NFT Los Angeles Korea Town

Korea Town

Essentials
Home to one-third of the US Korean population, Korea Town is a bustling epicenter of nightlife and restaurants nestled against Wilshire Boulevard's business district. If a non-Korean Angeleno were to free associate about K-Town, three things would probably immediately come to mind: reasonable rents, karaoke, and barbecue. And although the Korean population has given way to a rising Hispanic majority in recent years, many of the storefronts and signs remain in Korean and the culture is imprinted on every corner.

Sundries/Entertainment
Going out for a night on the K-Town? Here's a handy equation: Korean BBQ + karaoke = good times. Try Soot Bull Jeep for a no-frills dining experience with a few friends. Follow a feast of kimchi and short ribs with generous portions of sake and awfulsome '80s tunes at See more.

>Orchid Karaoke or Rosen Music Studio. Both offer private party rooms and drinks--Orchid even serves dinner--so you can satiate after slaughtering "Don't You Want Me." Decompress with a few soju cocktails and swear you'll do this every weekend.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
A Burrito in the Haystack: Authentic Mexican Food in LA

By adam c. marshall
A.C. Marshall knows a good tamale when he eats one. Follow him as he wanders the multi-ethnic streets seeking memories of his mother's Mexican cooking.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Ssing Ssing
SSing Ssing is supposedly the sound (in Korean) that one's skis make whilst skiing. Why this restaurant is named after a skiing onomatopoeia I’ll never know. But I do know that Ssing Ssing makes better food than a mini-mall restaurant has the right to serve. What I like about this fave lunch spot is that you can play it safe and order bulgogi with a side of the ubiquitous California Roll (ok, it's not Korean but Koreans make really good Japanese food) or you can go a little wild (by US standards) and order fish egg rice bowl or combo doenjang jigae (vegetable and tofu stew with fermented soy bean paste) and roasted fish with skin, bones, and all. A good compromise is the sashimi bowl with ice cold raw fish, veggies, and hot rice all mixed together with Korean sweet chili paste. Did I mention that the panchan (little vegetable dishes) are some of the best in LA? Even though this restaurant is located on the uber-busy corner of 7th and Vermont, you can always find parking in the lot or on the street close by.



Posted By:  Noah Albert
Photo:  Noah Albert

Wilshire Galleria
Designed circa 1939 by Myron Hunt (architect of the razed Ambassador Hotel), this I. Magnin location was the nation's first fully air conditioned department store. The store was remodeled in 1959 and then closed in the 1990's. The building is now a Korean shopping center. There is karaoke (Palm Tree La), a spa (Natura Spa--with sections for men and women), a movie theatre (M Park 4), a nice outdoor cafe (Coffee Zone), and many many shops and offices. For whatever reason this cool Art Deco site, with its styled black granite and white Colorado Yule marble exterior, is often overlooked. Many art deco elements are still evident inside: the cool chandelier is a prime example.



Posted By:  Kevan Peterson
Photo:  Gillian Wee

Gui Il Bun Ji BBQ
Eating Korean BBQ in Seven Easy Steps. Step One: Find your seat. Step Two: Order as much meat as you desire. Step Three: Marvel at the array of appetizers that come your way, including Kim Chi and Bean Sprouts cooked on the grill, salads and many others. Step Four: Cook Meat on grill. Step Five: Consume meat. Step Six: Repeat steps two through five as desired. Step Seven: Receive bill and smile as the tab for two people comes in far below what you expected. Gui il bun ji, one of many all you can eat Korean BBQ palaces, serves up as much beef, pork or chicken as one may desire. They also have octopus on the menu, as well as tripe and a few other items not found at Carl’s Jr. Live large and grow larger as you spoon in mouthfuls of greasy, but oh-so-yummy food.



Posted By:  Emerson Dameron
Photo:  Emerson Dameron

Smart & Final
There's something undeniably hypnotic about the name. (And I guess plausible un-deniability is the main thing most hypnosis is going for.) Would you believe that this highly visible SoCal grocery-store chain was founded by two guys named, respectively, (Jim) Smart and (Hildane) Final? According to sources, it was, and it helped pioneer the concept of "cash and carry," which will someday lead to the obsolescence of clerks, since you're perfectly capable of grabbing and scanning your own items, thanks. At S&F, the grabbing is still your responsibility, but, for the moment, the clerks at this nexus-of-weird location (every possible "outsider" seems to shop here) are quite pleasant, and, in at least one case, wearing a lot of facial glitter, which is always good. It's also relatively cheap. (I'm sick of saying "LA-cheap, okay?" It's got cheap wine. And yogurt.)



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Langer's
My mother and I have almost come to fisticuffs over pastrami. Mumsy, who is originally from New York City, has an affinity for Katz's pastrami; it is indeed great, and it's shocking to think that Los Angeles has done New York one better, but the best pastrami in the world can be found at Langer's. I remember when I was a little girl it used to be open 24 hours a day and one night I saw Connie Chung there on a date after her local news broadcast. But with the Metro stop just across the street and the convenient "service" (parking is a bitch in that neighborhood), Langer's is just as popular as ever (though it now closes at 4 pm). I used to be a minimalist and ordered my sandwich with just a schmear of mustard. Nowadays, I go all out and order their utterly famous No. 19 which is pastrami on rye with swiss cheese, coleslaw, and that guiltiest of pleasures, Russian dressing. If you want something a little more savory, I highly recommend the No. 44: it's like a pastrami Reuben made with nippy cheese (the cheese is not "nippy" at all but they put plenty on so I'm not complaining).



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Sa Rit Gol
In a city with a zillion Korean restaurants, how do I decide which is my favorite? It's the one restaurant that I go back to time and again when I'm cravin' Korean, and even when I'm not. Sa Rit Gol is such a restaurant. Even though there are thousands closer, I endure the fusillade of traffic in Koreatown to get there. Sa Rit Gol is just that good. I consider myself one of the lucky few who can actually find this place, and I would like to keep it that way. Apparently I have help: either Sa Rit Gol is located in a Koreatown version of the Bermuda Triangle or no one is this city understands simple driving instructions (it's in a mini-mall on the northeast corner of Olympic and Serrano--how hard can that be to locate?) Once inside Sa Rit Gol I forgive my dining companions for making me wait as we indulge in great Korean bbq, comforting stews, fabulous seafood pancakes, and the best and most varied panchan in town.



Posted By:  Kevan Peterson
Photo:  Gillian Wee

Paris Baguette
A glutton's dream come true. Paris Baguette starts with you grabbing a tray at the door. This is gourmet eating cafeteria style. With tray in hand you are invited to browse row after row of pastries of various size, shape and fat content. Actually, they may all have similar fat content. The best part of this joint is that you don't have to deal with the guilt of asking the pastry chef for each item, freeing yourself to overindulge. Just pretend like your tray, piled high with chocolate and cheese treats, is for an imaginary group of people waiting for you in the car and not just for your own greedy self. If it helps, make a fake call on your cell phone while you browse, asking Aunt Edna what croissant she wants. Gluttony has never tasted so good, nor been so easy.



Posted By:  Kevan Peterson
Photo:  Gillian Wee

Boba Time
Boba Time, located in Korea town with neon orange chairs, neon green benches and white futuristic swivel chairs, has the clean, sterile feel of a spaceship and is, accordingly, the ultimate place to lie around for a few hours during the summer. Their menu includes all sorts of hot coffees that seem to echo the Starbucks menu with the Mocha Frappuccino and Carmel Macchiatos, as well as Slushies, smoothies and shaved ice--which is a bowl of Boba, Fruits, Rice Cakes and Ice Cream. They sure can pack in a lot of bang for your buck. The iced coffee tastes similar to McDonald's Ice Coffee, but with Boba floating around instead of ice cubes.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Han Kook Supermarket
Han Kook Supermarket aka HK is my favorite Korean market (alright, it's the closest Korean market to my house which means I don’t have to deal with the Koreatown traffic). As soon as you walk through the doors, you succumb to the impulse-buying spell. To your left are the divey little take-out places (completely ignore the "C" health department rating and buy some of those delicious kimchee dumplings). Go further down the aisle to the massive panchan buffet--it's a funky grown-up version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Next up is the raw meat bar: a ton of bulgogi and marinated kalbi ready for your grill. Check out the oddly translated raw oyster warning over at the fish department. And all of the above is just in the first aisle. You still have eight more to visit.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Ham Hung
Most of my Korean friends think I must be half Korean since I’ll pretty much eat any hardcore Korean dish. Often I’ll order the oddest thing on the menu; the waitress will be a little bit startled but then nod her head approvingly. This is not the case at Ham Hung. I get treated like a dumb American as I try to order some “exotic” dish; the waitress pretends that she doesn’t hear me and insists that I get the Naeng Myun and grilled Kalbi combo. Actually, the combo is not a bad way to go. The Kalbi is better than expected, and Ham Hung is known for having the best Naeng Myun (a popular cold noodle dish) in town. My friend Raven swears by the Mul Naeng Myun which is thin buckwheat noodles in a cold beef broth. I normally like this dish but at Ham Hung it looks a little too wan. So I go for the Bibim Naeng Myun which is dry cold noodles in a sweet chili sauce, which is quite good indeed.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Hae Jang Chon
I seem to have an affinity for Korean restaurants that don't have English signs. A friend of mine, who is Korean, confessed to me that even native Korean speakers don't know the name of Hae Jang Chon they always refer to it as that place on 6th with the happy animated pig on the sign. This little piggy loves the all-you-can-eat BBQ option. For $16.99 you get all of the sliced brisket, pork belly, and marinated kalbi you want. The meat is fairly good, but I like all of the side dishes you get as well: kimchee pancake; cold fermented radish soup; salad with a really good wasabi dressing; paper-thin sliced pickled and daikon radish and rice noodle sheets for wrapping your meat in; four different types of dipping sauces; kimchee fried rice; and spicy tofu soup with fermented soybeans. This meal is burp city, but it's totally worth it.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Chunju Han-il Kwan
I seem to have a homing device in my head that takes me to great Korean restaurants that don't have English signs. Chunju Han-il Kwan is such a restaurant. If you can't read Korean, you just have to know where it is (it's in the southwest corner of the mini-mall on the southwest corner of 6th and Kenmore). And this is how you want it; if the sign were in English you may have to wait longer for a table. Chunju Han-il Kwan is where you go when you don't feel like splurging on a round trip ticket to Korea. Here, you can find all the homey classics: Kimchee Jigae, Jo Gee Gui, Hae Mool Jun Gol, and some of the best, and unique, panchan in Los Angeles. Their specialty is a dish you'll have a hard time finding at any other Korean restaurant: Duk Baegi Bulgogi. This bubbling concoction is like a Japanese sukiyaki but made with bulgogi so it's a million times better. This dish is not listed on the English menu so start brushing up on your Korean.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Soot Bul Gui Rim
In any other city, when someone asks you out to an “all you can eat” place you would normally cringe. But in Los Angeles we are blessed with a phenomenon known as AYCE Korean Barbeque. So when asked out to AYCE, you are like so there, dude. There are many places to go for AYCE Korean Barbeque but Soot Bul Gui Rim (there are two locations in Koreatown) stands above the rest. Not only does it have the highest quality meat of all the AYCEs but has charcoal barbeque as well. The package (meat, panchan, salad, rice noodle wrappers) starts at about $17 per person. I prefer Soot Bul Gui Rim 2 since it’s literally just blocks away from Silver Lake; you’ll start to smell the smoke as soon as you turn onto First Street from Virgil. Don’t wear your best clothes and you would just be wasting your time if you took a shower beforehand—you’ll definitely need one afterwards. Have a heart! Literally. Soot Bul Gui Rim is also known for its selection of “variety” meats. Feed some beef heart to an unsuspecting friend and hear him exclaim, “This is the best filet mignon I’ve ever had!” Indeed!



Posted By:  Allison Moon
Photo:  Allison Moon

Pho Western
On rainy nights or when fighting a cold, there’s nothing like a huge bowl of steaming pho to wash the blues away. Western Avenue is home to at least four pho joints, but my personal favorite is Pho Western. The reasons for this are simple: it accepts credit cards, is open 24 hours and has more seating than the others. I am partial to the seafood mélange with a Vietnamese coffee. The spring rolls are pretty good, too. The hot sauce is your friend, so don’t be shy. If you don’t know what to do with the sauce and onions, just look around and do as the locals do. And if you are indeed fighting a cold, double up on the hot sauce and ask for more onions—you won’t be sorry.



Posted By:  adam c. marshall
Photo:  adam c. marshall

Frank N Hanks
I first heard about Frank ‘n Hank’s when a friend of mine was complaining that it wasn’t the dive it used to be. I have to wonder what in hell that place used to be like. From what I can tell, Frank ‘n Hank’s has, is, and always will be a local’s dive bar. Its clientele all look like they’re old enough to legitimately compare Vietnam and the Iraq war; it’s a shoebox with a pool table in it, and the drinks don’t seem to have had their prices raised since the ‘80s. I love this bar. It’s making me reconsider my declaration that I’ll never drive through Koreatown again—which I make on a monthly basis. Maybe I’m not going on the busy nights, but this place is a breath of fresh air. Which is funny, as it feels so old school there should be a layer of smoker’s haze over the place. But cheap booze, a pool table, and a juke box—it’s like the ‘90s all over again (minus the fake ID). Everyone in favoring of transplanting Frank ‘n Hanks to West Hollywood, say “Aye.”



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Jeonju
This place is definitely not for tourists—well, maybe if they are from Korea. Jeonju is tucked away in the corner of one of the prevailing mini-malls that line the streets of Koreatown. The sign on the street is not in English so it may be a challenge to find, but it’s worth the effort since it’s considered one of the best Korean “mom ’n pop” places in the City. JeonJu is well known for two dishes, the first being Dol Sot Bibimbap. This is simply rice, vegetables, and meat (or seafood) served in a stone dish heated to about a thousand degrees. The heat gives the rice some nice crispy spots and further cooks the fried egg (de rigueur with bibimbap) as you mix all of the ingredients together. The spicy chili sauce is served on the side so that you can make it as wimpy or as incendiary as you like. The second famous dish, my favorite, is Jo Gee Gui, which is fried whole Yellow Corvina fish. This is food at its simple best—no embellishments needed—and the fish is always perfectly cooked. Another great thing about Jeonju? Plenty of free lot parking!



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

The Corner Place
Korean barbeque places are a dime a dozen in Los Angeles, but there is only one place in the City to go for Dongchimi Guksu—somen like noodles in cold radish water. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it; guaranteed you’ll be addicted. Legend has it that the broth is made by a little old lady in Cerritos and no one else knows the recipe. And no one ever will: you are not allowed to take your left-over noodles home nor order them for take-out. There is nothing better on a hot day than eating Dongchimi Guksu. You taste daikon radish and cucumber (like a savory agua fresca), a bit of spice, and a touch of sweet (the secret ingredient is supposed to be 7-Up). Besides the noodles, The Corner Place has a large selection of meats for barbequing (I recommend the Kalbi) and some pretty good panchan. Especially refreshing is the fermented cabbage in iced jalapeno water. The adventure at The Corner Place begins in the parking lot. The power hungry lot attendant will invariably make you move your car after you have found a space. Park on the street, and enjoy the car ballet from afar.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Soot Bull Jeep
Soot Bull Jeep has set the standard for charcoal Korean barbeque places for the past 20 years. Recently though, a slick new barbeque joint has opened up just a few blocks away that has everything that Soot Bull Jeep doesn’t: prime meat, excellent service, and a dining room worthy of an article in “Dwell” magazine. But the masses still pour into Soot Bull Jeep. It can’t be the price since it’s one of the more expensive K barbeque places in LA. Maybe people just like slumming it: the décor hasn’t changed since the space was a Mid-Wilshire steak house back in the 70s. With the exception of the world’s best scallion salad, the allure of Soot Bull Jeep eludes me. But people just love it. Smoke gets in your eyes. And in your hair. And in your clothes.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Pollo ala Brasa is an island unto itself. A Peruvian fast food stand located on an actual traffic island in the heart of Koreatown, Pollo ala Brasa serves up the best roast chicken in the City. This place is Korean owned, thus it reaffirms my belief that Koreans can take any other cuisine and make it taste oh so much better. What makes the chicken so friggin’ good here is the wood used in the grill—you can literally smell the seductive scent a block away. Your chicken is always perfectly cooked and is permeated with the scent of the wonderful smoky wood. If you get your chicken to-go, I bet that you won’t be able to resist eating some, or all, of your chicken during the ride home. Don’t forget to order the great sides of black beans, rice, and papas fritas. You’ll receive two different salsas with your chicken: one is a Peruvian version of pico de gallo and the other is one of the hottest aji sauces that I ever had—yeah, it burns you but you keep craving it, and going back to it, like you would a bad man.



Posted By:  Bon Vivant
Photo:  Bon Vivant

Dong Il Jang is the type of place that your Korean grandparents go to for weekend lunches. This place is so retro that it is way beyond hip; walking into it is like being transported back to the “Continental” restaurant scene. Even the waitresses wear Mildred Pierce inspired service uniforms (although they seem to be no longer wearing the little hats.) Luckily, Dong Il Jang does not serve Continental cuisine, just Korean classics here: barbeque meats, neng myun, jigae, etc. The specialty of the house is the “Roast Gui” which is sliced ribeye beef for barbequing. A lot people love the Roast Gui, but I think that it’s rather pedestrian compared to what you get at other barbeque places. At least it’s served with respective kick-ass scallion and romaine salads. After you finish eating your Roast Gui, you get the pleasure of watching your skilled waitress cook the best fried rice in the City. It’s composed of kimchee, any leftover daikon radish panchan that you may have, and ribeye beef scraps, all cooked in the pan drippings from the Roast Gui. It is so incredibly delicious! A happy ending to the insipid foreplay that is the Roast Gui.




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