Nostalgic Café in Modern and Chaotic Myeongdong

Due to too many overseas tourists and the crowds in Myeongdong lately, I have been avoiding the area for several years.  But after moving my office to this area recently, I began to discover a little alleys of Myeongdong again.  It has been a great pleasure to recognize the places where I used to frequent in early 80s, and I have been amazed by these places’ strength and ability to maintain their businesses at their original locations.  Moreover, there are places that dream and pursue the revival of Myeongdong through promoting hashtag, “memories of Myeongdong” on social media and introduce their long history to people.  Thanks to them, I could also wander around Myeongdong area and began to unfold my memories.

One of those places is Café Gamoo.  As Western cafes like “NanDaRang” and “Chagall’s snowy town” began to emerge in early 1980s, Café Gamoo must have been an old school coffee shop called “da-bang” back then. Although I frequently walked around the alley where Gamoo is located because of numerous shoe stores like Tendy and Sara in the area, I have no recollection of this cafe. Apparently, this place has been there ever since 1972 for 40 years…

Attracted by ‘Vienna Coffee’ on the menu (Vienna Coffee is a Korean version of Viennese Coffee), I entered Café Gamoo.

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The place maintains its ambience of an old school Asian style Western restaurant in 1970s.

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Heavy leather sofas, wooden furniture, and the wall with decorative plates and teaspoon collection.

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The Art Deco style stainless lamp shades bring vintage sentiments.

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A cup of Vienna Coffee appears. I recall looking for Vienna Coffee in Vienna, despite the common knowledge that “There is no Vienna Coffee in Vienna”.  This notion was almost like a betrayal to those who had a fantasy about Vienna Coffee since their middle school years in Korea. I couldn’t find Vienna Coffee on the menu anywhere in Vienna. The most similar coffee to Vienna Coffee I had there was Einspänner at a café in Schönbrunn Palace, and I remember having it while putting its fresh cream all over my lips.  I laughed hard while thinking “As long as I’m having it in Vienna, it’s Vienna Coffee.”

Café Gamoo’s Vienna Coffee has excessive amount of fresh cream.  The puffiness of the cream does not seem to calm down even after I sipped the coffee several times while the cream went over my lips and reached right underneath my nose.  It’s so sweet that it would be a perfect drink in the afternoon when the body’s sugar level goes down. The pleasant spicy flavor of cinnamon powder sprinkled on top of the coffee gives a clean finish to the taste buds.

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There are windows on both sides of Café Gamoo, overlooking the Chinese embassy’s garden on one side and Myeongdong street on the other.  I suddenly see a banner of Café Poem on the other side of the street from where I sit.  It strikes me as it was the name of a whiskey tasting bar in 1920s, where Poet Park In-Hwan and his friends frequented.  I quickly search the place online only to find out that this place offers modern desserts like waffles with lots of cream and parfaits these days.

I continue to wander around corners of Myeongdong taking a trip down memory lane.

  16, Myeongdong 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
  Daily from 11:00 ~ 23:00 (Closed on Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn festival holidays)
  +82-2-776-3141
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