My Seoul Neighborhood: Yeonhui
Yeonhui-dong, my neighborhood, is just such a place. It's not exactly on the tourist map, but its not that out of the way—just a 10 minute walk north of club-central Hongdae and 15 minutes or so from Sinchon. But Yeonhui-dong is just what you'd want in a residential neighborhood: quiet, charming, undiscovered, and having all the creature comforts and conveniences you might want, without being too far from other destinations.
Abode of former presidents
Typical neighborhoods of the 1% of Korea are often thought to be in Gangnan, like Cheongnam-dong for aspirational upper middle class, or Hannam-dong and Itaewon in central Seoul, where Samsung's founder Li Kum Chee resides. But Yeonhui-dong has its own badge of distinction: it is even home to two former Korean presidents: Korea's last military dictator Chun Doo Hwan (1979-1988) and its first cleanly elected President Roh Tae-woo (1988-1993). For this reason, Yeonhui seems to have a distinctly old money kind of flavor, although that hasn't stopped it from becoming a hip spot for artists and cafes.
Nor surprisingly, there are many guards in the vicinity of both presidents' homes, and the occasional motorcade of an important visitor making a call. But since both men are quite old now they rarely leave the house. So far I haven't seen them shopping at the local Saruga grocery store, as former president Kim Dae-jung (who lived in nearby Dongyo-dong) was supposedly known to do. Then again, as the first "liberal" president he was probably more comfortable mixing with the masses than either Roh or Kim Doo Hwan is.
There are very few of the cafe chains ubiquitous in most other parts of Seoul here. Instead, there are some unique coffee joints that pride themselves on designer coffee as well as designer interiors. Here is a list of the top ones:
Peter Pan Bakery: This is my go-to joint when I want a good sandwich. They have great crispy bread, French-style ham sandwiches and open-faced beef sandwiches. A wide array of pastries, including a unique green-tea jelly-like ball thing that I've never seen before.
Cafe Vincennes: This French-style Cafe is famous for its lavish blueberry pancake served with whipped cream, although its not a pancake in the American conception of the word, rather its closer to a Dutch oven pancake, although its still in its own class. Good omelette as well.
Yeonhui Kimbap: This is a well-know purveyor of Korea's ubiquitous sushi-like rolls, kimbap. Good for takeout for lunch on the go or at work. I like the standard Yeonhui Kimbap (imitation crab) for 1,500 won or the jeongjolim kimbap (pork) for 3,000.
Vongone: A famous, very small Italian pasta place.
Min's Kitchen: Self-described "new Korean" food served in a modern setting.
Saruga Grocery: I was almost certain I had been transported to a Whole Foods in San Francisco when I first walked in here, so complete is Saruga's selection of organic produce, imported items from the U.S. and Japan, and a small food court that also features a branch of nearby Peter Pan Bakery.