The area around Seongsu in the east of the city is another part of town where gentrification is seeing old-fashioned neighbourhoods slowly – or not so slowly – turn into trendy and sought-after districts. As with other locales like Gyeongnidan, Yeonnam-dong and Sangsu, cafés are often at the forefront of this social change, enticing younger people into the area and driving the “regeneration” (if you want to call it that) of previously depressed or downmarket places.
Here it is, the most eagerly awaited post of the year; the second annual Soju Sunrise Food Awards, showcasing the best foreign food that I think Seoul has to offer. No doubt squadrons of restaurateurs are reading this with fear in their souls, whole chains poised to collapse if they aren’t mentioned in my year-end review. What can I say? With great power comes great responsibility.
As with last year’s favourites – quite a few of whom return this year – I don’t present this list as a definitive “best of” but rather a compilation of my favourites, the places I return to again and again, the places that made 2016 worth persevering with. No doubt in each category there are better places around, and you should feel free to set me right in the comments – but these are the places that pop up again and again on my Instagram feed.
Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and see you all in 2017!
I’m just back from a wonderful twelve days in Vietnam and oh my lord, the street food. So much pho, banh mi, bun cha, and everything served with a mountain of fresh herbs and a bill for $1-2 at most. Vietnamese food seems to be having a moment in Seoul right now, as everything does eventually. Everyone and his wife is churning out banh mi and some of them are doing a pretty decent job.
The cafe opposite Bonny’s Pizza has undergone more changes than David Bowie in his pomp. For a long time it was the home of the late lamented Indigo, a veritable Haebangchon institution. More recently it morphed into Good to Go, briefly housed the popular Italian restaurant Il Gattino, and then became Fat Cat, before adding a very shortlived “food truck” counter serving up sandwiches and subs to the late-night crowd.
Café culture was never something I was that keen on – perhaps because I come from Glasgow, where
most all social interactions centre around the pub. If there’s one thing that living in Seoul is slowly bringing me around to (other than eating fermented cabbage), though, it’s the joy of a good café.
For years, I’ve been saying that a proper bagel place in HBC / Gyeongnidan would make a fortune. For years! I even considered opening a bagel shop on the HBC main road. The only thing that stopped me was (a) I don’t have the money to open a bagel shop (b) I don’t know how to make bagels. I was so close, though, dammit!
[UPDATE, JULY 2017: This pop-up has now ended. You can find Pick a Bagel at their main location in Apgujeong.]