It’s a place where food wishes are fulfilledKorea used to be a place where expats spent most of their time talking about the foods they missed from back home. It wasn’t too long ago that the food-homesick would do everything they could to get signed on to the Yongsan U.S. Army base ― to get an enchilada fix at the Mexican restaurant there, or omelettes and hash browns at the weekend brunches.
That’s changed, of course, as Itaewon now has just about every type of ethnic restaurant you can think of, and, though it took a while, a few places that offer weekend brunches. The best of the all-day breakfast places is probably Suji’s, the American-style coffee shop that opened a few months ago in a cozy location on the north side of the main drag, just up from the Limelight nightclub.
When putting the menu at Suji’s together, the owner, Suji Park, thought about the foods she missed from when she lived in New York a few years ago, the homemade-style stuff you can get in neighborhood diners there. Things like chicken pot pie, and meat loaf, as well as brunches. And black coffee, with free refills.
Likewise, once the restaurant got going, Ms. Park started asking the customers what they missed. The most common answer, mainly from Britons, was fish and chips. So Ms. Park obliged, and now that’s the most popular choice at Suji’s. At 16,500 won ($16.50), it’s a little pricey, but the fish portion is so big it almost hangs off the edge of the plate.
A couple of other customer suggestions that made it to the brunch menu were Belgian waffles and fried tomatoes and mushrooms.
Another, macaroni and cheese, was on offer for a while but Ms. Park had to stop serving it. Ironically, it was too expensive to make. The problem was, Ms. Park insists that everything at her restaurant be made from scratch. So the price she had to pay here for cheese ― and she used four types ― made the dish cost-prohibitive. Apparently she doesn’t realize that many North Americans here would be ecstatic to get the kind of macaroni and cheese that comes straight from the box.
So what other dishes would Itaewon’s expats like to see on Suji’s menu? While out the other night I asked a few Americans what foods they missed most.
Jonny, from California, would like turkey and mashed potatoes. “If she had that on her menu, I’d be there right now,” he said.
Max, from Washington state, wants something very simple ― grilled cheese sandwiches. “Why the heck not? Simple is what we really need.”
Jay, from Chicago, wants to see eggs benedict: “If I got it in the morning, I’d be satisified. That would be a good Sunday.”
As for me, a Southern California native, the food from home I crave most is fish tacos. I wouldn’t expect Ms. Park to start making them, though.
Maybe the dish you’re missing would have a better chance. Next time you’re at Suji’s, let her know what it is. It might end up on the menu.
by Mike Ferrin