Haebangchon, better known as HBC was one of the very first trendy neighbourhoods I discovered in Seoul. I was living in Suwon at the time and one of my friends moved to the area, if she hadn’t I might never have known about the cool spot that lay just a short walk from Itaewon. The neighbourhood was previously a settlement for North Korean refugees, plus with it being so close to the US army base it was not a desirable spot for South Koreans. However many other people from all over the world rented apartments and made it their home, which is why so many cool restaurants and bars opened to cater to them. Things have seriously changed since those first few years, however it is still one of the trendiest spots to eat, drink and be merry in (the place even has its own twice yearly music festival).
Casablanca – I had to put this one first because it was the first restaurant in Haebangchon I ever ate at. Plus it has the world’s best sandwiches. I remember when they had a tiny sliver of a store and didn’t open until 5pm on weekends, so people would sit outside on the steps waiting for it open. Their chicken and lamb Moroccan sandwiches are orgasmic, and while they have increased in price over the years to 7,000 won they are still one of the cheapest eats around. Last year Casablanca opened a second restaurant across the street called Morococo Cafe, which is slightly more formal and serves Moroccan dishes like chicken tagine, lamb shanks, and over rice dishes. The food is hella tasty (especially the lamb over rice) and the prices are great, almost everything is under 10,000. If you haven’t been yet you have to check it out ASAP as it is one of my favourite places in the whole city.
McCoy’s – McCoy’s is a European style bistro that has been a fixture of the neighbourhood for several years now, and after a handful of visits I have yet to have a bad meal. Owner and Chef Denis has an amazing array of tasty dishes like the Burrata & Gazpacho, Pork Chop, Cod Fillet and Spatchcock Chicken (14,000 – 30,000). They also have a very reasonable wine list. It is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner that doesn’t break the bank.
The Pocket – A great spot to grab a cocktail in HBC is The Pocket. Operated by the boys from Southside Parlour, the bar sets itself apart by using recycled ingredients like citrus peels to make the mixers to make its cocktails. The cocktails all run at 10,000 each but they also have a Prosecco one for a bargain 5,000 won and cheap ‘industry night’ on Mondays. As well as being environmentally friendly they also donate 10% of their profits to local charities. So drink up, its for a good cause.
The Royal Food & Drink – The Royal is one of my favourite places to eat a good healthy brunch. The food definitely skews towards the nutritional side while being tasty at the same time. They are quite the hike up the hill (take the local green bus) but the fact that they have cocktails makes it worth it. They also have a new rooftop, although currently the brunch menu is not served there. My favourite menu item is the Green Breakfast with a Bloody Mary on the side, but they also have bagels, smoothies, sandwiches and salads (7,000 – 15,000).
The Workshop – If you are looking for a good casual pub to hang out and watch sports then Workshop is one of my favourites. The large floor to ceiling windows make it a super open indoor/outdoor feeling. They have an excellent menu of pub grub like burgers, pies, and BBQ on weekends. There’s also a good mix of beers, wine, and cocktails to drink and it always a popular spot to drink on weekends.
I would be here all night if I tried to list every place that is good in HBC as there are so many, but honorable mentions go to Phillies (pub), Linus BBQ (American BBQ), Supermarket White Burger Stand (Burgers), Chenin Blanc (Bakery), Bucket Beach (cocktails), and Bonny’s Pizza (Pizza), though only if there is no queue, otherwise get it to go.