“Newtro” – a modern interpretation of retro aesthetics – has quickly gained a mass following among millennials.
Spawned by the apparel industry in 2017, the Newtro craze also pervaded other fields like entertainment and the F&B industry.
Many restaurants have embraced Newtro as its guiding aesthetic, inspired by street food joints from the 1970s and 1980s.
These bunsikjips (street food restaurants) are typically found in front of elementary schools, bringing back early memories for many Koreans.
The word “bunsik” emerged during the rice-scarce 1960s to refer to a meal made from flour but is now a broad term that includes many quick and inexpensive snacks, such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), sundae (stuffed intestines), and fish cakes.
Bunsik being the ultimate throwback food, bunsikjips are ubiquitous in Korea. The street food scene in Cheongdamdong melds the Newtro fever with the district’s particularly high-end flair.
Dosan Bunsik bills itself as “new wave bunsik” and recreates the 80s and 90s vibes with old-fashioned Del Monte juice bottles and green melamine plates. In addition to Korea’s signature street food tteokbokki, Dosan Bunsik serves international varieties like “Hong Kong Toast” and mazemen (no-broth ramen).
Villa de Spicy gives street food a fancy makeover, with “Premium Tteokbokki” and polished interiors. The “Gorgonzola Tteokbokki” is a well-known hit, and the made-to-order tteokbokki is adjusted to the chosen level of spiciness.
Seokangsoi Topokki on Apgujeong’s Rodeo Street has evolved from a street stall to a tteokbokki truck to a full-fledged restaurant over the course of 40 years. Its best-seller is the soft and spicy “Garatteok Tteokbokki,” made from plump cylindrical rice cakes.