Why Koreatown Is LA’s Hippest Zip Code
Discover the cream of Koreatown’s restaurants, hotels, and sights and sounds.
Where to eat Korean BBQ
In Los Angeles but never tried Korean BBQ before? Then Koreatown is your go-to address for broadening your gastronomic horizons. The Korean BBQ experience involves ordering dishes of raw meat that you broil yourself on a grill built right into your restaurant table. The type of meat served is more a matter of preference than tradition. When it comes to choosing marinades, bulgogi and gal-bi are Korean classics, but you can order unmarinated meat too. It’s your call. The meat mainstays are accompanied by side dishes, called banchan, such as kimchi and other pickled or marinated vegetables.
Although Park’s BBQ has contended with its fair share of rising-star rivals in recent years, this internationally acclaimed restaurant (recognized in the MICHELIN Guide, no less) remains a premier destination for Korean BBQ. Sound enticing? Rest assured you’ll be well cared for by the knowledgeable staff as you ease into this eatery’s laid-back atmosphere. A word of warning, though: Swallowing at Park’s BBQ may cause separation anxiety, since it’s often a case of love at first bite. When the food is this good, parting is such sweet sorrow, as Shakespeare once wrote (and the guy knew a thing or two about love affairs, no?). If this is your first flirtation with Korean BBQ, we recommend you try the tasting menu.
Korean gets creative
All kudos to Park’s and the BBQ fraternity, but we’d be selling the Koreatown experience woefully short if we didn’t stress that its restaurant scene is so very much more than just Korean BBQ. Truth be told, the neighborhood is a mecca for foodies partial to creative fine-dining experiences that don’t skimp on quality. One eclectic new kid on the block in this upscale category is restaurant Here’s Looking at You, or “HLAY,” as the regulars like to call it.
At HLAY you can get your fill of handcrafted cocktails and daintily-proportioned dishes boasting influences from both East and West in surprising combinations. It’s offbeat. It’s cozy. It’s everything that is LA.
When HLAY co-founder Lien Ta was looking for a location for her new restaurant, Koreatown came out the hands-down winner:
”Koreatown is rich in cultures beyond just the Korean culture. Not only that, it’s smack-bang in the middle of LA. We want our guests to choose HLAY because it’s central, and a place where friends can come together to make memories,” Lien Ta explains.
Extend your stay in Koreatown
Koreatown stands out as the perfect neighborhood for travelers looking for centrally located accommodation from which to enjoy their LA vacation, and who prefer an area with a more authentic than touristy feel. Looking for a recommendation? The LINE LA is a 4-star, boutique hotel with affordable room rates and industrial-style interiors featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed cement walls. Its rooms’ thick, brightly colored curtains will completely block out light from outside at any time of the day or night, which is a definite plus if you’re struggling with jet lag.
One added bonus to staying at the LINE LA is easy access to the Alfred café located in the hotel’s lobby. Serving up fresh-baked sweets and hard-to-beat coffee daily, Alfred is a favorite pit stop for hotel guests and Koreatown locals alike. The LINE LA is also home to eclectic, 80’s-style bar Break Room 86, where you’re encouraged to belt out your best karaoke numbers while dressed in fun costumes.
Wilshire Boulevard—attractions left & right
Over on Wilshire Boulevard, just a short stroll to the west of the LINE LA, landmark office skyscraper the Pellissier Building rises to a height of over 165 feet above the pavement. Together with adjoining live music venue the Wiltern, these two buildings comprise one of LA’s most notable examples of Art Deco architecture. If you’re a music fan, the Wiltern concert venue will be worth a visit for more than just its architecture. Among other popular acts, the likes of Norway’s Dagny and Sweden’s Tove Lo perform here when it comes time to woo Angelenos with a dose of Scandinavian pop.
Head east on Wilshire instead, and you’ll eventually end up at the neighborhood’s biggest Korean spa—Wi Spa. Like most traditional Korean spas, Wi Spa is open 24-7. The facility offers hot and cold baths and no less than five different types of sauna to enjoy (ice, clay, jade, oakwood, and salt, in case you’re wondering). There’s also a full-service restaurant, kids’ zone, gym, rooftop terrace, and a jimjilbang—the coed area at the heart of every authentic Korean spa. Wi Spa has something for everyone.
5 quick tips when visiting Koreatown
Calling all K-pop fans! Music Plaza at the Koreatown Plaza mall stocks all your favorites and much more besides.
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Paris Baguette in the outdoor Madang Mall is a Korean-inspired, French-style bakery café run by a well-known South Korean franchise. You might not think you’ll need one, but our hot tip is to grab a tray when you arrive. Paris Baguette’s irresistible selection makes it impossible to choose just one pastry.
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Come prepared to pass your plates back and forth across the table like yo-yos when you visit the HanEuem restaurant. Both traditional and modern Korean dishes jostle for a spot on HanEuem’s sizable menu, and the portions are generous enough to share.
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Document Coffee Bar offers guests skillfully crafted pick-me-ups and a menu with that little something extra to boot. Try their matcha affogato—a scoop of vanilla ice cream paired with a shot of matcha—if you’re in the mood for a dessert-drink combo, that is.
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Don’t let yourself be deterred by the fact that the Normandie Club is a hotel bar (located inside the landmark Hotel Normandie, circa 1926). Feel free to put your bartender’s creative talents to the test at this petite, ultra-popular cocktail bar.
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955 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90006
Here’s Looking at You
3901 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020
The LINE LA Hotel
3515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010
3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010
2700 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90057
Text by Erica Lindberg