Tucked away between high rise apartment buildings and nondescript skyscrapers, in the center of a bustling commercial downtown district, is a hidden building that somehow time forgot.
We slipped in an alley beside a towering department store and, after a few confused glances at one another, continued walking until we saw the distinct black and white pinata logo for La Mia Emily.
Just beyond the golden gates, two stoic stone harubangs greeted us, beckoning us to venture into a walled in secret garden
Between two houses (and two statues) a stone path led to what seemed like someone’s back yard
We weren’t quite sure what to expect or if we were even in the right place. But of course, curiosity got the best of us…
The path led to a traditional Korean style house — or hanok — now remodeled, updated and converted into a lovely cafe with windows and doors that all opened up to let the outside in.
Everywhere we looked old fruit trees dripped with ripening persimmons and reminded us that this was at one time someone’s lovingly cared for home. Who must have lived here before modernity swallowed up this part of town?
And yet, this hanok with it’s beautiful little garden hidden in the heart of the city managed to survive the test of time until it’s next reincarnation as a cafe.
In the garden, bird cages dangled whimsically from tree branches and swayed ever so gently in the warm summer breeze.
It was hard to not be completely seduced by the garden. We had to remind ourselves that we were here for brunch and made our way to the hanok to place our order.
The menu consisted of typical cafe fare — light pastries and coffees and teas with a couple salads. We ordered one of the brunch set menus and split it two-ways. It was a surprisingly American-style breakfast with French toast (no syrup), salad, hash brown, sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs with ham, served with coffee, or in my case, a mug of lemon tea that tasted more like hot lemonade.
We sat outside underneath a pomegranate tree and enjoyed a long and lazy afternoon sipping on lemon drinks and catching up with old friends. It was hard to imagine we were still in the city.
La Mia Emily // CUISINE: Cafe, pastries, American-ish style brunch // COST: Inexpesive // DIRECTIONS: This little house is located off a little alley way between Miso City apartments and Hyundai department store. The closest subway line is Banwoldang, exit 18. From the subway exit, pass Hyundai dep’t store and continue until you see a small alley to the left of the “North Cape” store. You should see a small black and white sign with the La Mia Emily pinata logo. Follow this alley, and the cafe signs until you reach a gate. Enter through the gate into a courtyard in what seems like someone’s house. Alternately if you know where Miso City is, you can enter right across from the parking garage for the Miso City apartments. I believe this street is Yakryeong-gil. Once across the street, look for the signs and an archway that says something like “coffee and cafe.” Once again it will look as if you are walking into someone’s house. // DETAILS: Converted/remodeled traditional style Korean house (hanok) turned restaurant with an amazing outdoor area filled with fruit trees. Typical of hanoks, the entire building opens up to the courtyard and is lovely on a nice day. This house-cafe is hidden among downtown’s skyscrapers and totally feels as if stepping into a hidden garden. In addition to the cafe, I have a sense that something else happens here — something DIY like maybe flower arranging? Some kind of DIY type class? I’m not entirely sure. The menu is solely in Korean, but you can order from the set brunch menu which comes with coffee. If you don’t know Korean, it’s easy to just say “Set” and I’m pretty sure they’ll figure it out. The food was pretty decent and inexpensive — nothing mind blowing but good for what you get. Where La Mia Emily really gains points is in it’s location. It’s a wonderful hidden gem of a place. Note: No on-site parking available // VERDICT: Recommended