Tag Archives: best ktown cafes

My K-Town cafe haunts

2 Jan

I recently went on a set-up who asked me to dinner at a K-Town BBQ house (yes we went to a smelly, smoky, all-you-can-eat buffet for a first date — we’ll get to him later). After dinner he wanted to get dessert, so we went to a nearby cafe called Koffea. While it was the closest, we could’ve chosen any number of cafes within a 5-block radius; K-Town isn’t anything if not inundated with overpriced lattes. Like holding a green and white Starbucks cup gives you a sense that you belong to an elite group of coffee drinkers who can afford to spend $5 a day on a heavily syrup-ed cup of pumpkin spice, drinking coffee is considered a status symbol in Korea. It’s why there are as many cafes as there are bars in K-Town, and trust me, that’s a lot.

While Korean cafes are much like American coffee shops with the overpriced drink and food options and aesthetic decor, each cafe has its own specialty and purpose. For example, if you want to study and get some work done without any chit-chatting nonsense, you go to Tom n Toms. The tables are small and round — incapable of fitting more than one laptop at a time. If you want to go on a casual date, you want to go somewhere that’s pretty but offers some semblance of privacy, like Yellow House. Now since K-Town cafes are a plenty, I thought it would be helpful to break down which cafe you should go to when you want to study, play, or yes, even find a new lover. Because god forbid you walk into a chic, upscale cafe with a book bag while the penguin-suited waiters try to offer you macarons …

If you want to study…
Go to Tom n Toms. There are no fancy cups and the decor is simple, which is why the coffee is relatively cheap compared to the $8 price point you’ll find elsewhere. You can go there and stay for hours without feeling obligated to leave. If you’re in finals mode and want to do an all-nighter, there’s a 24-hour Tom n Toms on Wilshire Blvd., but you won’t be in want of this cafe — there’s practically one popping up on every block.

If you want to study and pick up a date for Friday night …
Go to Cafe Mak. The chairs are comfy and varied, which pleases a hybrid of customers: Those who want to quietly type away on their laptops and those who want to place a book in front of them while sipping really good lattes and chat. Just last week I went with a friend to get some work done and there was a pair of girls sitting at the far end of the cafe, lackadaisically studying. A few minutes later, a couple guys walked in and strategically sat at the table right next to theirs. When I next looked up, all four had abandoned their work materials and were happily asking each other what they did for a living (clearly not much as I was there at 2 p.m. on a Thursday) and exchanging numbers.

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Picking up girls at a cafe is actually a brilliant idea. You take out the creepy variable, and since you’re in a well-lit area, you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. When you’re at Mak, make sure to order the Green Tea or English Breakfast Latte — the milky frothy goodness won’t disappoint. And try a slice of sweet potato cake, it’s a Korean dessert that’s light, not too sweet, and cute enough for an Instagram pic.

If you want to go on a date with the girl you just picked up at Mak …
Go to Yellow House Cafe. Like the name suggests, this cafe looks like a house and when you go inside, it feels like you walked into a quaint backyard. The prime real estate at this cafe, however, is the back room where you get complete privacy along with the feeling that you’re holed up in a cozy cabin somewhere — all for just $10. And that $10 will literally be the price of your coffee, smoothie or anything else on the menu. But if you’re on a date, why not splurge and get their s’mores? It’s ridiculously overpriced considering all the ingredients tally up to mere dollars at the grocery store, but when else can you eat s’mores without crouching next to a fire with mosquitoes gnawing on your legs? Another great option is Coffee House Heyri. It has a similar vibe as Yellow House with a pool of water, potted fauna and just slightly less cozy.

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If you want to girl-talk in style …
Go to Caffe Concerto. This is one of the newer cafes in K-Town and has everything you could want to eat and drink: cocktails, espresso, pasta, macarons. The decor is modern funk with heavy curtains and amazing dishware. To order: Turquoise macarons along with your favorite hot tea, which comes in a pot that sits over a lit candle to keep your tea warm. And if you’re really lucky, you might spot a K-Town celebrity (I use the word “celebrity” loosely) from the “K-Town” YouTube reality show — similar to the “Jersey Shore” variety but not as cogent nor nearly as entertaining. The last time I was there with a girlfriend, Jasmine Chang of “K-Town”  was sitting across from us. Her high-pitched, raspy voice on the show is really how she talks in real life. Go figure.

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If you want to feel like you’re at a Korean club …
Go to IOTA Coffee & Bakery. If “Gangnam Style” was your gateway to the wonderful world of K-Pop, indulge at IOTA. You’ll be greeted by a robot-like hostess with porcelain skin and a 90-degree bow who will then direct you to your seats. The waitress’ tinkling voice and perfect little steps will make you wonder if she and the staff are manufactured like a Korean edition of “Stepford Wives.” You may be scared. But soon, the white cafe’s surround-sound K-Pop will soothe you and the air-grinding, doll-like pop stars in the music videos flashing across the many TV screens will put you right at ease.

Another fist-pumping option is Caffe Bene, which is thus far the newest cafe in K-Town and is right across the street from IOTA. A famous Korean actress named Han Ye-Seul opened the cafe and if you’re lucky you might see the K-Drama star. Just a warning, these cafes are heavily populated by 1st generation Koreans, so if you’re not one, you will stand out like Kobe Bryant in rural Korea.

If you want to be waited on by a good-looking staff …
Go to Haus Dessert Boutique. It’s common knowledge that K-Town cafes frequently hire their waiters based on a certain thematic look. Some cafes are known to only hire guys with pre-Selena Justin Bieber hair, while others require rail-thin girls. This cafe, however has eye candy for both genders. Oh, and the food and drinks are fine, too.

 

As for the guy that tried to sweep me off my feet with all-you-can-eat, suffice it to say that there wasn’t a second date. (Over 30 years old and still living with the ‘rents? No thank you.) While I don’t recommend Korean BBQ for a first date, it’s fantastic for any other occasion or if you just want unlimited amounts of really good food. For a post on how to do Korean BBQ right, stay tuned. 🙂