I am so happy to have discovered this charming neighborhood in Seoul called Buam-dong, only about a 10-15 minute cab ride from the Westin Cho Sun in Myeong-dong where I stayed on this trip. The neighborhood is very quaint and suburban, with a lovely mix of artsy and creative restaurants, floral shops, and boutiques. On my list for lunch was Art for Life Cafe. Though this place was rather difficult to find (the taxi driver had no clue even after calling the restaurant several times), it was well worth the hunt. For those of you liking a good scavenger hunt, Art for Life has little signs and hints along the road leading up to it if you have a good enough eye. Keep a look out as it helps you confirm you're going in the right direction!
I really fell in love with this cafe that's run by a classical musician, who is incredibly friendly and warm. The entire restaurant/cafe/gallery is so unique, with inspiring interior design and decor as you can tell from the pics above. My father and most of his brothers are all artists of some sort and the moment I stepped into this place I couldn't help thinking of my old man. It was exactly the kind of place he would have created himself had he lived in this part of Seoul, and the owner's spirit was just like my dad's in the best way. What's really special is that the owner runs the entire show-- he's the host, chef, and waiter all in one. I can't imagine how he manages to do it all with a full house. The cuisine is very Italian in a very simple and authentic way. I love that the chef imparts bits of European culture and knowledge on you as he serves you your meal. He told us that in Italy, if a man likes a woman and the date is going well, he'll order the risotto since it takes 40+ minutes to cook, otherwise he'll order the fettuccine (closer to 7 minutes) which would speed the date along. Similarly, when a woman comes back from her honeymoon, she'll tell her friends about her husband and their special night in those same terms (...hopefully he was more like risotto than fettuccine ;] ).
This cafe is the perfect place to relax and unwind from Seoul life, while enjoying some great Sangria, a lovely garden, and plenty of photo-ops. I'm not sure if the owner is just a sentimental man, but the way that the cafe was decorated with many pictures, and doodles, and personal effects imparted the sense that he had lost someone special to him in his life. Not in an eery way, but I definitely got the sense that through his art and his craft he was expressing the sense of holding on to something dear to him. I hope I'm wrong, but it sort of gave me the feeling of experiencing a real-life korean drama in the most endearing way.