Last Updated on May 27, 2020 by Christine Kaaloa
The Coffee Prince Cafe Hongdae Seoul & the notion of a Korean breakfast
I was in Seoul for my birthday weekend with my friend, Chance, when the urge for Sunday morning brunch struck. We were starving and in the mood for a lazy meal at café. Our café requirements?…
Funky, trendy, Seoul-ish
(we were being girlie) So we went to Hongdae.
But then the same conundrum that always arises around finding food in Korea, …did. What to eat? … No. Where.
Being a veggie traveler in Korea is always daunting around meal time. Where do you find a restaurant with food menus in English? I’m still reliant upon picture menus and finding those kind of menus take time. Until now, it’s never occurred to me that even in a cosmopolitan city, such as Seoul, finding a café to have brunch at requires effort!
Koreans and Breakfast Brunch?
Aah… brunch at a Korean café. Easy solution, right? That’s what Chance and I thought.
You’re probably thinking… coffee and a lightly toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese or an egg. Or maybe yogurt, a fruit cup, a salad or split pea soup! Whoa, cowboy…
Brunch is a western concept and for busy and time-occupied westerners, it’s very common to skimp on breakfast or skip it all together! This is not something a Korean would do.
What is breakfast to Koreans?
For Koreans, not having breakfast is a big ‘No-No’. In fact, to Koreans, breakfast is the most important meal of your day! Thus, the brunch dishes I mentioned above, along with scrambled eggs, vegetable salads and sandwiches (in any form) are not common dishes in cafes. In fact, the only eateries you’d typically find these foods are in a western(ized) restaurant.
When I first arrived at my Korean school, each morning my co-teachers would greet me with:
“How was your breakfast?“
Good Morning, Christine! How was your breakfast?
This was my teachers’ daily standard greeting to me. It happened so frequently it grew uncomfortable. So I lied. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the truth about me and breakfast– that most of the time, I didn’t have it!
Why disappoint people?
What’s the most popular dish served at Korean cafes ?
So what do cafes in Korea serve other than coffee?
Waffle and crêpe desserts!
You may think I’m kidding but I’m not. To some, that might qualify as a form of a breakfast, but to Chance and I , this was dessert and we were on diets! Waffle after waffle, after waffle, all smothered with dollops of whipped creme, ice cream, chocolate drizzles, etc… A request for “a slice of healthy” seemed like a tall order.
Half an hour into our search, it seemed we’d be collapsing to a western restaurant. Quiznos, Dos Tacos and a Subway were all gearing up for a game of Ki-Bi-Bo! (aka the Korean version of the Rock, Paper, Scissors). What to do?
The Coffee Prince Cafe (or Tiramisu Cafe)
I was momentarily distracted by a familiar sign (see top photo) drew my attention and pulled me into a side alley.
If you’re a K-drama fanatic like my mom is, you’ll recognize the faces of on the photo at the top, from the once popular television series, The Coffee Prince! The show takes place in a café and is about the characters which work there. Tucked off in one of the Hongdae café alleys and neighbor to the Hello Kitty Cafe, rests the Tiramisu Cafe. The name is misleading as many MBC fans really know it as the Coffee Prince Cafe, as it was once the set background for the show.
We stepped inside the small two-story eatery and explored. Did it look anything like the show? Maybe I didn’t remember the location correctly, because exactly nothing felt reminiscent of series, except for the framed posters and photos from the show.
Was this cafe our godsend… our prince? Unfortunately not.
The menu still ranged from coffees to desserts and everything felt a bit overpriced.
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