To be perfectly frank South Korea has more than enough options for buying a cup of coffee. Cafes are a dime a dozen, ranging from your one-on-every-street-corner, ubiquitous corporate conglomerate of convenience, to the prolific hole in a wall coffee corners stacked one atop the other; each positively glowing in its carefully cultivated aura of aggressively competitive cuteness. In a land of endless possibility how can a cafe stand out? What is there to be done to attract the jittery gaze of the caffeinated consumer? Some rely on competitive pricing, others a hip atmosphere, or the promise of an enjoyable “coffee story.” After all, not every café can have Charlie Brown himself to draw people through the door.
The Charlie Brown Café has an appeal that’s frustratingly difficult to describe. Charlie Brown really does stand outside pointing towards the door, albeit in fiberglass effigy. It’s a heavy dose of name recognition and novelty that brings anyone through the door. Once inside, it’s not all to different from any café but for one glaring exception: everything (and I do mean nearly everything) is covered in Charlie Brown related imagery. The Peanuts Gang’s smilling visages have been plastered onto the walls, doors, tables, pillars, and windows. The Charlie Brown Café is a brightly lit two story mecca of syndicated merchandise packed to the brim with Peanuts toys, books, busts, and who knows what else. It’s almost slightly jarring. Two seconds in from the door I almost forgot I’d come in to buy coffee.
The Charlie Brown Café chose its shtick and launched itself into it whole heartedly. Along the way they remembered they were also there to sell coffee, and perhaps surprisingly they do a pretty good job of that. I’ll admit I may have a pretty low threshold for enjoying coffee. “Hot and dark in color” are my only strictly adhered to requirements. That having been said, I find the coffee to be pretty good. Added bonus: it’s one of the few places I’ve found that will give me pitcher of cream along with my “Americano.” If you want an exotic or overly serious coffee experience, it may not be for you. But if the novelty alone drew you in you stand to be pleasantly surprised. And why stop at coffee? There’s also tea, hot chocolate, juices and full on brunch (pancakes, eggs, bacon, maple syrup- the whole deal) on the menu. If it’s that kind of an evening, (or morning for that matter) you could get yourself a couple beers while you’re at it. That’s right; at the Charlie Brown café you can take a seat next to an oversized plush toy of America’s favorite cartoon dog and have a beer with him like an adult.
I shouldn’t like the Charlie Brown Café. It’s an odd homage to one of the most overly commercialized examples of nostalgic Americana. There’s a real tendency to discount anything that smacks of having “tried too hard,” and I have to admit to falling into that from time to time. But either Charlie Brown Café has tried so hard that it’s paying off or I’m just growing soft. The writing on the plate I just ate my bagel off of says that “ …it always rains on his (Charlie Browns) parade, baseball game, and his life. Charlie Brown wins your heart with his losing ways.” How can such a brutally honest and perhaps a little bit lost in translation summation of the character I remember from holiday specials and the Sunday paper not make me smile a bit?
If this review sounds irreverent I don’t want that to mask the fact that I do enjoy coming here. Its spacious and quiet, the food and coffee are genuinely good. There’s even a balcony for enjoying the weather when it’s warm. Nothing is priced higher than any of the big competitors, and at 10,000 W the brunch is a good deal for the amount of food you get. The building itself is interesting, with a lot of space over two stories to find a seat to yourself.
I recommend trying it out, and the theme and décor are purely secondary considerations in that assertion.
Directions: head out of exit three of PNU Station, and walk until the alley before the next major road. Head left down that, then immediately right.
Map Coming soon