I didn’t have time to try many of the independent coffee shops around Seoul but did try a few in Gyeongju and Ulsan. Here is a little about two of the best that I came across.
Cafe 737 is a family-run coffee in the tourist town of Gyeongju. I loved it because of the vibe; as a third space it has a homely vibe that Starbucks can’t emulate.
The coffee shop greeter is an elderly golden retriever.
The restaurant itself is bright and clean inside with some nice touches including bric-a-brac, both English and Korean books and a selection of pot plants.
Even by the standards of the best independent coffee shops, they make a mean cup of coffee and had great food to accompany it. I would love this coffee shop as a regular hang-out.
They have their own page on Facebook.
Cafe 57 is in the old town centre of industrial city Ulsan; the city has tried to spur redevelopment of the area by promoting businesses aimed at, and run by young people. This means that the area is full of restaurants, fashion shops and small coffee shops.
Cafe 57 has a clean minimalist interior with a black ash counter area and coffee bean roasting apparatus on the floor. What made Cafe 57 unique for me was the unswerving focus on making a great cup of coffee. It is not about a third space or a lifestyle expression of the consumer – it is just about making the very best cup of coffee available.
Watching the cup of ‘hand drip’ coffee being made by the owner was the experience of watching the craftsman at work. This was the best cup of Ethiopian coffee I have every had.