Cafe Guide: Namsan Munhwa Dabang, Suda, Fave
One of the coolest – and sometimes most overwhelming – things about Seoul is how many cafes there are. Even ignoring the major chains, it sometimes seems like there’s an independent café for every resident of the city, with each having its own style and flair. Each week we take a look at 3 independent cafés in different neighborhoods, to help you out next time you need a place to get some work done, take a date, or just grab a cup of coffee.
1. Namsam Moonhwa Dabang – Beotigogae
남산 문화 다방 – 버티고개
Korean dabangs, old school coffee houses, are probably at least partially responsible for the current café boom. While some coffee shops go a more contemporary, maybe more western route, plenty of dabangs still exist, usually with homier, more comfortable spaces and more modest drinks. Namsan Moonhwa maintains this not-trying-to-impress-anyone atmosphere, with a large, open space decorated modestly with toys and trinkets. In front, a small patch of fake grass houses a couple of camping chairs for anyone trying to chill outside. Their menu is pretty extensive, and generally everything is cheap and solid. This is overall a really relaxed place to stop and get a cup of coffee and chill, though I haven’t even mentioned what is arguably the best thing about this spot. While you’re enjoying whatever you’re enjoying, you can hang out with the owners’ giant blonde Labrador, who basically lives there and is extremely friendly. A real dabang vibe.
2. Café Suda – Mulaedong
수다 – 문래동
Mulae is looking like it’s gonna be the hot area of this season, so we can probably expect a café explosion in the near future. For now, this small neighborhood still retains its quiet charm, and the coffee shops are no exception. Café Suda feels like what would happen if you crossed a library with a small fishing shack – white wood walls covered on one side with posters, and on the other with book shelves, close off this narrow spot. The coffee counter is in a kind of false building façade, and a varied array or repurposed wood and metal chairs and tables line the space, as well as the small loft area upstairs. The menu is pretty standard, featuring basic coffee items as well as a few snacks and sandwiches. I definitely recommend this place to study in or catch up with the homies, but enjoy it before the spot blows up.
3. Fave – Bangbaedong
페이브 – 방배동
Fave is the kind of spot that targets the kind of people that would describe a place as their “fave.” In a word, it’s chic. Everything is made of either glossy white or black fiberglass, offset with the occasional concrete pillar or a jar of pink feathers here and there. In another word, Fave is also, admittedly, a bakery. So, I guess two words if you include the “a.” While we tend to shy away from the bakery-cafes in this section, Fave’s stuff is honestly really good. All of the pastries are not only extremely instagrammable, if that’s your thing, but also expertly made and more reasonably priced than you might think. As far as the coffee, they actually sell their roasted beans by the kg, and the around-the-world selection is nothing short of extensive. The drinks they make with these beans are very good and, of course, appropriately nice to look at – think careful layering of milk and espresso. Yeah, it’s kind of bougie, but we all need a little bit of that once in a while.
If you’ve been to any of the spots we listed this week, or think we fucked something up, let us know. For more Seoul cafes, check out last week’s list.
Photo credits: @fave_coffeebaker @skfk1715, @green_on_you, @ally_cruise