Parc Hannam-dong Seoul

Parc in Hannam-dong describes itself as "Korean Mother's Recipes and More". I tend to describe park as "modern Korean". But I think maybe the better way to describe Parc would be "Korean slow food". With it's adorably illustrated "know your namul" place mats, changing menu and focus on quality of ingredients it definitely has a Korean meets California Cuisine vibe.

Parc has a set menu that seems to usually have one seafood and one meat option which comes with rice, banchon and the soup of the day. The current menu is often posted on their Facebook page but only sometimes in English (don't worry, there are English language menus available when you get there). You can also add on sides, but the sides are almost as big as the main dishes so I would recommend splitting one between two or more people since the set menu itself is quite filling (in the above picture we did not follow this advice and ordered one side each which was way too much food but delicious).

When I went there was an option described as "chicken braised in soy sauce" and a squid option. I went with the chicken option and added a side of japchae (glass noodles and stir fried vegetables) and Ashley got the squid and a side of the jellyfish salad. I chose black rice for my dish and was surprised when my tray came with a pat of butter which the waitress instructed me to place on my rice and let melt a bit before mixing my rice into my bowl with the chicken, sweet potato, soft egg and greens. My unconventional bibimbap was nothing like I expected my dish to be. To be honest, I was really happy because soy sauce braised chicken sounds kind of boring and one note and this dish was anything but. The chicken dish had a mildy sweet soy based sauce with a hint of cinnamon. The addition of fresh greens to the bowl kept it from feeling too wintery and we all know I'm a sucker for anything with an egg on it. Each banchon (small side dish) had a unique taste and overall I would say it was much fresher and much subtler in flavor that most of the Korean cuisine I've had (with the exception of Sanchon).

My japchae had a lot of vegetable mixed in and was delicious but I barely put a dent in it because the chicken bowl, rice and soup were already a pretty solid amount of food. However, the jellyfish salad was the true star of the sides. Cool jellyfish mixed with cucumber, red peppers and just a touch of wasabi was the Summer salad I didn't know I had been looking for.

Located next to Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Parc is a great choice for a lunch or dinner to add on to a modern art excursion. Or, if like me, you live a seven minute walk away, for anytime you want Korean cuisine with a twist. As well as having lunch every day, they're also one of the few places in the area that serve food until midnight on the weekends (last order 11:00pm).

Parc is located at 734-1 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul on a side street between Itaewon-ro and Leeum Museum. Come out Hangajin Station exit 3, walk straight on Itaewon-ro and turn right at the road between the Audi showroom and Trevia restaurant. Continue up the short road and cross the street running perpendicular continuing on the road that's uphill and slightly to the right. Parc will be on your left.

Maddux Pizza

Pepperoni Slice at Maddux in Itaewon Seoul

Remember that time I wrote about the different horrifically bad nachos I've paid too much money for in Seoul? I could write a similar story about pizza. It would involve the time when Dan and I had just got here and we thought "tortilla pizza" was maybe just a weird translation for "thin crust". It's not. It's also terrible and very popular among young Koreans. The next part would be about the time we went to Monster Pizza after seeing several New York sized pies and slices that smelled divine being eaten in front of the Bottle Shop, only to discover that the pizza is cooked on a giant version of those weird conveyer belt toasters they have at delis and breakfast buffets, ensuring the crust is always extremely pale and dough-y. The former shining star in our pizza excursions was Brick Oven New York Pizzeria in Gangnam. It's a bit expensive but quite good. Also, they use deck ovens, not brick ovens, which is the right choice for New York style pizza but maybe they should reconsider their name?

Maddux Pizza opened in Itaewon in May but I didn't get around to trying it until a few weeks ago. The pizza is cooked in a proper deck oven and it's actually cooked long enough for both the crust and the pepperoni to reach ideal crispiness. Like a true slice joint they don't have a whole lot in the way of flavors which is fine with me since I usually want pepperoni or a plain slice anyways. I have branched out once to the artichoke slice which is a little too creamy and decadent for me to eat all the time. If you're interested in trying the artichoke, I definitely recommend splitting it with somebody, it's good but intense.

Probably the main difference between Maddux and your neighborhood pizza place in New York is the $4.00 price point for a plain slice and the fact that they don't deliver, but non-Korean food is always marked up here and I know getting cheese that isn't plastic-y is expensive so I don't mind the slightly higher price. As for the delivery? Fingers crossed they're on Bird Riders or Y-not soon, I'd much rather have it than the mediocre pizza we usually order when we're too lazy to cook or go out.

Maddux Pizza is located at 129-9 Itaewon-dong. From Iteawon Station exit 4, walk south on Bogwang-ro and take the first right, go down the slight hill and take the first left. Continue down this smaller street a ways and Maddux Pizza will be on your right.

Update: When I was ordering delivery tonight I noticed Maddux is now available through Bird Riders .  WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOO!

Left Coast Brunch

Left Coat Burgers Breakfast Sandwich Itaewon Seoul

Like most people that have spent, well, any time in New York and hungover, I believe the bacon, egg and cheese available for purchase at your closest bodega to be the holy grail of hangover foods. So when I got back from California a few weeks ago and stumbled in to Left Coast Burgers for brunch, not hungover but extremely jet-lagged (basically the same feeling, amirite?) I was super happy to see that they'd added a breakfast sandwich to their recent brunch expansion. The Left Coast breakfast sandwich has the requisite bacon, egg and cheese PLUS avocado, tater tots smashed into a crispy "tot-brown", mayonnaise and their house hot sauce that I absolutely ADORE. Also, some tomatoes and lettuce, but I could take or leave those, honestly. Even though Left Coast's breakfast sandwich is an "elevated" bacon, egg and cheese, it does a great job of upgrading your eating experience without being pretentious. I'm not saying I don't like a poached egg on a croissant with chevre and arugula as much as the next girl, I'm just saying that sometimes I'm really just looking to stuff my face with some extremely not fancy tater tots soaked with egg yolks and hot sauce.

breakfast burrito Left Coast Burgers Itaewon

I mentioned that I'm in love with the house hot sauce, right? When Left Coast first rolled out their brunch offerings a month and a half or so ago, the breakfast burrito was my immediate go-to. Fluffy scrambled eggs, chorizo that is spicy and legitimately chorizo instead of suprise, sweet Korean sausage, cheese, pico de gallo and, yes, more tater tots. I'm pretty sure this is the thing for which the smoky, Mexican influenced house hot sauce was actually developed, and I'm happy to dose my burrito liberally. Both the burrito and breakfast sandwich are served with a side of roasted potatoes and onions that are also pretty spicy with a lovely contrasting sweetness from the caramelized onions. Between the breakfast burrito and the breakfast sandwich, both the Californian and New Yorker parts of me are extremely happy with the brunch menu but if those don't suit your fancy, there is actually even more deliciousness to be had.

Chicken fried steak with white gravy Left Coast Burgers Itaewon Seoul

Yes my friends, that is a giant chicken fried steak with white gravy and mashed potatoes. I haven't ordered this as many times but it's not because it's not just as good it's just SO MUCH that for me it's more of a once in a while brunch food. The breading on the steak is crunchy, well seasoned and absolutely perfectly fried. Dan objects to their being mashed potatoes on a breakfast plate with chicken fried steak and I mostly think the serving is so huge they're not really necessary but also, I'll never say no to mashed potatoes. If you're missing home, this plate is the ultimate plate of American comfort food.

Blueberry pancake Left Coast Burgers Itaewon Seoul

With sweet, crunchy crumb topping, blueberry sauce and whipped cream, I think the blueberry pancake is for somebody with more of a sweet tooth than I happen to have. The pancake itself is literally bigger than my face and heavily studded with tasty blueberries. Fluffy and well griddled, the pancake itself was delicious but for me, the toppings are a little too much, I'd rather just have butter and maple syrup. But if you're somebody who likes to have brunch as an excuse to eat cake for breakfast, this is definitely something you're going to want to try.

Full disclosure: I'm pretty sure this picture was taken at dinner time but it's worth noting that Left Coast has most of it's burgers and a fair number of appetizers (like these out of control totchos) available on the brunch menu too. My burger of choice is the John Wayne which has cheddar, crispy onion rings and tangy barbecue sauce because I'm a cowboy like that.

 Left Coast Burgers serves brunch Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:30. Along with their website you can also keep up with new menu items and monthly specials on  Facebook

They're located at 130-43 Itaewon-dong about one and a half blocks south of Itaewon Station exit 4.

PLANT Itaewon

PLANT vegan cafe Itaewon

Plant is a small vegan cafe and bakery with a menu that changes weekly. I'm obviously not vegan but I am lactose intolerant, really into vegetables and from the Bay Area. I've been meaning to go to Plant since we moved to Korea but it's only since the weather started warming up that I've really gotten into exploring Itaewon's back alleys and actually figured out the location of the cafe.

This past week I decided to stop by after physical therapy (read: I was starving) and ordered an iced chai, kale and mushroom salad and a big slice of pumpkin cake. I didn't really think about it at the time, but this was the first chai I've had since moving to Korea and I'm not sure I've seen it on the menu anywhere else. It was a teensy bit on the sweet side for me, but I happily drank it down and definitely see myself stopping by to get it again in the future.

Kale is a very exciting thing for me. We talk about missing kale all the time in my house. I miss kale chips. I miss kale salad. I miss kale pesto. We very occasionally get kale in our CSA but it's not the cavolo nero of my dreams. Obviously, I had to order the kale and mushroom salad. Sadly, it was more mixed green with some kale than the mountain of kale I was imagining but it was still a delicious and filling salad. The dressing was agave mustard and I'm just not really into the flavor agave gives things, especially when it's not cooked but the dressing complimented the other flavors of the salad well enough for me to enjoy it (but I'd probably have enjoyed it more with another dressing). If I get something from the savory side on my next visit to Plant, I'll probably try something new but that doesn't mean I wouldn't eat this salad again if it made another appearance on the menu.

vegan pumpkin cake from Plant Itaewon

I think the baked goods is where Plant really shines. Everything is vegan and some items are gluten free. I love that there's a wide variety of flavors and that the presentation is simple and beautiful instead of twee. I went with the pumpkin gingersnap cake which was delightfully moist and had a surprise crunchy cookie layer in the middle. The cake was wonderfully spiced and not too sweet. It was actually much more to my taste than the cupcakes at Sugar Daddy and I'm excited to go back and try more things.

I also got some dog treats for Ada. She was initially excited but didn't end up finishing one of them. I think huskies are pretty into animal protein.

Plant is located at 63-15 Itaewon-dong.

Sugar Daddy

Sugar Daddy Itaewon

Let's be honest, I think the cupcake trend in America had long since jumped the shark and it always was mostly terrible. Most shops do a great disservice to a dessert that can be just as delicious as a full sized cake by focusing on twee over taste. Though I do find Sugar Daddy a little sweet for my taste, I think they do a great job of finding a balance between presentation and flavor and I love that walking into the shop it immediately has the warm, sugary smell of a real bakery. The mismatched, funky decor in the small shop also helps keep it from being overly precious and makes me want to hang out there more.

As well as cupcakes they also have a wide variety of cheesecakes, tea, juice and coffee but the only one of those things I've tried is the coffee, which is solidly average for espresso drinks in Seoul. They also sell a few cakes by the slice and dog biscuits that I'll be picking up for Ada once she's no longer on a prescription only diet.

Chocolate Mint Cupcake Sugar Daddy Itaewon

My first visit to Sugar Daddy, I got a choco mint cupcake. The cake was pleasantly dense, moist and chocolate-y. The frosting was a lightly mint flavored American buttercream. American buttercream doesn't really do it for me in the same way as it's European counterparts and I found it too sweet and stiff. Everything about this cupcake from the texture of the cake to the sweetness of the buttercream tasted quintessentially American childhood, so if you're feeling a bit nostalgic, or missing a taste of home, this cupcake will certainly satisfy your cravings.

The carrot cake is probably my favorite so far. Once again, the cake was nice and moist. The spice balance was spot on. I did find the cream cheese frosting a little sweet but not as much so as the mint frosting.

Nutella Cupcake, Sugar Daddy Itaewon Seoul

I really wanted more from the Nutella cupcake. It had the same chocolate cake as the choco mint cupcake which I liked, but the frosting seemed more like just chocolate buttercream with a half a Ferrero Rocher on top than then hazelnutty goodness I wanted from something Nutella flavored. It was fine, but I probably won't get it again.

I've heard much about the maple bacon cupcake and I've been disappointed that it hasn't been in the case when I've visited. I'm pretty much a sucker for any maple bacon dessert.

Overall, I like Sugar Daddy. I'm not going to be there all the time, but it definitely hasn't seen the last of me yet.

Sugar Daddy is currently located at 56-21 Itaewon-dong down an alley right next to McDonalds. They often have a sandwich board out on Itaewon-ro making it easier to find. In May, Sugar Daddy is moving across the street and up the hill to the 2nd floor of 118-5 Itaewon-Dong.