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The Brown List: Evening in Ewha, Part 1

June 14, 2010

Ewha Women’s University, an often-overlooked neighborhood north of Sinchon, is the pleasant, sophisticated sister to the wild, party-animal Hongdae and the bar-crawling barbeque-loving Sinchon. The whole neighborhood has the same relaxed and gentle feel of Hongdae’s Children’s Park, starting with the outdoor plaza-cum-amphitheater a block away from the subway station on the left (exit 2), full of relaxing university students and children playing around the metal sculpture fountain.

The area is loaded with cute cafes and dessert places — and everything is easy to find, located within two blocks of the main stretch between Ewha Women’s University (line 2) exit 2 and the university itself, which is also very much worth the visit both for its longevity and historical value — dating from 1868, it is the world’s largest female educational institute — and its architectural interest, juxtaposing classic brownstone buildings and a huge, open, green campus…

…with architecture the likes of which you’ve never seen before, such as this underground modernist marvel, looking as if a futuristic subterranean civilization colonized the staid and prim grounds of Ewha’s campus.

There are many places to explore on campus if you are looking for a nice, green hike, but if you are there for Ewha’s main draw — the cafes and the chilling out — then read on. After spending a good deal of time around Ewha’s Women’s University I settled on a place to get a coffee and relax a bit (in my next post I will show you all the interesting places I didn’t patronize). Ewha’s has no shortage of selection, from your standard fare corporate coffee places, to the smaller chains that specialize in desserts like Manoffin or Chocolateria San Churro, to Western dessert chains like Auntie Em’s or Cold Stone, to book cafes and, my favorite, to independent no-name places with good coffee and better atmosphere.

My choice was tough but since it was a fantastic day out I settled on the independent cafe with a patio, Cafe de Heba, which is on a road immediately after the park on the left.

Being a unrepentant coffee snob, I ordered the Americano despite the heat — and do they know how to make an Americano! Espresso-based drinks here go for about 3,500-5,000 won, which is reasonable for the area, and the coffee is certainly worth the price. The menu also includes pasta and a number of desserts, though the kitchen space seems fairly limited for them to excel at providing a full, hearty lunch or dinner. As with all no-name cafes, the real draw is the nice atmosphere — the patio is pleasant and the whole cafe has nice decor, color schemes and classy silverware, and the indoor area lets in a lot of light from the outside. The place is nice for both reading or for a date, particularly on a nice day.

After working up my appetite by reading all afternoon, I went in search of dinner using my new favorite method of finding a good Korean restaurant amidst all the identical-looking Korean restaurants — asking the locals. A women who spoke just enough English to help me guided me take a right out of Cafe de Heba and turn down the next alleyway on the right where I saw this hole in the wall place, cafeteria style, with the kitchen in full view producing plate after plate of what looked to be the house’s most popular draw, a succulent chicken and onions dish with a thick sweet and spicy sauce and generous banchan (the small dishes on the side). I pointed to the pair beside me and gestured “Give me one of those” and found myself woofing it down amidst the loud Ewha student’s commentary on the TV’s election results coverage. 6,000 won for this hidden treasure.

Enjoy it! And check back in a few days for part two of the Ewha tour, for more of the cafe and dessert offerings in the area!

This post was originally published at Painting the Passports Brown.
One Comment
  1. el el-perro permalink
    June 21, 2010 3:33 am

    Ha. You’re livin’ in the New Yorker’s past, bub.

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