In terms of square miles, Koreatown is about the same size as nearby Silver Lake - but it feels like it's 10 times that. Every block is full of parking lots, bakeries, pawn shops, spas, and restaurants that are busy from morning to night.
We can't really help you with the parking lots or spas, but we can tell you where to eat and drink. In this guide, you'll find a full wall of rotisserie chickens, a place where you grind seasoning with a mortar and pestle, a Japanese restaurant where your burger comes on a personal grill, flights of mezcal, and plenty of beer and soju. We've also highlighted each spot's specialty so you know exactly what to order. These are the 38 spots that you should prioritize in Koreatown.
ies: Galbi Jjim With Cheese, Ox Bone Soup
This fluorescent-lit strip mall spot on 6th Street is open 24 hours a day. At 2pm or 2am, you'll see groups huddled around massive cauldrons of galbi jjim (huge cast iron plates of spicy, tender short ribs, rice cakes, and vegetables in a red galbi sauce). Order it with cheese on top, and they'll blowtorch it at your table until it's melted and bubbly. Beyond this incredible plate of meat, the soups are also worth your time. Order our favorite, the oxtail with brisket - you'll thank us later when you're stumbling out of Toe Bang at 2am but still have energy for karaoke.
Specialties: Bossam, Seafood Pancake
Open since 1985, Kobawoo is a Koreatown staple, and home to our favorite plate of bossam (steamed pork belly) in the neighborhood. With big, wooden booths and clean lines everywhere, Kobawoo's interior is a little upscale, and ideal for a date. That said, if you're flying solo and don't want to eat a giant $30 plate of pork belly yourself, they have a smaller lunch special for $12.99.
Specialities: Cha Chiang Mein, Tangsuyuk
Young King serves fantastic Korean-Chinese food, and there are a couple of classics here that deserve your attention: the cha chiang mein (noodles in caramelized black bean sauce) and the tangsuyuk (crispy fried pork with sweet and sour sauce on the side). The black bean noodles are sweet, salty, and spicy all at the same time, and the pork - even though it's breaded and fried - is somehow also very light. On weekends, Young King fills up with families eating dinner, so you might have to wait a bit, but you can walk right in on weekdays.
Specialties: Festival de Moles, Queso Fundido, Tlayuda Guelaguetza
A meal at Guelaguetza, a Oaxacan institution, involves multiple types of mole, tlayudas, and big plates of meat. All of it is phenomenal and best when shared. With its massive space and live music, it's a great spot for a big group dinner or for entertaining out-of-towners dead set on drinking as much mezcal as their bodies will allow. Also, don't forget to order some queso fundido - it'll ruin every other queso you've ever had.
Speciality: Galbi Dolsot Bibimbap
There's a long menu at Jeon Ju, but you don't need to spend too much time reading it. Just order the galbi dolsot bibimbap - a shortrib bibimbap that arrives at your tiny table in a piping hot stone bowl. Eating it does require a bit of patience because you'll want to let the rice get nice and crispy on the stone before diving in. Luckily, they're generous with the banchan (you'll probably get a couple of soups, maybe a pancake, plus potato salad and kimchi) so you can snack while you wait. For $16, you'll have enough food to feed a small family, though we like to use this place for a solo lunch (and hoard the leftovers for ourselves).
Specialty: Pork Cutlet
Wako Donkasu has two locations, but one specialty: a Korean take on Japanese tonkatsu. That means you'll find breaded cutlets (there are a few options, but the pork is the best), served with shredded cabbage salad, miso soup, rice, and a tangy sauce. The real difference here (besides the kimchi on the table) is that once you've ordered, they'll bring out a small mortar and pestle with sesame seeds at the bottom, that you grind down before pouring in the tonkatsu sauce so that it gets more of a nutty flavor. The huge cutlets of pork are juicy and crunchy, and even if you only plan on eating half, you'll still leave feeling sufficiently stuffed.
Specialties: Cheeseburger, Patty Melt, Banana Cream Pie
When it closed a few years ago after a 65-year run, we worried this classic burger spot was gone for good. But Cassell's is back and better than ever, rebooted inside a retro diner space on the ground floor of the Hotel Normandie. The cheeseburger will always be the go-to order here, but if the patty melt doesn't hit the table at some point, you've made a huge mistake. Also, a slice of banana cream pie is exactly what you want after a long night out in Ktown.
Specialties: Pork Spare Ribs, Pork Neck Stew
Ham Ji Park is a rowdy and always crowded BBQ restaurant in the heart of the action on 6th Street, but unlike other grill-your-own-meat spots in the area, the two things you'll find on every table are prepared in the kitchen: the pork ribs and the pork neck stew. That might seem like a lot of pork in one sitting, but the sweet and spiciness of the ribs complement the fragrant stew perfectly. Portion sizes for both dishes are borderline insane, so bring a few friends, or else you're going to be carrying leftovers to the bars afterwards.
Specialties: Kimchi Pancake, Spicy Chicken Wings
There's really nothing quite like Dan Sung Sa at midnight on a Saturday. The dark, all-wood tavern is jam-packed, the smoke from the central grill fills every corner, and everyone is drinking soju like it's the last batch in the world. In short, it's a chaotic dreamscape and one of our favorite late-night spots in the city. The large menu is full of skewers, scallion pancakes, and other classic Korean bar food, and all of it is exactly what your body needs to soak up an evening's worth of alcohol. A word of advice: When they say ”spicy,” they mean it.
Specialities: Black Cod, Galbi Jjim
You'll find banchan at most Korean restaurants in Koreatown, but Soban goes beyond. There are 16 different side dishes here, from vinegar-y lotus root and shishitos to excellent boiled potatoes. When it comes to main courses, the black cod is the specialty - it's slow-braised, and comes with a spicy red sauce and radishes. It's very good, but we like the simple, pleasantly salty short rib galbi jjim stew more.
Specialities: Duck BBQ
Sun Ha Jang really only serves one thing - duck, three different ways. We prefer the sliced breast option, which the servers brings out on a giant platter and cook in the pan on your table. Add marinated onion, radish, and lettuce, then dip it in sesame oil and salt, and you've built your own duck salad. And rather than tossing the rendered duck fat in the pan, they use it to cook rice and kimchi, for an incredible (and heavy) ending to the meal.
Specialties: Tokyo Original Hamburg, Okonomiyaki, Curry Udon
There's no shortage of fun group-dinner spots in Koreatown, but Tokyo Hamburg is unique. This rowdy Japanese restaurant feels like a party from the moment you walk in - pop music blasts over the speakers, beer and sake are being chugged at a Friday night pace (even if it's Tuesday), and the smell of burger patties sizzles on individual stone grills. It's basically a DIY smash burger situation, and though it seems a bit gimmicky, the meat itself is fantastic and exactly what you want to be putting into your body before a long night of drinking.
Specialties: Dak Galbi
Mapo Galbi is a quiet restaurant on the outskirts of Ktown where you'll find one of our favorite dishes in the neighborhood - dak galbi. A simple dish of chicken, vegetables, and rice noodles stir-fried in a spicy sauce at your table, the flavors are so intense and complex that you'll take breaks throughout the meal to permanently ingrain this moment into your mind. Then comes the second course - which involves a heaping pile of nori-topped white rice that's smashed onto the same grill and cooked until it's crispy. Correction: Mapo Galbi has two of our favorite dishes in Ktown.
Specialities: Raw Crab and Shrimp, Sul Lung Tang
The raw crab combo at Master Ha is a truly unique dish, with marinated raw crab served over rice plus a raw quail egg. You'll mix it all up, wrap it in nori with some pickled vegetables, and end up with what is basically a really great crab hand roll. If you're here for lunch, you'll see some of these crab dishes, but mostly, people are eating the sul lung tang - dense, rich soup made from oxtail bones that is very good on a cooler day (or, more likely, if you're hungover).
Specialties: Gopchang, Skirt Steak, Steamed Egg
For many people, the smoky, rowdy atmosphere is half the fun of Korean BBQ. If you're one of those people, go to Ahgassi. The massive BBQ restaurant on 6th Street has hour-long waits most nights of the week, but just know you're lining up for some of the finest cuts of meat in the neighborhood - get the skirt steak, marinated short rib, and the house specialty large intestine. You'll also get a free steamed egg dish with your food, but plan to order several more for the table.
Specialties: Spicy Cold Noodles, Kalguksu
Myung Dong Kyoja's large dining room is filled with a mix of large groups of coworkers, tables full of old ladies glaring at each other, and solo lunchers just trying to find some peace. But everyone's eating soup. When it's hot out, try the spicy cold, chewy wheat noodles mixed in a spicy sauce with vegetables, but when you need some comfort, get the kalguksu with ground chicken, and pork dumplings in a thick chicken broth.
Specialties: Beef Skirt Meat, Marinated Boneless Short Rib, Kimchi Stew
Magal is one of the newer BBQ spots in Koreatown that strikes a great balance between the rowdiness of Aghassi and the top-end prices of Park's. The gameplan at this bright, industrial spot on 8th Street is to skip the combo platters and instead order a la carte. We've found that you get better cuts of meat for the same amount of money. Focus on the marinated beef options and then add in any pork dish that catches your eye. Do your best to not fill up on the banchan - it's some of our favorite in the neighborhood.
Specialties: 8-Course Prix Fixe
If you've ever stumbled past Le Comptoir's big windows on a soju-drenched night in Ktown, you probably assumed it was some sort of test kitchen or exclusive pop-up spot. And it is - but it also isn't. This tiny, $90 prix-fixe restaurant serves dishes sourced from an urban garden in Long Beach and has a cozy, dinner-party atmosphere, which is great, because you'd never be able to host a party with food this good.
Specialties: Combo Platters
Plain and simple, Parks BBQ is the gold standard of Korean BBQ in Los Angeles. Sure, it might not have the atmosphere of other popular spots, and you're definitely going to spend some money here, but when it comes to the quality of meat, Parks can't be topped. The large menu can be simplified by ordering one of the combo platters (listed as P1-P3), which will commence a food parade of meats like bulgogi, short rib, and rib-eye, along with all the necessary banchan. Reservations are mandatory, especially on weekends.
Specialities: Grilled Cheesy Pork Ribs
An ordinary-looking spot on Western serving truly unique food, Mister Bossam specializes in grilled pork ribs with cheese. Your server will cut up the spicy pork at your table and mix it into a big hot platter with mozzarella cheese. This is by no means light food, but the steamed egg and corn on the side helps balance out the heavy meat and cheese. At the end of the meal, the server will come by and make fried rice with whatever's left on your plate, so save room. One $40 platter is more than enough for two or three people. And if you're with a group, add an order of the huge garlic bossam - tender pork pork belly with lettuce wraps and tons of garlic loaded on top.
Specialities: Honey Fried Chicken
The name of this loud, mostly-outdoor bar/restaurant roughly translates to “butthole,” so you can probably guess that this place is entirely frills-free. On weekend nights, it's packed with people drinking towers of Hite and eating Korean bar favorites. It's a great place for a group dinner before a night out, since the kimchi seafood pancakes and honey fried chicken are perfect before a long night of drinking. The patio is definitely smokey (you're allowed to smoke, and everyone does it), so if you're cool with that, this is the ideal place to start a night.
Specialties: Chicken Burger, Gang Jung
Michin Dak is a freestanding fried chicken shed in the parking lot of a strip mall that makes delicious wings, tenders, gang jung (Korean-style popcorn chicken), and a chicken burger. You order at an iPad and choose your spice level, which ranges from original to “blood sweat and tears” spicy. The burger at “hot”-level spice is great, even if you might need to blow your nose between bites.
Specialties: Chadol Baegi
With granite tabletops, koi ponds, and a huge outdoor patio that kind of feels like you're in a rainforest, Chosun Galbee is one of the more upscale restaurants in Koreatown. That means higher prices - but also high-quality cuts of meat and enough room to fit parties of 10 or more. Also, they have one of the only full bars in the area, which is ideal for your roommate who only drinks tequila.
Hangari is a soup spot that specializes in kalguksu, soup with knife-cut noodles, and a sign on the wall proudly proclaims that they use gluten in just about everything they make. It's right next to Sun Nong Dan, so if you're too hungry to wait in that line, go here instead. The noodles are so good, they even stand out in the spicy seafood soup - which is loaded with crab, mussels, shrimp, and vegetables. If you're looking for something lighter, or it's 95 degrees out, the cold soup (milmyeon) with pork is also worth your time.
Specialities: Wang Mandu, Gun Mandu
Myung In serves massive Korean dumplings in a strip-mall storefront. The space is crammed with people eating wang mandu - steamed, softball-sized dumplings stuffed with kimchi and pork. There are four to an order, which is enough to fill you up if you're grabbing a quick solo lunch. But it's best to come with a group so you can try the shrimp and vegetable dumpling soup, and some pork and shrimp pan-fried dumplings (gun mandu).
Specialities: Pork Gukbap
People are here for one thing: gukbap - a clear pork-broth soup that comes mostly unseasoned, but with a big spread of banchan like kimchi, salted shrimp, and thinly-sliced pork belly that you can add to kick it up. At lunchtime, older couples and people who work nearby fill the tables in this little strip mall spot because it's a tasty, affordable option in the neighborhood.
If you want a Korean BBQ spot with high-quality meat and a party atmosphere, but shorter wait times than Park's or Baekjeong, go to Soowon Galbi. On a Friday night, you'll see business dinners that involve multiple bottles of soju (per person), birthday celebrations, and going-away parties that probably result in some missed flights. It's also more affordable than other places with meat this good - the Combo B is $115 and comes with enough beef and pork to feed a group of four.
Specialties: Rotisserie Chicken
Watching hundreds of golden chickens roasting on spits isn't the only reason people go to Pollo A La Brasa, but it's a big plus. The line of hungry people that stretches out onto Western is proof that this Peruvian-style chicken spot is one of the best places to eat in the neighborhood. A quarter bird is $7.50 with fries and a salad, and the chicken is just that perfect combination of salty and juicy. You might have to beg the table over to use their bottle of aji sauce, but it's worth the hassle. The sauce has a cult following for a reason.
Specialities: Fried Chicken Wings, Seafood Pancake
OB Bear has some of the best bar food in Koreatown, and the crowds to match. On a Friday night, expect lines from 7pm on, but it's worth waiting for two things: the chicken wings and the seafood pancake. The wings have a satisfying crunch, while the pancake is the size of your head, and is actually two thick pieces stacked on top of each other. If you're looking for a fuller meal, the whole fried chicken is a good bet - it's not breaded, it's just crispy and has a ton of flavor. Add in a few pitchers of Hite, and you'll easily find yourself spending an entire night here.
Specialties: Budae Jjigae
There are certainly more refined dishes than budae jjigae, but looks aren't everything. The spicy kimchi stew hits the table brimming with giant leaves of cabbage, spam, instant ramen noodles, and chopped up sausages. It's not exactly a who's-who of the butcher shop, but Chunju's version is spicy, savory, and immensely satisfying. The small space has feels like a tavern, and the central location on 6th Street makes it a great jumping-off point for a fun night out. Also, their banchan is some of our favorite in the neighborhood.
Specialties: Sul Lung Tang
A meal at Han Bat Sul Lung Tang happens at warp speed. Before you even put your jacket on the back of your chair, a waitress will ask you what you want - an easy choice considering there are only two things on the menu and you're getting the sul lung tang (ox bone soup). Within a few minutes, a steaming bowl of the cloudy white soup arrives at the table, filled with a protein of your choice (we usually go for the brisket), followed closely by the check before you've even taken a bite. Don't worry, your meal is not over. Once you're settled, mix in all the salt, pepper, green onions, and kimchi radishes sitting on the table, and enjoy.
This sleepy porridge spot in Koreatown is a great place for a work lunch when you have the sniffles, a casual weeknight dinner, or tearing up at the adorable elderly couple at the table over. Bon Juk is a quiet spot that serves lots of different types of porridge - including pumpkin, black sesame, and red bean. Our favorites, though, are the ones with ginseng chicken or mixed seafood - filled with abalone, shrimp, and mussels. The porridge itself is thick but never mushy, and particularly good when you amp it up with the marinated beef and kimchi banchan options.