Food & Drink

Crazy-good food, late-night karaoke, and 24hr spas: how to do Koreatown

Published On 10/10/2014 Published On 10/10/2014
Tiffany Tse

So, Koreans have this thing called "o-cha", and it's kind of confusing for the uninitiated (five bars are involved, and five rounds, and the fifth one is called o-cha...), but basically it's a fantastic bar crawl. Thankfully, LA’s Koreatown is the perfect place for it. Need proof? Here you go:

Gamja Gol

WHERE TO EAT:

 

Gamja Gol

3003 W Olympic Blvd #107
They've got a rich, fall-off-the-bone pork spine/ribs stew served family-style. That's everything you need to know.
 

Seongbukdong

3303 W 6th St
If you’re looking to expand your horizons beyond all-you-can-eat BBQ, this place is a good start, especially if you start by trying their galbi jjim -- a classic Korean comfort food dish with melt-in-your-mouth braised short rib.

Tiffany Tse

Jang Choong Dong

425 S Western Ave
Not afraid of weird-sounding food? Try the pigs feet at this hole-in-the-wall -- they're cooked to a tender, gelatinous texture that's actually super good. Afraid of weird-sounding food? You can get boring-old, delicious pork slices, which you eat with garlic, pickles, and lettuce.
 

Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun

3185 W Olympic Blvd
This joint specializes in naeng myun -- cold noodles served in a refreshing, tangy broth filled with ice, radish, cucumbers, and boiled beef strips. It’s traditionally eaten in the warm-weather months in Korea (so... year round here then?).
 

Olympic Noodle

4008 W Olympic Blvd
Olympic Noodle dishes out K-Town’s best chicken kalgookso -- a soup made with homemade, knife-cut noodles cooked to the perfect al dente consistency, and paired with super-fresh, tangy kimchi and radish.

Line Hotel

WHERE TO DRINK:

 

Pot Lobby Bar

3515 Wilshire Blvd
OK, so maybe you've already heard of this place, but that doesn't make Line Hotel’s lobby bar -- which turns into a full-fledged lounge on weekends -- any less awesome. Sip on craft cocktails like curry soju and White Russians with other 20- and early-enough-30-somethings, and check out the snack/dessert bar, where you can sate your drunchies and maybe run into Roy Choi (he heads the hotel’s eateries).

Lock & Key

Lock & Key

239 S Vermont Ave
K-Towners have been boozing at this speakeasy-inspired bar on a random stretch of Vermont for a while. Don’t be fooled by the unmarked exterior: it’s got an upscale feel, a decent-sized outdoor patio, and fancy, 10-ingredient, occasionally-on-fire cocktails.

Beer Belly

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK:

 

Beer Belly

532 S Western Ave
If you want to continue boozing but also keep food-ing, hit up this hidden-in-the-back-of-a-parking-lot watering hole, known for its county fair food-inspired menu on steroids (duck fat fries, pork belly chips, deep-fried Pop-Tarts, beer and chipotle-braised short rib), as much as its excellent local craft beer selection.

Tiffany Tse

Dan Sung Sa

3317 W 6th St
Those looking for serious Korean dive bar eats -- like corn cheese, kimchi rice, and spicy rice cakes --should head straight to Dan Sung Sa. Every table starts off with a bowl of sugar-dusted sweet potato crisps and a hearty miso/bean sprout soup to refresh your palate in between all the soju and beer.

Tiffany Tse

WHERE TO SING, DANCE... AND DO OTHER STUFF

 

Cafe Brass Monkey

659 S Mariposa Ave
Does singing Michael Jackson’s “We Are The World” with 12 total strangers in a log cabin-inspired karaoke bar sound like your idea of a great time? Brass Monkey’s your best bet. Put in your song requests early, since the DJ gets backed up quickly.
 

Gaam Karaoke

3309 W 6th St
The best thing about this karaoke spot -- aside from the fact that their song selection includes karaoke classics such as "Don’t Stop Believing" and "Thong Song" -- is that, despite their official closing time of 2am, they typically close whenever the last person leaves, even if that person is you, and it's 4:27am, and you're singing "Don't Stop Believing" followed by the "Thong Song".

Karnak

Karnak

3319 Wilshire Blvd
This OG K-Town club practices the uniquely Korean custom of booking, which is basically speed dating with alcohol and loud music. In a standard booking scenario, a bunch of guys buy a table, and throughout the night, waiters bring girls in the club over to meet you, leading to plenty of potentially awkward/awesome/awkwardly awesome moments.
 

La Defence Private Karaoke

3701 Wilshire Blvd
La Defence, as the name indicates, has private karaoke rooms outfitted with disco balls and tambourines. If you see girls in short dresses waiting in the wings, those are either chicks that're overdressed for karaoke, or doumi (entertainers) who earn bucks by singing with, and offering lively conversation to, customers.

Wi Spa

WHERE TO REST:

 

Wi Spa

2700 Wilshire Blvd
After downing your last Hite, you could summon an Uber and pay an inflated fee to get home. Or you could head to Wi, an open-for-24-hours spa where you strip naked (if you want to, it's optional) and soak in hot tubs. There’s also a coed floor (everyone’s in robes) where you can sweat out your night in saunas or soak up whatever else you consumed with ramen, rice, and BBQ meat.

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Tiffany Tse is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and thinks every post-rager night should end at a Korean spa. Check out what she’s up to on Instagram at @twinksy.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Gamja Gol 3003 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006 (Koreatown)

This Koreatown spot's got a rich, fall-off-the-bone pork spine/ribs stew served family-style. That's everything you need to know.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Seongbukdong 3303 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

If you’re looking to expand your horizons beyond all-you-can-eat BBQ, this place is a good start, especially if you start by trying their galbijjeam -- a classic Korean comfort food dish with melt-in-your-mouth braised short rib.

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3. Jang Choong Dong 425 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

If you like pork, like really, really like pork, then Jang Choong Dong in Koreatown is for you. The nondescript restaurant is an offshoot of an ancient one in Seoul, and it's speciality is jokbal. Without the gory details, jokbal is deboned pig's foot that's been boiled and roasted. It's kind of like Korean charcuterie, and it's sliced and served with kimchi, sprouts, and jalapeño, plus lettuce for wrapping.

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4. Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun 3185 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006 (Koreatown)

This casual Korean cafeteria-like joint specializes in naengmyun -- cold noodles in an icy broth, topped with shredded cucumber, radish, and boiled beef strips. Served in a stainless steel bowl, the soupy noodles are traditionally eaten in the warm-weather months in Korea, which means year-round in LA.

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5. Olympic Noodle Restaurant 4008 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019 (Koreatown)

Olympic Noodle dishes out great Korean food, like a soup made with homemade, knife-cut noodles cooked to the perfect al dente consistency, which they pair with super-fresh, tangy kimchi and radish.

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6. POT Lobby Bar 3515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, 90010 (Koreatown)

Located in The Line Hotel, PLB pours some unfamiliar versions of familiar drinks, such as a Tom Collins with stinging nettle-infused gin and Long Islands with mezcal, blood orange, and aloe.

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7. Lock & Key 239 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90004 (Koreatown)

On such a bizarre stretch of Vermont that the only way to describe it is "across from the Vons", Lock & Key is a speakeasy totally hidden behind this unassuming/terrifying unmarked red door. Knock on said door and a dude wearing a bowler and ascot will answer and let you in. PRO TIP: Don't ask him if he's in Mumford & Sons.

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8. Beer Belly 532 S Western; Koreatown, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

Hidden in the back of a K-Town parking lot is this graffiti-covered beer bar-slash-restaurant. Beer Belly's self-described speciality is craft beer and crafty food, and the menu lives up to its eclectic promise. The excellent selection of local craft beers changes daily, and the food is bar bites-meets-county fair -- think double bacon mac & cheese, pork cheek chili cheese fries, and deep-fried Oreos. The Jidori hot wings are a power-packed delight if you're in the market for some of LA's best chicken wings (who isn't?). As for seating, there are plenty of tables inside but the outdoor beer garden is where it's at.

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9. Dan Sung Sa 3317 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Those looking for serious Korean dive bar eats -- like corn cheese, kimchi rice, and spicy rice cakes -- should head straight to Dan Sung Sa. Every table starts off with a bowl of sugar-dusted sweet potato crisps and they have a hearty miso/bean sprout soup to refresh your palate in between all the soju and beer.

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10. Brass Monkey Karaoke 659 S Mariposa Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005 (Koreatown)

Brass Monkey is a bit on the smaller side, so if you want to get a spot and sing your heart out, get there early and reserve a spot.

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11. Gaam Karaoke 3309 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020 (Koreatown)

Gaam offers a top-notch sound system, a great song selection, disco lights, and even great drinks! Plus, they're open until 2am.

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12. Karnak 3319 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 (Koreatown)

Karnak on Wilshire is the spot for "booking" in Koreatown (which basically entails buying a table and having waiters bring girls over to you).

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13. La Defence 3701 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 (Koreatown)

La Defence, located in Koreatown, offers reasonably priced private rooms that come with unlimited karaoke and bottle service.

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14. Wi Spa 2700 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057 (Westlake)

This 24-hour co-ed spa is the Disneyland of Korean spas. It’s a family-friendly jimjilbang (communal) spa, offering a café with all the bibimbap, banchan, and spicy kimchi dishes you can handle. Body treatments are also available for your indulgence, including a notable seaweed massage involving a body scrub and a seaweed skin treatment, and five different saunas where you can steam your stress off.

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