My number-one concern before going to any of these establishments was the potential sanitation issues that might come from having animals roaming around near where food is prepared and consumed. I figured that the outside area would smell like sheep piss, but the owner constantly rushed out to clean and disinfect the area. As a result, the pen was immaculate, and the sheep even appeared freshly bathed themselves—cleaner and fluffier than most of the clouds that you see in polluted Seoul.
As soon as we walked in, the barista handed my girlfriend and me a menu and a flyer with a number of rules such as 'Do not lift the raccoon' and 'Do not touch a sleeping raccoon.'
As far as their welfare goes, they have their own penned section with a small barn in which to sleep and avoid annoying visitors if they please. The sheep, named Anna and Sam, are very friendly, coming out to greet and possibly jump on any guests who'd like to feed them. Their soft "baa"s were soothing compared to the blaring K-pop outside.Next up on my pet cafe quest was Blind Alley's "raccoon cafe". At first, this one seemed like the weirdest of them all. Coming from the suburbs of New Jersey, I was raised to think of raccoons as malevolent pests that rifle through your garbage and inevitably carry rabies, not any type of creature near which one should dine.
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"Good to know. I'll take an Oreo Bong Bong and a ricotta salad," I told the barista.Aside from the raccoons, Blind Alley is known for its homemade ricotta cheese and gelato. The salad is comprised of a mound of fresh ricotta cheese topped with tomatoes and raisins. The Oreo 'Bong Bong' was a warm brownie made with Oreo wafers and topped with homemade vanilla gelato, chocolate sauce, caramel, and almonds. I stirred it until the melted swirls of chocolate began to resemble the face of a raccoon.As with the last cafe, the section with the animals is separate from the eating area. I was on edge when I came in and didn't see them, figuring the vicious vermin would soon pounce on me from a dark corner. In reality, the three raccoons were all sleeping. The staff handed me bits of dried squid, and they all woke up one by one at its pungent smell. The most interesting and playful of the bunch was an albino raccoon with smooth, tiny white paws, with which it grabbed one piece at a time.
Finally, I came to the third and arguably most unusual destination on my list: the Meerkat Cafe. Unlike the others, there was no designated animal area; the entire cafe was for creatures of all kinds to scurry about. Above my head waved the long, spotted tail of a genet, a spotted mammal native to Africa that looks like a cross between a lemur and a mongoose. Behind me, a wallaby, the cafe's newest addition, bounced past all the tables. A mischievous Arctic fox ran along the window behind me and began to pick a fight with the wallaby. All the while, assorted cats leapt onto the table or lap of whoever wanted to feed them.
Speaking from experience, the sensation of meerkats trying to burrow holes in your clothes is… strange.