For many Western expats, the issue of finding a good pancake is a puzzling one for sure. How can there be so many waffle kiosks in Seoul but nary a pancake to be found? Coming to the rescue for all the pancake-deprived here in Seoul is the pancake place you might already know—the Original Pancake House from Portland, Oregon. While the restaurant has more than 100 franchises all over the U.S., this Apgujeong location was their first outside of the country. Especially for Americans, the menu items of Dollar Pancakes, Banana Pancakes and French Toast might do more than ring a bell—they’ll remind you of home. Many of the items, such as Boyd’s Coffee and Daily’s Premium Bacon are imported from the U.S. (even the faded yellow of the menu feels as if it were brought over from Portland). One of the most popular options at the restaurant is the Fresh Fruit Dutch Baby, a German style pancake served with a generous helping of seasonal fruits, whipped cream and fruit syrup. (Note: serving sizes are “American,” so those looking for smaller portions can opt for a “half” order and get three pancakes instead of six.)
Weekend nights in Itaewon are madness. Walk three minutes south of the station, however, and you’ll come across the Libertine, a classy respite from the madding crowd where you can nurse an old fashioned or down sazeracs in style. The interior is reminiscent of Old World New York, with high ceilings, dark wood and a beautifully tiled floor, not to mention a spacious and welcoming bar. If you’re feeling peckish, the Libertine’s mostly American-inspired menu is crafted with obsessive attention to detail every season (the lamb burger is consistently good, and long-time fans will want to keep an eye out for the Jeju organic free-range roast chicken, which is brined and slow roasted for hours). Daytime offers its own palate-charmers—the bacon is made in-house, and salmon is cured from fresh fish. Whether you’re charming a date over drinks or meeting the in-laws over brunch, the Libertine is a solid choice.
The Beastro serves upscale New American cuisine at Hongdae prices, a steal considering the work that goes into every dish. Brother and sister team Matthew and Catherine Chung grew up around the world before settling in Seoul and eventually starting the Beastro—named for their love of unapologetically hearty ingredients. Matthew has formal culinary training but a soft spot for casual food, so you’ll find crispy fried chicken and buttery biscuits alongside orechiette with pesto and blue cheese. Every last detail is given the highest attention: the chicken is brined for six hours, the pork belly takes 24 hours to cure, braise and compress, they make their own ricotta cheese, and they bake all their bread in house. You can’t go wrong with the fried chicken (seriously), not to mention their cocktail list, but you’ll need several visits to appreciate all the Beastro has to offer—did we mention they serve brunch?
Though Café Able is known as a brunch café, we could could also call it a bistro, as it is a good place to knock off a simple meal in a dash. The owners renovated a homey 2-story house, exposing its raw concrete walls for modern effect. As you step into the store, fresh whole fruits come into a vibrant view. The healthy looking drinks are blended from vegetables and fruits harvested from Able's very own garden, and the food is mainly Italian-themed, including pizzas and pastas. Seating is not guaranteed upon arrival, so make a reservation if you are bringing a special date.
If you’re looking for German bread in Seoul, go where the Germans go—and that would be The Baker’s Table, a German-owned bakery in Gyeongridan that also doubles as a café and restaurant. The crunchy Vollkorn sourdough is a favorite, and just try to leave without picking up a slice or two of the German buttercake. On weekends, there is no such thing as brunch time—the tables are full all day, as people come in and out for the generous portions of hearty breakfast dishes, sandwiches and soups (the health-conscious can opt for a salad or the hazelnut muesli, which is served with a heap of fresh fruit and cold milk).
A destination for both vegetarians and meat lovers, Midgard is owned by celebrity star chef Raymond Kim. The restaurant specializes in pork dishes, but is also sought-after by many lacto-ovo vegetarians for its novel takes on egg and dairy products. The chef's favorite menu items include French toast topped with a homemade dollop of ricotta cheese and banana slices as well as the sirloin steak cooked sous-vide with the bone in. As for sauces, onions are sautéed to create a sweet reduction, and mango-infused chipotle sauces are especially popular. The restaurant is well-known among female Seoulites as a brunch restaurant with decadent platings and garnishes, but if you have a taste for beer, be sure to check out their drink menu featuring 13 different beers from Denmark, the Czech Republic, Spain, and more.
This brunch spot gained a lot of publicity through the hit TV series Sex and the City, as you would often see shots of the girls dining here. Their signature dish is eggs benedict. This is the second Sarabeth’s to open up overseas (the first being in Japan) and it took a full year until this place was ready to open for customers. It unprecedentedly opened up in the middle of all the clothing stores on the second floor of the department store. They open at 9am on the weekends.