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February 26, 2015

Brew 3.15: "Clucking Crazy" Chimaek in Insadong

One of the biggest food trends to explode in Korea over the past year or two has been chimaek, or chicken and beer. And for obvious reasons. Separately, they're great, but together... the pair is a match made in culinary heaven.

The latest restaurant to feature the dish is Brew 3.15. Located in an up and coming neighborhood near Insadong-gil, the establishment is the second restaurant endeavor of Daniel Gray, popular food blogger of Seoul Eats fame. I stopped in recently to see Daniel's take on the Korean classic.

The atmosphere was nice. Situated in a more traditional building, the restaurant is small and cozy, with lots of natural light.

My friend and I started with the Beer Sampler (₩10,000) which included four good-sized beakers of craft beer. The sampler included Ryepa by Galmaegi, along with Mocha Stout, Blanche de Hwado and ESA, all by Hand and Malt. It was a good variety, but the Ryepa, an American-style rye strong ale produced in Busan, stood out among the rest. It was quite heavy, but very hoppy and flavorful. Cocktails and craft beer starts at ₩7,000, though good ole Cass is available at ₩4,000. If you're with a large group, the pitchers are a good option.

Next up was the Brew 3.15 Fried Chicken (₩18,000). A huge portion (so big, in fact, we had to take half of it home) of the restaurant's signature dish was brought out with a few homemade sauces and dipping salt. I had expected the chicken to be double fried, as it usually is in Korea, but it reminded me more of the brown bag homemade chicken I grew up with in the American South. The coating was a bit floury, much to my approval, and well-seasoned. The chicken itself was super juicy and tender.

Half of the order had been specially made for us (thanks Dan) and was coated in a yangnyeom sauce and peanuts. Usually, I prefer my yangnyeom to be on the spicier side, but this sweeter one was still good and a nice twist on the original. The chicken balanced well with both the radish and coleslaw that accompanied it, though the coleslaw was more of a fresh salad than the creamy dish I'm used to.

In addition to chicken and beer, Brew 3.15 also serves up traditional bar fare, like fries, onion rings and cheese sticks but we went for the Totchos! (₩12,000). A mound of deep fried potato bites were loaded with meat, gravy, cheese, sour cream and jalapenos in true nacho form. I personally think it's pretty hard to mess up tater tots, but these were especially delicious and make for a great drinking snack.

Our waitress, who was super friendly and attentive, told us to save room for dessert, and although I'm fairly sure we had no room left to save, we managed to scarf down two desserts. The first was the Fried Chocopie with Ice Cream (₩6,000). Chocopie is basically the Korean equivalent of the American Moon Pie, and is one of the most popular snacks in the country. As it turns out, the chocolate marshmallow pie is even better at Brew 3.15, deep fried and served hot, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate drizzle. It was a bit oily, but had a great flavor and I'm confident these things would sell like hot cakes at a state fair.

We were also lucky to try the dessert special, the New York Cheesecake (₩6,000), made personally by Daniel. Creamy, lemony and just the right level of sweet, we inhaled the perfect slice of cheesecake, topped with ripe red strawberries and a drizzle of honey. It had been a long time since I had cheesecake that had tasted that good and I hope Dan adds this item to the menu permanently.

For those seeking a modern (and western) twist on chimaek, Brew 3.15 is the place to go. Also, it's open until midnight, which makes it a great place to grab a few drinks in a neighborhood that generally closes down a bit earlier than other parts of the city.

More Information: Brew 3.15

Address: Jongno-gu, Ikseon-dong 74, Seoul, Korea 110-340

Telephone: 070-4178-3049

Hours: Mon - Sat: 5:00 pm - 12:00 pm

Menu: Click Here

Facebook: Click Here


Although this post was sponsored by Brew 3.15, the opinions are, of course, my own.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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February 22, 2015

Joykolon: Your One-Stop-Shop for Korean Fashion's Spring Trends

Spring is upon us here in Seoul and I could not be happier. My excitement is not only for warmer temperatures, terrace coffees and cherry blossoms, but also spring fashion. And after hitting up a few of the shopping districts last weekend, let me just say that I am absolutely loving the trends for Spring 2015.

And while fashion trends are fairly globalized these days, there are a few that make Korea stand apart from the rest this year, which were evident at last October's 2015 Spring/Summer Seoul Fashion Week held at Dongdaemun Design Plaza. A recap of the week, demonstrated in this video, reveals that some of the biggest trends include fringe accents, polo collars, plaid patterns and sheer materials. Popular colors are yellow, head-to-toe white and denim. Also, last year's trend of rolled up pants and oversized jackets seem to be sticking around.

So where can you pick up these latest trends on your next trip to Seoul? Well, the list is endless, really. But if you're looking for a one-stop-shop that offers a quality collection of Korea's hottest premium brands for both men and women, then look no further than Joykolon, located next to City Hall, a short walk from the Myeongdong shopping mecca.

Read on about Joykolon's best brands and a few of my favorite items I spotted there on my most recent visit. (And good news for those of you outside of Korea: they have a website, too, so read on.)


I think any girl would agree with me. There's nothing sexier than a man in a suit and Customellow has some of the best looking suits on the market, as their concept is to reinterpret the timeless fashion of gentlemen's attire to make the classics fitting for today. 

Pair one of their stylish suits with a crisp button down and a solid color necktie to stand out at the office or an upcoming networking event. For those looking for something a bit more casual, Customellow also has a nice selection of shirts and jackets perfect for a cool spring day. I even spotted a few colorful designs, like the sea life themed raincoat, perfect for the guy who's still a child at heart. 

Lucky Chouette

One of the more popular brands among Korean female celebrities is Lucky Chouette, a contemporary street-wear line of the Jardin de Chouette luxury brand. Their collections offers a range of simple designs with a hint of fun and funk, and have been sported by stars such as Haeri from Girls Day, Nana from After School, actresses like Park Shin-Hae, Min Hyo-Rin, and top model Jang Yoon-Ju.

I really love Lucky Chouette's colorful collections and their signature characters (how cute are those owls?!) that they incorporate into many of their items. I particularly loved the fun lip print shirts and the navy blazer, which looked nice with a pink and white button down. The thing that I love most about this brand is that you can mix and match their pieces to create a casual look great for brunch with the girls, or a dressier one for a night out on the town.

Suecomma Bonnie

Designed by fashion leader Lee Bohyun, Suecomma Bonnie offers handmade shoes made of only the highest quality materials imported from Italy. Although known for feminine and sexy styles, the brand also has a great selection of really unique and stylish sneakers. These shoes have been spotted on stars such as Boa and Song Hye Gyo.

The best sellers at Joykolon, it would seem, are the sneakers. And who wouldn't love to done these colorful works of art on a day at the Han? I fell in love with a pair of pink, white and silver patent leather loafers that incorporated a bit of this season's fringe trend.


Don't miss Couronne, a luxury accessory brand that offers items crafted of carefully selected high quality leather. This spring's collection, entitled "Alice in Wonderland" is a line of beautifully made handbags, wallets and accessories, all incorporating the brand's signature of simplicity and timeless chic in exquisite color patterns.

Yellows, whites and blues are the go-to colors this season, as the handbags suggest. The texture of the leather used on the accessories at Couronne is also fabulously luxurious and the high quality is instantly obvious. And while I tend to use basic, neutral colored handbags, I was totally loving the metallic snakeskin clutch that shimmered under the lights.


Series, yet another brand under the Kolon name, provides urban casual styles with a neo vintage feel for the fashion conscious man. Series has been growing quickly since its launch in 2006 and currently operates a total of 60 independent stores. It has attracted many followers through its support in the cinema, photography and music industries to foster a unique style of integrating function, culture and fashion.

Not only are Series' shirts, sweaters and jackets appealing to the eye, but they're also of the highest quality. I really loved the color scheme and patterns (plaid, plaid and more plaid!) of the items on display and really can't wait to see these wearable looks on Seoul's fashionable men very soon.

Kolon Sport

Perhaps Kolon Sport is the most widely known of the brands listed in this post, and for good reason. They have been one of the leading brands in the outdoor market since the brand first launched in 1973. Under the slogan, "Your best way to nature," the brand boasts a long tradition of supporting explorers to pioneer the untouched corners of the world. 

Kolon Sport's designs focus on quality, function, safety and comfort. Their wares are colorful and place an emphasis on design, but they also provide protection from the elements and comfort. Like many of the other brands listed above, Kolon Sport is offering special gifts for Chinese shoppers until the end of the month in celebration of Lunar New Year.

I know you can't wait to get your shopping shoes on, so here's all the info you need to get yourself to Joykolon to pick up the latest styles and all the hottest spring trends. Also, don't forget, you can just as easily shop from the comfort of your home at wannabK.com.

More Information: Joykolon

Address: 20 Mugyo-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Phone: 1588-7667

Hours: Daily 10am-6pm

How to Get There: From exit 4 of City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Lines 1 & 2), walk up the stairs and take a right. Walk through City Hall until you reach the street. Take a left and walk straight for about 2 minutes. Kolonjoy will be on your left in the basement.


Although this post was sponsored by wannab K, the opinions are, of course, my own.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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February 21, 2015

AXA English Website Makes Car Insurance Easy for Expats

Car insurance. Every driver is required to get it to be able to drive in Korea. And, like in any other country, it's important to carefully consider the brand and coverage, which is not always easy for non-Korean speaking expats. Fortunately, AXA Direct has just launched an insurance website entirely in English to make the entire process a lot less stressful!

So, what exactly is AXA?

AXA is a global insurance brand, with 100 million customers in 56 countries worldwide. For the past 6 years, AXA has been chosen as the No. 1 global insurance brand by the reputable marketing institute Interbrand for their exceptional know-how and expertise. So, if you are a car owner and are required to get insurance, why not choose a reliable brand that is already recognized as the best?

How can I access the website?

Click on over to www.axa.co.kr and choose "English" from the language tab at the top of the page. It's as simple as that!

Will I understand everything?

While other insurance websites provide only limited information in English on their policies, AXA includes detailed information in English, from contracts to claims. Now you can choose your own insurance products and understand every single detail about it without asking for help from your Korean friends and co-workers.

Won't it be a lengthy process?

Nope! The best thing about the AXA English website is the little red button that allows you to get a quote in just 5 minutes. Through the AXA English Website, even expats can easily get quotes and sign up for their own car insurance policies.

All you have to do is enter your registration number, phone number, and car information. Select your driver type, and then you will see a list of recommended packages that you can immediately subscribe to. Also, if you have any questions, you can simply click “Request a Call.” They will connect you with an agent that works exclusively with international residents.

What if I get in an accident?!

Seeing as traffic accidents are fairly common in Korea, expat drivers may worry about the language barrier when making claims. With AXA Direct, however, such communication issues cease to exist. Drivers can feel at ease thanks to their thorough and reliable claim service provided in English.

They even have a hotline dedicated to English speakers, providing accident reports and emergency assistance. It's not always easy to remain calm during an accident, which is why AXA offers a quick and easy mobile service for accident reports. All you need to do is tap your location on the mobile map, which will immediately prompt an agent to report to your location to file a report for you.

Additionally, AXA provides care service for drivers in minor emergencies. If you’re locked inside your car, or if your car unexpectedly stops working due to fuel shortage, a flat tire or a dead battery, AXA will assist you with its easy and reliable care via its mobile service. Think of AXA as your insurance guardian angels!

AXA sounds too good to be true! Their coverage must be expensive!

Actually, AXA provides a variety of discounts on products such as its mileage option or black-box registration. With their mileage option, you pay as much as you drive and get an additional discount for driving less. (10% off for driving less than 5000km , 5.6% off for driving less than 9000km). Other incentives include a black-box registration discount offered to those who drive with black-boxes, and an accident-free discount offered for those who drive accident-free for 3 years. These three discount programs can be combined, saving you up to 21.5%! Why not visit AXA to find more about it right now?

This post was written by AXA Direct for Seoul Searching.

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February 20, 2015

Busan Shark Dive: Up Close and Personal with Jaws

When I was a young gal, I had an ungodly fear of sharks. Perhaps it was the animatronics at the Jaws ride at Universal Studios, or the threat constantly reiterated by the warning signs on the beaches of Destin, a beachside town in Florida where my family and I spent our summer vacations. So, it came as a surprise to me that I had an extreme desire to swim with them when I learned of the opportunity offered by the Sea Life Aquarium in Busan.

So, I left my nerves (and inhibitions) in Seoul and headed down to the southern coastal city to take a dive with Aquatic Frontier, a foreigner-owned and -operated diving company based just outside of Seoul.

Upon arrival, I was greeted by the bubbly Sammy, my scuba instructor for the day, as well as a British couple who would also be participating in the dive. We were brought to a room where we were briefed in detail regarding the indemnity form we were all required to sign, which basically stated we wouldn’t (or couldn’t) sue, should we happen to lose an arm, end up with a collapsed lung, or find ourselves in some other similar situation.

This had the same effect on my nerves as hearing side effects of a medicine or a medical procedure from a doctor does. But, I did feel reassured learning that in the history of the program, there had been zero serious issues. Sammy was very confident in her instructing abilities, and assured us we would be fine.

We then changed into wet suits and donned our gear, which was ridiculously heavier than I imagined it to be. Fortunately, the buoyancy of the water made the weight bearable.

Sammy taught us the basics of scuba diving: how to deflate our BCD (scuba suit), how to empty our masks should they fill with water and most importantly, how to breathe. While this step seemed as if it would be the easiest, it was one of the more unnatural things I’ve ever had to do. The strange breathy noise the regulator produced, as well as having to practice breathing face to face with a giant sea turtle made me immediately uncomfortable; I all but gave up a few minutes into training. I’m really glad that I stuck with it, though, as I ended up getting it after a few more attempts.

I was convinced I wasn’t ready but followed Sammy into the tank. When my feet touched the bottom of the tank, I instantly felt in control, knowing going back up wasn’t an option. After checking our air gauges and exchanging “A-OK” hand gestures, Sammy proceeded in taking us for a stroll around the tank.

Blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks and sand tiger sharks gracefully glided through the turquoise water, inches away from our faces, obviously disinterested in who we were and what we were doing in their territory. I took comfort knowing that these species of sharks aren’t particularly attracted to mammalian blood, but the mere sight of their menacing jaws and powerful bodies sent a rush of adrenaline through me. Ginormous Queensland groupers, ancient sea turtles and other varieties of alien-like creatures only contributed to the rush I was experiencing, keeping me wide-eyed, seemingly unaware of the waving families on the other side of the glass.

Although our walk was approximately half an hour, it felt like minutes; I’m sure the adrenaline had something to do with that. As we made our way out of the tank, it felt strange to experience gravity once again. My lips were purple by this point and I had lost all feeling in my toes, so I thoroughly enjoyed the hot shower that followed.

After the shark encounter, I took a walk around the aquarium. It had a few exhibits worth checking out, like the touch tanks and rehabilitated porpoises but honestly, none of them could compare to what I had just experienced. And while it was nice to observe the animals from behind a sheet of glass, nothing can quite hold a candle to the strange and exhilarating experience of being a part of the underwater world, walking alongside nature’s most feared predators and majestic creatures.

More Information: Busan Shark Dive / Aquatic Frontier

Dates: The dive dates are pre-scheduled, but usually held on Saturdays and Sundays. You must make a reservation to participate in the dive. Check the schedule here.

Price: ₩150,000 (includes ₩70,000 deposit)

Website: Click Here

Facebook: Click Here

Map (Sea Life Aquarium):

Although this post was partially sponsored by Aquatic Frontier, the opinions above are, of course, my own.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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February 19, 2015

Guilty Pleasure: Authentic Southern-Style Comfort Food in Itaewon

Something about the cold weather really puts a damper on my mood. So, what do I do when I've got the winter blues? I eat! And while I've managed to find comfort in certain Korean foods over the years, nothing really puts a smile on my face like the fatty goodness that is Southern food. Fortunately enough for me, there's been a renaissance of Seoul's international food scene over the past year, with a growing focus on Southern-style barbecue and comfort food. Yet, no one seems to have hit the nail on the head quite as well as Guilty Pleasure.

Obscurely tucked away on a side alley in Itaewon, Guilty Pleasure exudes the ambiance of a hip city hangout, with its sleek, backlit bar, fanciful lighting fixtures and neon wall hangings. Yet, nothing about it feels pretentious. Which is fitting, seeing that its menu places an emphasis on comfort food.

Although I had heard rave reviews about Guilty Pleasure's weekend brunch, I wanted to check out its weekday dinner menu, which looked as equally as impressive.

My friend and I started with the Spinach Dip (₩9,000) and the Mac and Cheese (₩10,000). The almost curry-like dip was nice and smooth and tasted good on the accompanying baguette slices. Usually, I prefer my spinach dip to be a bit on the cheesier side, but considering the dishes that followed, it was probably a good thing it wasn't so rich.

The chef (who hails from New Jersey), killed it with the mac and cheese, which incorporated a cauliflower base, bacon lardons, chunks of tender pulled pork smoked in-house, truffle oil and fantastically gooey cheddar cheese. The top was browned and crispy, just as the dish should be. I was already feeling full and the mains hadn't even come out yet.

Next up was the Cuban Sandwich (₩15,000), one of a few sandwiches on the restaurant's varied menu. In addition to the classic ingredients of ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, homemade duck prosciutto is added to give the sandwich a unique taste. The duck was fairly poignant but tied the sandwich together nicely. The pressed Italian roll was also great. Although it wasn't the best Cuban I've ever had, it's definitely one of the best in Seoul.

The star of the meal was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken (₩17,000). Marinated in Guilty Pleasure's homemade buttermilk for three days, and then deep fried, succulent chunks of chicken are served over creamy sausage gravy alongside two buttermilk biscuits. The dish was wonderfully rich and the nice combination of textures, flavors and spices paired perfectly. I couldn't get enough of the crunchy and crispy batter shell. The biscuits were the real deal, bringing me back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood.

The bar has a great selection of beverages, and we settled on a hoppy Lost Coast IPA (beers start at ₩7,000) and a Fresh Limeade (₩7,000), which I'll definitely be going back for in the summer. Crisp, tangy and refreshing, it makes for a great thirst quencher.

To finish off the meal, we had the Beignets (₩5,000), an item that instantly made me ecstatic the moment I saw it on the menu. I doubted they could live up to those at Café du Monde in New Orleans, and while they were a bit different, they definitely exceeded my expectations. The sugary fried donuts were served a top of a warm blueberry sauce, making it cobbler-like, a great way to end an indulgent dinner.

I know I probably shouldn't visit Guilty Pleasure very often, especially if I plan on donning a bathing suit this summer, but I have a feeling I will be back fairly often. The ambiance, authentic dishes and value for money make Guilty Pleasure a must-visit for anyone craving tasty comfort food.

More Information: Guilty Pleasure

Address: 1F, 2-10 Itaewon-ro 20-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul / 서울특별시 용산구 이태원로20길 2-10

Phone: 02-794-4332

Hours: Tues - Thurs 6pm-12am; Fri 6pm-1am; Sat 12-3:30pm & 6pm-1am; Sun 12pm-3:30pm & 6pm-12am

Facebook: Click Here

Get There: From exit 4 of Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), walk straight until you reach Dillingers. Go down the adjacent stairs. At the bottom, turn right and walk straight for about one minute until you see the Guilty Pleasure sign on the right hand side. Walk up to the top of the stairs and go in the building on the left; the restaurant is on the 1st floor.

Although this post is partially sponsored by Guilty Pleasure, the opinions are, of course, my own. 

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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February 9, 2015

Hus-hu: Seoul's Best English Speaking Dermatology Clinic

After struggling with rosacea-- a vascular disease that causes intense redness and flushing of the face-- for the past few years, I decided to bite the bullet and experiment with laser therapy. After doing a bit of research on the internet (and cringing at some of the photos of the extreme side effects) I figured the benefits those that had had the procedure spoke of outweighed the risks.

So I made my way to Hus-hu Dermatology Clinic in Apgujeong. I had been to the dental clinic of the same name and location before and was exceptionally happy with their services and the results, so presumed the skin clinic would be the same. As it turned out, I was right. 

Immediately upon arriving, I was greeted in the luxurious waiting room by Eugene, a bubbly staff member who spoke English flawlessly, and who would be my interpreter for the day. The clinic offers interpreters for Chinese and Japanese speakers, as well, a great service for expats and visitors on medical tourism trips. After signing in, I was brought a tray of pineapple juice (beneficial for skin vitality) and an antioxidant pill to aid in repairing my skin. The nurses were incredibly hospitable and were quick to take care of my every need.

Eugene and I were ushered into the doctor's office where I was able to easily explain my skin's condition, as well as the treatment I was seeking. I learned in nursing school that having a physical list of questions prepared to ask ensures that you won't forget anything; the doctor took his time in answering each of mine. Having Eugene there made me feel far more comfortable, as I've noticed that even doctors who speak English sometimes cannot express themselves or understand the patients completely. I was confident that all of my concerns were being communicated properly and that I fully understood the treatment and post-procedure care.

Shortly thereafter, I cleansed my skin and was brought into an impeccably clean examining room where I would receive the procedure. The Vbeam Perfecta is a state-of-the-art machine that features advanced micro-pulse technology that all but eliminates patients' downtime by preventing purpura, or ugly purple bruising. Vbeam Perfecta is the latest generation of Vbeam laser offering combination therapy of pigmentation, diffuse redness and spider veins. In addition to rosacea, the treatment of scars, stretch marks, age spots and acne.

I'm not gonna lie. The procedure was unnerving. The loud blasts of each pulse of the laser made me jump, which was only worsened by the bright lights and the pain. Yes, it was painful. But only momentarily. After about 20 minutes, the treatment was finished and I was given an injection (which I didn't even feel) to prevent swelling and inflammation. A cooling pack was then applied to my skin for an additional ten minutes or so.

Before I left, the receptionist showed me pictures of her own face the night after undergoing the treatment. Swollen and red, it didn't look good. Anticipating similar effects, I decided to stay home for the remainder of the day. But, much to my surprise, I experienced no such effects. With the exception of being a bit blotchy, I was as good as new the following day, when I used plenty of sunscreen to avoid damaging my skin, which was no doubt more sensitive than usual.

I've been using the topical cream the doctor prescribed me to help treat the rosacea in conjunction with the Vbeam procedure for about a week now. Although the results are not miraculous, I have noticed a decrease in redness and bumps. Such treatments usually require a few sessions, of which I will decide to pursue next month. Unfortunately, rosacea cannot be cured, only controlled, so I know that the road to treating it is a long one. Still, I find comfort in knowing that the team at Hus-hu is ready to support me with their unwavering professionalism, extensive knowledge of dermatology and their fantastic bedside manner.

More Information: Hush-hu Dermatology Clinic

Address: Gujeong Building 3rd Floor, 610-5 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (서울시 강남구 신사동 610-5 구정빌딩 3층)

Phone Number: 02-1577-3782

Website: Click here

Facebook: Click here

Make a Reservation: Fill out the online request form. A coordinator will be in contact with you within 24 hours to confirm your appointment.

Hours: Monday, Friday 10am-8pm; Tuesday - Thursday 10am-7pm; Saturday 10am-4pm; Closed Sunday; Lunch Break 1-2pm 

Price: Consultation Fee 10,000 (Procedure prices vary; for promotions and special deals, click here)

To Get There: From exit 3 of Apgujeong Station (Seoul subway line 3), walk past Café Pascucci and IBK Bank to the Gujeung Building entrance just before the crosswalk. Take the elevator or the stairs to the 3rd floor. (For a map, bus directions, and taxi instructions in Korean, click here.)

*Although this post is partially sponsored by Hus-hu Dental Clinic, the opinions are, of course, my own. 

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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February 3, 2015

Hakrim Dabang: Seoul's Original Cafe

Although there aren't any statistics to back this up, I assume that Seoul, South Korea has a bigger concentration of cafes than any other city in the world. Which is pretty impressive, considering that coffee was practically unknown until the late Joseon dynasty in the early 1900s. Even then, coffee shops, or dabang as they were referred to, were few and far between, with Seoul's coffee culture only developing into what it is today in the 2000s.

The early dabang (다방), unlike the franchises and themed cafes of today, were small gathering places where the young would hang out to listen to music, spend some time with a date, or look for a new significant other. Some dabang had sketchier reputations, and were places men could call to have coffee delivered to their homes, complete with a pretty female server. I'll let you figure things out from there.

These days, traditional dabang are fairly difficult to find in Seoul, as most have been replaced by bigger (and in the eyes of young Koreans, more stylish) chains. Yet there's one little gem that has stood the test of time and whose doors have remained open to this day.

Hakrim Dabang is nestled in the theater district of Hyehwa and is one of Seoul's oldest, opened in 1956. In its early days, Korea’s students struggling for democracy used to discuss philosophy, literature and art at this very place.

If I had to guess, I'd say that not much has changed since its opening, as every detail of the cafe seems to possess the spirit of earlier times. A collection of browning vinyl records sit neatly organized under a vintage speaker. Wrinkled black and white portraits of composers and musicians overlook wooden booths and shelves of vintage photography books. And the walls, with chipping paint and an occasional love note scribble, threaten to confess every secret of the cafe's former visitors.

Patrons of all ages, from the very young to the very, very old, chat and sip their beverages, which are far more enjoyable, no doubt, than the instant coffee once served in institutions like Hakrim. In addition to having their own house blend (which starts at ₩4,500 a cup), the dabang also offers lemonade, a nice selection of teas and even cocktails. Their homemade cream cheese cake (₩5,000) is also a popular item.

Hakrim Dabang's nostalgic atmosphere has made it a popular filming location. K-dramas The Heirs and My Love from the Star have both had scenes set in the cafe and as such, the cafe has become pretty popular with tourists and locals alike, and stays quite busy throughout the weekend. Still, nothing feels touristy about this place. In fact, an afternoon spent here sipping coffee and taking in the mellow sounds of classical music makes one feel as if he or she has traveled back in time a bit, back to a day when things were slower and simpler.

A scene from My Love from the Star, shot in Hakrim Dabang. (Photo: SBS)

As Korea's coffee culture continues to evolve and entrepreneurs are forced to think outside the box to create innovative cafe spaces and coffee beverages, Hakrim Dabang will remain a reminder of the beginning of it all, and a place to relive the memories and times of the past.

More Information: Hakrim Dabang

Address: 94-2 Myeongryoon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Hours: Daily 10am-Midnight

Phone: 02-742-2877

Website: Click Here

How to Get There: From exit 3 of Hyehwa Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), turn 180 degrees and walk straight for a few minutes. Hakrim Dabang will be on the left.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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