A stroll down from Hapjeong station Exit 6

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This article was originally supposed to have been published in another publication, but was never released. Hapjeong is still a great place to go.  Mary Jane's bartender/manager, Jake, has left as of this writing.

If you didn’t know then you must not be in the know, is what I said to my friend as she told me there was nothing around Hapjeong Station. Maybe she imagined I was taking her to a dark alley instead of a romantic spot to spend a quiet Saturday. Around the outskirts of Hongdae, near Hapjeong Station, is a wealth of hidden eateries, dessert shops, and bars that are so cool that they don't have to brag about it. They simply are. Each time I walk down these streets they seem quite empty: barren. It's chill and relaxed and I don’t have to fight for elbow space among purse-toting guys and their overly-heeled girlfriends. It's what Garaksugil and Samcheongdong were like before the hordes of daters ravaged them.

If you head out Hapjeong station exit 6, you’ll have to make the first left after the SC bank. Head down the street you'll first encounter “Cusco”: a Peruvian food restaurant. It's exotic, but that’s about all it’s got going for it. (I only recommend the mata tea and muffins). Swing a right at the corner and you’ll encounter a string of cafes. The most famous one is “Café Maro.” They roast their own coffee and they have decent desserts and sandwiches. Further down you'll find “Café Hola Lisa”: famous for brunch, “Kiosco” for lunch, “Lucky Strike” for cocktails, and “Chez Prune” for French Bistro cuisine. The whole street has a cosmopolitan flair.

There are a few gems on this street. First is iAn Cat Wine Café (The “A” is displayed upside down so it resembles a wine glass.) Here the kitschy atmosphere has a trio of playful fur balls that pace the mismatched couches, giant birdcages, and bicycles. The wine isn't badly priced either (30-80,000 per bottle). My favorite cafes on this street are “Muy Bien” and “Julgeoun Book/Café.” Muy Bien, in my opinion, has the best cheesecake in the city: its velvety cheese is highlighted by the blueberry compote. Oh, and they have excellent hot chocolate with a hint of cayenne pepper. Julgeoun Book/Café is a library run by hippies, so you can chill and read any of the books they have or just work on your computer. There is an air of camaraderie and quiet contemplation here; it’s one of my favorite places to write over a cup of coffee.

For food, I recommend “Mary Jane.” Here steak is king. You get a massive chunk of meat (300 grams or 10.5 oz) for only 27,000 won. I ordered mine medium rare that’s the way it came to the table with checkerboard grill marks, savory/tart steak sauce, and fresh French fries. It is a manly chunk of meat- and much better than those franchise steak joints. They’ve got Guinness on tap and you’ve gotta stay for the cocktails. The bartender/manager has world-class skills. He made me a White Lotus: Bourbon, amaretto, and banana; and it was divine. My friend, who doesn’t like any strong alcohols, down the whole thing and later was wondering how she got so drunk. His Long Beach Ice Tea looks like the beach sunset and a kamikaze drink that tastes like a breeze. He even has drinks off-menu like a peach schnapps/apple and cranberry drink that would most likely change your quiet, shy date into a tigress.
Next time you have a weekend day and you’re looking for some place surprising and not yet discovered, I recommend you head over to Hapjeong Station and do a bit of exploring.

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