday special cocktails concocted with fresh lemon, strawberry or orange are popular alcoholic offerings. Side dishes including fried rice, royal tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) are top sellers as well.
Prices range from 3,000 won to 9,000 won.
Hours are 5 p.m. to 12 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Chef g 101 / Loft
Chef g 101
Chef g 101 is a casual European dining restaurant owned by chef Yang Ji-hoon, an internationally renowned cook who has become popular in recent years after appearing on MBC's entertainment TV show, "Infinite Challenge". The restaurant is known for its rucola flat bread and risottos.
Prices range from 18,000 won to 35,000 won.
Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
50-7, Daeshin-dong, Seodaemun District, Seoul
(02) 365-4101, www.chefg101.com
Loft is a fusion French bistro, renowned for its romantic glass walls that allow an overall view of the lovely tree-lined streets near the back gate of Ewha Womans University. Its interior, surrounded by mirrors and with wine glasses lining the ceiling, creates a bright, glistening dining experience during the evening, making the place popular for blind dates. The menu includes pasta, steak and salad, but Loft's top seller is its signature fusion dish - curry coated black rice with vegetables and bacon made with a French-style sauce. Finish the meal with handmade black rice ice cream.
Prices range from 13,000 won to 32,000 won.
Hours are from 12:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. daily.
La Bonne Tarte / Painter and Cook
La Bonne Tarte
Opened in 2004, this dessert cafe is reminiscent of patisseries in Europe and has won a steady stream of regular customers for its variety of handmade, organic tarts. Blueberry cheese tart, banana tart, sweet potato tart and white chocolate cheese tart are among a total of 27 tarts offered on its menu. The cafe also offers a variety of coffee and tea beverages as well as handmade cookies.
Prices range from 4,000 won to 5,000 won.
Hours are from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Friday.
(02) 393-1117, www.labonnetarte.com
Painter and Cook
This bright, vividly painted restaurant specializes in homemade donkkaseu, or deep-fried pork cutlets. On many days, the owner can be found painting on the restaurant's walls. The restaurant is favored by students and foreign visitors to the area and the walls near the entrance are painted with short memos in many different languages, the work of international customers who have visited. The restaurant offers 17 kinds of donkkaseu dishes. Donkkaseu made with chilli and pineapple as well as fried rice made with cheddar cheese and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) are the best sellers.
Prices range from 3,500 won to 10,000 won.
Hours are 12 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. daily.
Princeton Square / Paganini
This cafe welcomes its visitors with an upscale, library-themed atmosphere. The cafe has cherrywood tables and lamps and is popular among students in the neighborhood. Princeton Square offers over 3,000 books and magazines, ranging from college textbooks to the most recently published magazines, along with a variety of beverages including coffee and patbingsu.
Drinks range from 6,500 won to 10,000 won.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
(02) 393-5171, www.princetonsquare.co.kr
Head to bar Paganini located near the main gate of Ewha Womans University for cocktails and wine. This dim-lit bar, opened in 1998, has been a draw among customers for its jazz and classical music. Owner Kim Jong-geun also plays LP records upon request. Long Island iced tea and apple martini are best sellers. Side dishes include a cheese platter and cake.
Prices range from 7,000 to 8,000 won.
Hours are 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. daily.
Ttalgigol is a Korean restaurant which prides itself on 43 years of history in the area. Due to its location next to Ewha Womans University back gate and Yonsei Foreign Language Institute, its original dishes include cheese kimchi soft tofu stew and bulgogi dolsot (stone pot) bibimbap made with butter.
Prices range from 2,500 won to 5,500 won.
Hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
*Reporting by Cho Jae-eun, Chang Hae-won, Yang Su-bin.
By Special Reporting Team
Source : koreajoongangdaily.jo...
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