Who would mistake a lion for a bear? Apparently me, so it’s a great thing that I am not majoring in zoology.
While this sudden realization did a number on my pride, the variety of drinks, snacks and photo ops offered in the Ryan Cafe, located on the third floor of the Kakao Friends store in Hongdae, South Korea, drew my attention away from further self-deprecation.
Ryan is one of the eight characters featured on the Korean messaging application “KakaoTalk.” Known as a “Kakao Friend,” Ryan is the main icon for the app and can be considered the most recognizable character aside from Apeach, “a silly, mischievous fruit” as described by the official Kakao Friends website and my favorite character.
Despite having visited Hongdae multiple times, the Ryan Cafe was one of the last places I explored. The decision to go was made by a classmate who, despite getting sore throats from consuming sugar, wanted to check it out before we returned to our accommodations.
To reach the cafe, patrons will need to walk up three flights of stairs before they are “greeted” by a large scale model of Ryan, who is holding a coffee cup. The cafe takes up the majority of the floor, with a seating area of both cushioned and wooden chairs, paired with tables with charging ports and “mood touch” lamps, which would light up if you tapped them. The far right wall is made of glass, so cafe goers can look out onto the street as they enjoy their treats.
The ordering counter is against the center wall, with a display case showing desserts such as Kakao Friends-themed macarons, cupcakes and layered cakes. Drinks, like coffee, frappes and tea, and ice cream are also available for purchase.
If the afternoon coffee awakens the inner shopper, shelves containing phone cases, waffle irons and other electronic goods can be found at the far left of the room, with more couches for people to lounge.
While my bubble tea affinity may show otherwise, I am not a huge fan of sugar (I’ve always preferred salt). I did not order any desserts, though the ice cream one of my classmates shared tasted like condensed milk—delicious! As others in my group enjoyed chocolate cake and light conversation, I sipped on my “Green Tea” frappuccino, which was evocative of its Starbucks counterpart.
While a quaint place to relax, the Ryan Cafe is just like any other cafe. The only difference is that it’s based on a character. If you plan to visit or study in Korea, the Ryan Cafe can be a good option for solace from the humid summer weather or a break from walking through Hongdae’s various stores and side streets.