K-Pop Destination: Handel and Gretel (Super Junior’s Yesung)
No doubt Super Junior’s Yesung is used to headlining the news, but now another member of his family is finding himself in the spotlight — Yesung’s little brother, Jong Jin. This photogenic young man has attracted some attention of his own, thanks to his idol-worthy good looks and the fact that he brews a mean cup of coffee. Say what? Well, Jong Jin is a cafe manager by trade, and his chic little shop is frequented by fangirls and celebrities alike. If you’re a K-Pop fan in Seoul, Handel and Gretel is one place you have to visit!
Located in upscale Yeouido, Handel and Gretel is located amidst a cluster of restaurants and cafes right across the KBS headquarters. The decor and menu are streamlined, with spare wood fittings and a typical round-up of coffee, tea, sandwiches, and desserts. However, the first thing you’re likely to notice is not the menu, but a neatly boxed poster of Yesung, playing guitar and looking totally adorable, along one wall. Along the opposite wall is a shelf with books and various Yesung paraphernalia, including some autographed posters. Please note the Woody doll, as displayed by groupmate Heechul via Twitter in this very setting. Aside from Heechul, other recent visitors have included SNSD’s YoonA and Taeyeon, and Simon D. All of these photos were taken from the celebrities’ personal Twitter accounts.
Now, it’s possible that you might see Yesung behind the counter — earlier this month, the busy singer recently donned an apron and clocked in for a shift at the cash register. (Can you imagine stopping by for a latte and having Yesung ring you up?) However, you’re more likely than not to see Jong Jin. One look at him and it’s very clear that Yesung didn’t steal all the handsome genes in the family, but he remained modest and bashful when we questioned him. He and Yesung had decided to open the cafe to help out their parents, who were spending long, exhausting hours running a restaurant in Hongdae called Babtol’s. They shut down the restaurant and opened the cafe, with the devoted Jong Jin running the show.
Their mother (that’s her behind Yesung in the last picture) was also in when we visited! Small and pretty, she definitely looks like their mom — actually, she just looks like a nice mom figure in general. During our visit, she acted as a mixture of hostess and cook, alternately whipping up tasty sandwiches in the back, or conversing with the fangirls who stopped by for coffee (or to gaze with longing at the Yesung decorations). If we had to deal with hordes of breathless fangirls all day long, our patience would be sorely tested by the end of the day. But Yesung’s mom was infinitely kind. She brought out free food and drink for those of us who lingered and chatted with girls about their K-Pop biases. When she saw us taking pictures, she even brought out a Super Junior poster to tape to the wall so we could photograph it!
While it’s true that the majority of Handel and Gretel’s customers are there to fill up on Yesung goodness rather than food and drink (70% of its customers are fangirls), that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a decent cup of coffee or even a nice quick lunch. We sampled a variety of offerings, including plain black coffee and peach iced tea, as well as a standard Oreo brownie and a delicious chicken sandwich with sweet peanut sauce, cheese, and chewy toasted bread. The sandwich offerings also include crab, kalbi, spicy shrimp, along with more traditional ham and cheese, BLT, and roast beef.
We chatted briefly with the trio of smiling fangirls sitting next to us — Noemi and Nikki from the Philippines, and Mayako from Japan. They had learned about Handel and Gretel from Yesung’s Twitter and decided to hit it up during their Seoul trip. Mayako in particular happened to be a huge Yesung devotee. Her iPhone was decked out in a Yesung case (which, in a humorous moment, she displayed to Yesung’s surprised mom). On the phone, she showed us pictures of the hundred Mr. Simple CDs she had just bought, fifty of Version A, fifty of version B. That’s right, a hundred copies, which gave her a pass to see Super Junior in person. She flies to Korea a few times a year to get her fill of K-Pop goodness. Now that’s a true fan!
Handel and Gretel is busiest on Friday nights, when KBS Music Bank is held — if Super Junior happens to be performing, expect a long line. Drinks range from a reasonable 2,000 to 4,500 won. It’s a must-see tourist attraction for any hungry or thirsty K-Pop fan! Located in Seoul outside Yeouido Station, exit 3.