Artisanal coffee and bagels

By Korea Herald

Sam’s Bagel and Roastery serves up solid brews and eats

  • Published : Feb 7, 2014 - 19:39
  • Updated : Feb 7, 2014 - 19:39
Sam’s Bagel and Roastery’s Sweet Skunk house blend pour-over coffee (front) and plain bagel with fig cream cheese.
(Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Located in Daechi-dong near Hanti Station, southern Seoul, Sam’s Bagel and Roastery provides a haven for hungry and thirsty passersby.

The artfully presented red and white sign and long, broad windows are an accurate preview of the inviting space, which bears all the trappings of a please-come-and-linger spot, from its free Wi-Fi to its solid brews, bagels and scones.

This is a place made for all manner of laidback behavior involving multiple cups of coffee and flour-centric bites, because the guys at Sam’s Bagel and Roastery take their drinks and food very seriously.

The Probat roaster in the corner, the source of all that coffee-scented goodness permeating the 35-seat space, and the open kitchen where patrons can watch the shop’s bakers form dough into yeasty rings, are proof of the crew’s earnest, hands-on approach.

As befits an eatery with a strong artisanal bent, the food and brews go heavy on personality.

The house blend of coffee, christened Sweet Skunk, boasts bold floral and citrus notes. The bagels are unabashedly chewy in texture and the scones are their own quirky marvel of dense, crunchy, buttery goodness.

The cream cheese, even when ordered plain, is rich and on the sweet side, and for those who were expecting the more traditional, savory version, might be disappointed but the more adventurous will be pleased to discover it goes great on both plain and chocolate hole-in-dough variations.

In short, this is a spot that is not afraid to push its own taste philosophy. And it works, especially because it is a philosophy that is strong on all suits, be it coffee, bagels, scones or spreads.

This balance is achieved because both coffee and grub get equal attention and love.

Roaster Choi Hong-seok roasts beans on the establishment’s Probat roaster about two to three times a week, putting out single origin and house blends for the spot’s cold-brewed, espresso-based and pour-over coffee.

For the house blend, Sweet Skunk, Choi said, “When I eat fruit, I like it sour, but if it is just sour it isn’t so appealing. An orange, on the other hand, is both sour and sweet, and that is what I tried to achieve with the house blend.”

When ordered as pour-over coffee, the resulting blend zings with a citrus buzz, then unfurls some seriously delicate floral aromas while still maintaining a certain depth and bitter strength.

Pair that with one of those tasty bagels or scones for a complete sip-and-bite snack or breakfast.

3 Sam Partners’ owner and Sam’s Bagel founder Samuel Cooke Kim is the guy behind the bagels and scones at the shop.

In addition to overseeing the baked goods at the Daechi-dong shop, Kim also recently reopened his renovated flagship store in Hapjeong-dong and is planning on opening another outlet in Itaewon this year.

Kim revealed that he was inspired by bagels from New York and Japan, going for a chewy texture that requires a little jaw action while incorporating fillings like chocolate.

Part of the fun of eating these bagels is trying the different flavors ― from the cheese-crusted Volcano to the chocolate, which harbors molten bits of melted dark chocolate inside. One of the more recent additions, the Honeymilk, says baker Lee Kang-wook, “tastes like toast bread made with milk.”

There are also different flavors of cream cheese, from fig to seasonal strawberry, which Choi says will be available come April. All cheeses, according to Kim, feature a dab of honey, to sweeten the deal.

Bagels are not the only baked goods at Sam’s. The scones definitely merit a try as well.

At first glance, these huge rectangular slabs of dried-cranberry-studded tea cake are almost forboding with their bricklike heft, but in this case, appearances are deceiving.

A Sam’s Bagel scone pairs a toothsome, crisp crust with a buttery, dense crumb. When eating through that cake, the hint of sun-dried salt used to make the scones goes perfectly with the sweetness of the dried cranberries within.

Now, seven months into business, it looks like the shop has become a fixture of the neighborhood, home to its own set of loyal patrons who come for the coffee and the food.

Sam’s Bagel and Roastery

26, 64-gil Seolleung-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

(02) 566-3861

Open 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily

Bagels cost 2,500 won to 2,800 won each, cranberry scones cost 4,000 won, cream cheese costs 2,000 won, Sam’s meal (bagel, spread and coffee of the day) costs 8,000 won, pour-over coffee costs 5,000 won to 7,000 won, espresso-based coffee (made from Sweet Skunk) costs 4,500 won to 7,000 won, cold-brewed coffee costs 5,000 won to 7,000 won, beans cost 16,000 won to 20,000 won for 250 grams

By Jean Oh (