Shin-Okubo is a haven for the Korean enthusiasts, especially those who love K-Pop. The small Korea Town district holds its fair share of K-Cafes as a result, and I went there to find the best. After going to over a dozen cafes, I believe I discovered the top five best picks.
Kokodak is a place where you can go for either just a snack or a full meal. It has a selection of Korean food to choose from if you’re feeling truly hungry, from kimuchi Korean pancakes to fried chicken. However, the desserts are the specialty.
I had a soy latte and chocolate cake. The latte was good, but not what I would call exemplary, but definitely better than the chain Doutor’s atrocious version. The chocolate cake was soft and light with a nice chocolate covering with some icing between the layers. Also, if you’ve got a favorite K-Pop musician, you can request for their band logo to get put on top of the coffee.
Like most other cafes in the area, K-Pop music videos were playing on the walls and on one TV in the back. The music was a bit loud when I was there, and so the customers were yelling a bit at each other. The café also wasn’t as spacious as others, so big groups of people might not be such a good idea. However, for one person plus a friend out for brunch, it’s definitely a great place to go.
4. Café On
This is one of those few cafes that attempts to have a cool vibe and actually succeeds. If you’re a more introverted person but still want to go to a club like scene, Café On is the place you want to get your groove on. The place has a club like atmosphere without actually being one. The set-up has a projection up on a stage, giving the illusion that you’re watching your favorite K-Pop live right there in the café.
After you order something, you can put in a request for your favorite K-Pop band to appear on the projection. When I was there, it took only about ten to fifteen minutes for the request to come up on the screen. It was really neat to watch TVXQ on a big screen like they were performing in real time.
The café, like Kokodak, has a variety of substantial food along with coffee and dessert fare. I ended up getting a simple tea set, which wasn’t as cute as other things available. Although I couldn’t eat it, the ice cream portions look delicious and they are huge! Everyone seemed to go there for the ice cream sundaes, and I could see why. Covered in strawberries, chocolate, they are absolutely decadent. If you’re an ice cream lover, you might find heaven there.
Some tables have standard chairs, but then others have plush couches and sofa chairs, as if you’re seating in a VIP area. Spacious, for sure, and definitely a place I’d recommend for a larger group. Go with friends to really enjoy it!
3. Mui Mui
Café Mui Mui may not have the wide variety of food like the other places, but it definitely has some things that the other cafes don’t, such as a wonderfully scrumptious cinnamon roll latte. It didn’t come with any fancy K-Pop drawings on it, but the taste of it was inspiring. I haven’t had something in drink form that made me feel so happy in a long time. It actually tasted very much like a cinnamon roll, but it wasn’t killer in terms of sugar content.
The café itself is small and pretty, kind of like the cafes of New York City. Yet, the K-Pop plays on in background and on the walls. The volume is soft, allowing people to talk without shouting. For this place, I can’t recommend a huge group, but a friend or two would be fine. I would also recommend it as a place to read a book on the weekdays, just to relax and drink some lattes in the sunlight near the windows.
However, Mui Mui also could be a cocktail party event, since its menu displayed a wide variety of Korean beers, cocktails, and various other alcoholic mixes. Although they were a bit pricey, if you want some authentic Korean drinks then I would say head over here to get the best selection.
2. Coffee Prince Café and Waffle
Coffee Prince is a nice, spacious area that’s good for a group or for a single person to hang out. It doesn’t have K-Pop screens and projections, but the music does play in the background. Unlike other cafes, it’s a specialty dessert shop for only as advertised: coffee and waffles. However, since both are so well done, I put it up at number two.
The coffee is both delicious and adorable. I had a caramel latte, which was super sweet but so good all the same. The waffles are delicious as well and come with drawings, like Ghibli or Disney characters.
If you speak enough Japanese, some women were requesting certain characters or even asking for K-Pop stars for their drawings in chocolate on their waffles, so perhaps you can do the same.
1. 82 Honey Café
The atmosphere at 82 Honey Café was very relaxed, and even though like many other cafes in the area K-Pop music played, it wasn’t overpowering by any means so people could chit-chat without the need to yell or shout. With plenty of seating space available for either a small or big party, the café can be a great place for people to congregate. The lighting was a mix of natural sunlight from the wide windows and low level lights inside. It gave it a nice, easy going feeling to the whole place.
I got the chocolate banana pancake set, which is an order of pancakes with a coffee or other standard drink for ¥1,050. I ordered no whip cream and no ice cream and it was no problem. Customizable orders can be difficult to find in Japan in terms of getting certain items off the plate at a restaurant, but the Honey Café was very accommodating with my food allergies and for that alone I’d give it the number one spot.
The food itself was tasty, sweet but not so sweet it hurt my teeth. The coffee was a fantastic smoothness and blend. The other ladies in the café kept going back for different kinds of sweeter drinks, which I think speaks volumes about the flavor. Other cafes people only bought one and were done, but this place values quality and the customers can tell.
If you find yourself on the Yamanote line with time to kill and an appetite, be sure to try out one of these cafes. You won’t be disappointed!