5 best Hongdae cafes
Avoiding Japanese tourist-laden options and the Coffee Prince, here’s a list of our five favorite Hongdae cafes.
Coffee Lab feels that you’ve walked into some architecturally-hip scientist’s lair: dark steel interior, exposed piping and walls lined with glass vials and unidentifiable roasting instruments.
Owner and barista Bang Jong-Koo roasts all of his beans at nearby Coffee Lab Roasters, Coffee Lab’s roaster and factory. The most popular blend at the time of writing is the “Mad Scientist,” sold by the cup or bag (200 grams for ₩12,000).
Those 18 and over might be tickled by the menu’s “Advanced Coffee (Adults Only)” section, the most titillating of which is 사나이커피 or “Man’s Coffee,” a shot of espresso laced with rum and topped with foamed milk.
327-19 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 서교동 327-19), +82 2 3143 0908
Open Mondays-Thursdays 11 a.m.-midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
Ding Dong Café
A Traveler’s Cafe tucked in a golmok, or street, off Hongdae’s café golmok, Ding Dong takes its traveling sub-moniker to heart with compasses and old maps strewn about the café and clocks set at all time zones.
It is like climbing into an old-world explorer’s attic gone wild on primary colors: bright blue walls, yellow shelves and rough-hewn red tables and chairs.
Pick any of the four seating spaces: to the left are low tables on a wooden maru floor, to the right is the smoking room, farther back is a private room that seats 10 and single diners can take seats up at the bar.
Ding Dong is best known for its brunch -- the Traveler’s Brunch comes with a bagel, cream cheese and jam, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and salad with balsamic vinaigrette for ₩9,000.
333-24 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 서교동 333-24), +82 2 334 3381
Open Mondays-Fridays 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m., weekends 11 a.m. -11:30 p.m.
Cafe Suda Cafe
Suda dubs itself “The Chatty Library,” and it’s easy to see why: drunk and emptied wine bottles sit beside novels and encyclopedia sets on the bookshelves.
In keeping with its library theme, Suda has long desks with lanterns and mismatched chairs. Its leather couches and armchairs are pushed a little too closely together, perhaps designed to create conversational nooks.
Suda serves pancakes, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Recommended is the rosemary roast chicken, cucumber and mayo sandwich for ₩7,500, hold the cream cheese.
In addition to the usual coffee and tea fare, this Hongdae café also serves beer, sangria by the glass and wine by the bottle.
338-3 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 서교동 338-3), +82 2 3142 9131
Open Sundays-Thursdays 1 p.m.-11 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays 1 p.m.- midnight
Seo Duk Sik Coffee Club Kaldi
The first thing to notice upon entering this small, 20-person capacity café is the antique coffee presses and percolators lining the shelves.
Seo Duk Sik Coffee offers over a dozen blends by the cup or the bag from every major coffee-exporting region, including Colombia, Guatemala, Hawaii, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Thailand.
For those who take their coffee with a side of Gorillaz or The Lonely Island, Seo Duk Sik Coffee is worth checking out. Visit their sister location in Gyeonggi-do Paju-si.
330-10, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 서교동 330-10), +82 2 335 7770
Open Mondays-Fridays 10 a.m.- midnight, weekends 11 a.m.- midnight
Handmade World seems to be part of a new hybrid of cafe-slash-handcrafts shop. From the walls hang hand-stitched purses, coasters and tchotchkes made by the owner, Song Jin-suk.
The café feels more like a quaint English countryside teahouse than trendy café. It’s so quiet, tapping away on a laptop can sound like a jackhammer.
Song hosts weekly needlework classes. Call ahead to reserve a spot.
Handmade World boasts the cheapest coffee prices at ₩2,500 for a café Americano.
327-35 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu (마포구 서교동 327-35) +82 2 393 7741
Open Mondays-Fridays 10 a.m.-8 p.m., weekends 10 a.m.-12 a.m.