To Go Coffee Shop / Seomi & Tuus House Object Gallery
32-21 Chae-Dong, Chongro-gu
Seoul, South Korea
With long business hours (Mon~Fri, 7am to midnight; Sat, 7am to 11pm; Sun, 9am to 10pm) and a serious dedication to contemporary art and design – given their ties to a nearby gallery – the To Go Coffee Shop housed within this quaint brick-and-glass building made for the best of both worlds. Open early enough for a warm cup of coffee to get your day going, but also laid back and aesthetically interesting with its display of modern artwork to make you want to stay longer than you normally might just to take in the scene.
The bukchon neighborhood follows a similar dual dynamic. Retro remnants of a by-gone era with traditional architecture and residences that take you back in time, flanked by rows of ultra hip and trendy shops popular with the city’s busy youth. The latter characteristic reminded me of the ura-Harajuku area of Tokyo. I have a friend who works as an assistant director at one of the many galleries here, and I’d always heard interesting things from her about hanging out and working in this district, so I had to check it out for myself, camera in hand.
4969 International Drive
A short reprieve from the business at hand led me and a partner to hit one of the larger outlet shopping malls in this wildly spaced out city. As such, some quick shopping was our main focus and grabbing a quick meal before we had to return elsewhere wearing uncomfortable business attire under the sunny skies was secondary. Out of pure convenience, we popped into Kafé Kalik, who’s signage claimed they were a “taste of the Bahamas”. While I have never been to the Caribbean, my Spanish speaking pal has many times so I had to twist his arm to join me – while we both knew we were likely in for some underwhelming wannabe-ethnic cuisine.
Our suspicious were confirmed as once we were seated in a very empty dining hall near the bar side, I spotted a connecting sushi bar that was tied to the business. I think in spite, my dining buddy actually ordered a sushi roll as his main meal. With this Japanese and Caribbean fused sushi roll menu that included things like tempura conch, and curried tuna among them, it kind of reminded me of the eclectic mix at The Lions Den Cafe. I won’t even go there as I’m not sure it deserves any comment. Our server was a cheery and quite outgoing Latina woman, who was overly interested in pushing the special items on the lunch menu. I hardly paid attention as the first mention was some kind of trio of mini burgers. Not exactly unique.
National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill
201 Waterfront Street
National Harbour, DC
Some places and food just go together. As a lifelong baseball fan, for me, this sport is all about hot dogs. Its part of the experience of seeing MLB games live. Strangely enough, having been through enough pork processing plants in my lifetime and gaining a full view into what goes into hot dogs, you would think I’d stay away from them. Alas, I can’t when it comes to watching America’s favorite pastime. This isn’t even limited to the outdoor environment, as if there is a game on in the bar, I’ll look to see if there are any ‘dogs in the house. Yup, I’m predictable that way.
For those fans of the sport, you’ll know that Canada lost one of its top professional teams to the Americans. The glorious Montreal Expos franchise that gave birth to so many amazing players has relocated to Washington, DC. The Nats as they are affectionately called are a fairly forgettable bunch, without a winning season in six years of their new existence. I wondered when I came across this sports bar within this massive hotel facility, if it was tied to the franchise (I did see a logo on the front glass), given its name. Its a little mixed, as I did see a lot of football paraphernalia adorning the room, including a pretty cool display case with helmets from all of the NFL clubs. Looking for a quick bite to eat and to catch a glimpse of whatever sports game was on the gigantic screens that covered on side of the room, we were quickly seated by a slightly unenthusiastic hostess at one of the high tables in the middle of the floor. A prompt order of some non-alcoholic beverages – since we were on the clock – and so began our lunch.
382 W. Broadway
l’d say that I was among the early birds several months back to spot the disappearance of the former tenant at this location (that served horrible pho) and the pending notice that Chronic Tacos was going to set up shop – mainly due to the fact that I pass this Cambie/W. Broadway corridor very often. As a result, I kept making a mental note to stop in once things got up and running, which I did hear about from a loyal reader when they themselves passed through their open doors. A further few weeks passed since that heads up but I finally made my way in on a recent Sunday afternoon. Coincidentally, as it was just past the 2pm local time kickoffs for several NFL matches, the place was rocking inside and all tables were occupied, which led me to understand that this joint has a serious sports bar vibe and relevant customers (many decked out in the uniforms of their favorite teams). I thought this was interesting, not assuming the proprietors would take this angle, but it sure has proven to be a success judging by the boisterous room. While glancing at some screens to get updated on the scores (I happened to be listening to the Seahawks game on the radio on my drive over), I made my way to the very back where the ordering and prep counter is situated. I didn’t bother to check, but I don’t think there is any table service here, which one might expect given how busy the place was upon setting foot inside and how the seating layout was designed.
With no intentions of dining alone inside – not that there was even a single free chair – I got my order to go. A few signs on the walls and a menu board are posted up high and are quite visible, and given its a fast food-type of place, its not rocket science to decide what you want and the choices run the usual gamut of popular North Americanized (despite the claims of authentic Mexican recipes) items such as burritos, the hilariously named “fatty” tacos (in reference to the whole chronic thing – “whatup Dr. Dre!”), and other assortments such as nachos and quesadillas. I’m sure their website would reveal more history and the rationale behind the name, so will leave that to you to delve into and I won’t regurgitate anything here (urgh, that’s a really bad word to use when writing about food, but so be it!).
The Grove Yerba Buena
690 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
Unfortunately I did not bother to shoot a photo of the exterior of The Grove’s outlet in Yerba Buena, so this below capture from Google Street View that shows the location before they set up shop was the best I could do. Suffice it to say, its easy to find being just three blocks from the Montgomery Street BART station, and just a block from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Next door is a coffee house and the general area is populated by numerous large hotel chains for the business and leisure traveler. After overpaying for some ridiculously priced hotel breakfast the previous day, we opted to drag our overworked behinds out onto the streets and by sure luck we found this place where things were more relaxed, both in terms of atmosphere and prices.
Something about the west coast lifestyle that pervades in this beautiful city must have impregnated itself in my mind for breakfast, as I was on the hunt for something nutritious and light. Coupled with a smooth tasting Americano, my order ended up being a simple plate of fresh ingredients, highlighted by two small poached eggs, two thick slices of grilled zucchini, and tomato bruschetta. Given the backup in the kitchen, a number sign was given to me and it was brought out to my table by a server in a few minutes time.
346-2 Ha-dong, Gyeongju City
North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
After a morning spent outdoors in the sweltering summer heat taking in some live acrobatic performances and a long walk around the touristy Shilla Millenium Park, we headed back to the cooling comforts of our air conditioned car and sought out more places on my native host’s list of places to eat at. A simple search in the auto’s GPS device turned up another location that was not too far away and so off we went. Best known as a restaurant that specializes in dishes that contain beans (soybeans, peas, lentils, etc.), Kongerang was set just off the main road that passed by it. It was situated in an older looking, traditionally-built Korean country home.
An ample parking lot was situated right on its parcel of land and it was full of cars! A young man (who’s job I would never want) was sitting on a folding chair on the side of the road and as we approached, he came to our driver side window and explained their parking system. Essentially, there were no open spots available now (and thus no unoccupied tables inside), but he was soon on his headset conversing with someone inside and gave us an estimated wait time of thirty minutes. He allowed us to park on the shoulder of the street, and as one car left the lot, we were permitted to move the car onto the rocky stone-lined parkade. This however did not mean our table was ready yet, but this place was prepared as they had a large tented (and air conditioned) area towards the back where other waiting patrons were patiently sitting. Later on, a voice came out over the speaker inside noting our number and we then proceeded into the building housing the restaurant where our freshly set table was waiting. A swift and efficient system!
153 Waterfront Street
Oxon Hill, MD
Mexican cuisine in Maryland you say? This chain of nine restaurants concentrated mainly on the east coast (with a lone western outpost in Los Angeles) was chosen among the limited within-walking-distance places to eat a late dinner by our traveling group after a long day. Coincidentally, the troop included a native Mexican, who we consulted about Rosa Mexicano. According to him, he had heard it was not Mexican food in the traditional sense, but had some dishes listed on the menu near the front door that he considered quite unorthodox and amused him enough to say, “let’s give it a try”! And so with that directive, we did just that…
This particular location was situated in a new development of commercial and residential buildings in National Harbour, and sat on the banks of the Potomac River – although the direct view was obscured from the outdoor backside deck where we were sat. Water taxis could be ridden back and forth across to the beautiful Old Town district of historic Alexandria, Virginia, making this area a prime piece of real estate.