We needed lunch after our long morning of palace-prodding, and we needed it NOW. Luckily, the neighborhood of Samcheondong was a short walk from Gyeongbok Palace and like every other neighborhood in Seoul, its streets are lined with restaurants and cafes. And even with my blurry hunger-vision, I was able to find a place pretty quickly that had something we all wanted (well, at least what Chooch and I wanted; I never bothered to ask Henry HAHAHA).
Korea has a LOT of very trendy, Instagram-aesthetic eateries, and that was really fun when we were looking for cafes, but for the most part when it came to actual meals, we wanted authentic, ahjumma-run kitchens. And Samcheongdong Kimbap was perfect for that.
The menu outside was all in Korean (and some Chinese) so Henry was like, “Erin, please help. I need your help. I know everyone on the Internet thinks I am a Super Capable Man and that you are worthless in every capacity, but I can’t read this menu and you can so please help. Help.”
FUCK YES. Right away I was like, “They have kimchi jjigae*, we’re eating here.” Because I was craving kimchi jjigae all morning!
*(Kimchi stew. It comes in a small bubbling cauldron of Korean majesty and splendor.)
And Chooch really wanted ramyun, so this place was golden.
There was a self-ordering pad on all the tables and I was excited to put my basic hangeul skills to use. I was starting to fill it out by checking off Chooch’s ramyun, and marking down an order of cheese kimbap, when the waitress came over in a hurry and took the pad from me. Not in a rude or shitty way, though! Please don’t misunderstand – she was really friendly. But I think she thought I was struggling and she wanted to help by taking our orders herself. I appreciated that but I was also kind of deflated because I was having fun filling it out on my own!
I can’t remember what Henry ordered. Donkkaseu, maybe? But I got my cheesey kimbap and kimchi jjigae and guess what, no one stared at me and mocked me while I ate it like they did here IN AMERICA several days later. Fucking rednecks.
In a lot of the Korean restaurants, there are free water stations set up so don’t sit there and wait for the waitress to fetch that shit for you. You just go up, grab a metal cup, and fill it up yourself from a water cooler.
We made Henry do this for us, of course. Lol forever.
Also, all the sides (banchan) come with the meal and if one of them runs out, don’t be afraid to ask for more! Sometimes the waitress will already be coming over to refill it for you. Korean restaurants are the best.
Chooch, god love him, was trying to be adventurous with spicy dishes. This kid prefers everything to be bland and plain here at home, so he really took us by surprise by climbing out of his comfort zone and reaching for the gochujang.
A YouTuber probably told him to do it.
But yeah, look at his ramyun-stung lips! For as painful as his face makes it seem, he is still talking about how much he misses that ramyun. Nearly two months later.
Yes, it’s been nearly two months since we’ve been back (and exactly two months since we left Pittsburgh!) and I am still recapping this. SUE ME.
After stuffing ourselves with Korean homecookin’, we set off for Bukchon Hanok Village, which required us to embark on yet another urban hike. Seoul is like the SanFran of Asia! If you want to read more about Bukchon Hanok Village and eyeball some photos, see your way to this post.
I didn’t take these views for granted, not even for a second. I wanted to just sear the images into my mind in case I never get to go back.
After tooling around the labyrinthine Bukchon streets, we came back down to Samcheondong because of all things there is a Gentle Monster location there and I was on a mission to explore as many as possible.
However, on our way there, we took a wrong turn as usual and wound up on a side street. There were some vintage stores there, one of which was a quirky vintage toy store. Chooch and I left after taking a quick walk aroundandf eventually realized that Henry wasn’t following us.
“Maybe he’s pooping,” I shrugged, because that’s my explanation always whenever Henry can’t be found. So we went back inside and found him in a small back room.
J/K. He was in this small back room, pointing to something on a high shelf, and once Chooch saw what it was, he lost his shit so then it was Chooch in a small back room.
The poop-inducing object was a vintage set of Bambi figures, still in the box. Yes, Bambi, the dumb Disney cartoon that Chooch is oddly obsessed with.
It was only 30,000 won (a little less than $30) so…happy early bithday, sonny boy.
Whoever thought Chooch would find so much Bambi shit in Korea.
Oh, and in case you were wondering if you should load up on street food before visiting Samcheondong, don’t bother because their streets are just as fooded as the best of them! Chooch got tteokkochi which is the same kind of spicy rice cake in tteokbokki, but fried and skewered. Chooch going for the spice again!
I got a green tea hotteok and wanted to cry, not only because the searing, molten filling oozed out and burnt my hand, but because it was such a delicious variation of those delicious little dough pockets and I was so happy that I didn’t have to give Henry a bite because he’s weird and doesn’t like green tea.
You could easily go to Korea and do nothing but eat. Eschew all the sight-seeing and shopping and surgery (hey, people take medical vacations to Seoul!) and just camp out in the markets and I guarantee you will still have the best vacation ever. I’m not a foodie so much, but goddamn Korea, you’re doing it right.
And then finally it was time to enter Gentle Monster and spin around like Julie Andrews on a hilltop. This particular location is known as Bathhouse because, well, it’s literally inside an old Korean bathhouse.
Chooch, crying over those damn sunglasses again. Also, look at his dumb Bambi play set. What a baby.
I told him I liked the blue ones better and then he got all hopeful because he thought that meant I was going to buy him the blue pair instead and I was like, “HAHAH DREAM ON, PRETEEN.” He made some mouthy comment about how my pappap probably would have bought me $250 sunglasses and I laughed and said, “Yeah I got a pair of Versace sunglasses in Italy one year on vacation. I think they cost more than $250 though” and he was so disgusted.
So was Henry!
LOLOL I love rubbing my rich kid childhood in their faces.
(But I mean really though, look how far that got me in life.)
No, this is still Gentle Monster. Can’t you see the sunglasses in the background? Haha.
I was obsessed with how they left some of the old foundation intact. What a genius use of space!
This crank-thing was on the first floor, and when we went upstairs, we saw that it was moving this thing up and down….
Whatever “this thing” is.
This the view from GM’s balcony. I love this picture SO MUCH. I put it on our department’s wiki page and in one of our meetings someone dryly said, “Wow, nice…roofs” and I was like, “YEAH THEY ARE NICE ROOFS. BECAUSE THEY FREAKING KOREAN HANOK ROOFS. GOD!!!!” Ugh, really!!!!
One of my work friends is Korean and HE likes this picture so that’s all that matters. He gets it. He was born with aesthetic.
Chooch, drowning his Gentle Monster tears into his ttkeokochi. He was faking the sad-face for the sake of this photo but he really did want those damn sunglasses, lol.
The sign to the right up there says “mok-yok-tang” which means “baths” in Korean. It’s really cool that they kept the original bathhouse sign DON’T YOU THINK. Also, look how freaking small “Gentle Monster” is. The only way I was able to find it so quickly was because I’ve seen so many YouTube videos (#loser) of it that I knew exactly what to look for, so when I saw thet Bath sign, I yelled a little and scared Henry.
Korea had him on edge.
It was just too extra and his basic blood couldn’t handle it.
If I lived in Seoul, I could see myself spending a lot of time in Samcheondong. It was quaint, maybe less overtly exciting than Myeongdong and Hongdae, but certainly no less charming.
I just want you to know that I started to cry while writing this. Korea, you stole my stupid heart.