Cafe Guide: Sido, Box Coffee, Urban81
1. Sido – Yongsan
시도 – 용산
A lot of the coffee shops we list are often best described as “minimalist” – that’s either an indication of what’s trendy in coffee shop aesthetics, or our taste in cafes, or both. But the fact is, there are different kinds of minimal. Sido’s minimalism isn’t the dark, clean slate kind or the rough, raw concrete variety – their aesthetic can be summed up as wood, brown paper, tape. This small, cream-colored café is hidden on a residential side street, and is a quiet escape from the energy of the Yongsan area. Sanded wood chairs and loungers are parked around tables of the same color, as well as 5 wood boards outside that turn the curb into outdoor seating, kind of. Post cards, signs, and handwritten menus are posted on the walls with thin yellow tape. The minimalism extends to Sido’s menu; their coffee varieties are white, and black. That’s it. Two non-coffee drinks, and affogato. 5 things in total. That’s the menu. The coffee is great, but in many ways, Sido’s simplicity is arguable its best feature. Hit this spot to chat with a friend, do some studying, and unclutter your mind.
2. Box Coffee – Yeonnamdong
박스커피 – 연남동
Box coffee is kind of legendary among hip hop heads in the Hongdae/Yeonnam area, and it only takes walking in the door to tell this place is of the culture. The walls in this corner space are plastered with stickers and posters from Seoul’s underground acts, and a wood plaque outside deems it “힙합성지” – hip hop holy ground. Similar to the other hip hop coffee shop down the street that they compete with (stay tuned), their coffee is decent, not amazing, but huge. A couple thousand won gets you something like a liter’s worth of Americano, which is pretty good for fueling the hustle. They also specialize in watermelon juice, which is pretty evident when you see the table next to the entrance lined with whole watermelons. This spot is a bet for meeting people or hanging out with someone, especially if they’re into Seoul’s hip hop scene.
3. Urban81 – Samsungdong
어반81 – 삼성동
Urban 81 is, in some ways, very urban – concrete, steel, and glass. In other ways, this modern café brings a measure of tranquility through nature. Hanging plants add a brush of green that make the space refreshing, though it should be noted that, honestly, nothing about this spot’s interior is particularly unique. Nice, yeah, but nothing too special. What makes Urban81 notable is how gorgeous their drinks are. Specialties like the goldccino, 81cream latte, and mallowmocha are delicately layered in small glasses and topped with accouterments like chocolate chips and marshmallows. These drinks are more notable than their espresso or plain coffee, so if you’re into lattes and shit like that Urban81’s menu is gonna make you happy. It’s also worth noting that they have a huge projector playing movies against a wall, which gives you something to look at in between studying, or talking to your friends or whatever. As a coffee purist I have to say, the 81 cream latte choco is pretty unreal.
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: @boxcoffee.official, sh_.hh, @tina.yoon, @duoduo.b