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:
Crazy-good food, late-night karaoke, and 24hr spas: how to do Koreatown
WHERE TO EAT:
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.
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.
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.
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?).
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.
WHERE TO DRINK:
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).
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK:
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.
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.
WHERE TO SING, DANCE... AND DO OTHER STUFF
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.
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".
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.
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.
WHERE TO REST:
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.
1. Gamja Gol3003 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles
2. Seongbukdong3303 W 6th St, Los Angeles
3. Jang Choong Dong425 S Western Ave, Los Angeles
4. Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun3185 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles
5. Olympic Noodle Restaurant4008 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles
6. POT Lobby Bar3515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
7. Lock & Key239 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
8. Beer Belly532 S Western; Koreatown, Los Angeles
9. Dan Sung Sa3317 W 6th St, Los Angeles
10. Brass Monkey Karaoke659 S Mariposa Ave, Los Angeles
11. Gaam Karaoke3309 W 6th St, Los Angeles
12. Karnak3319 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
13. La Defence3701 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
14. Wi Spa2700 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gaam offers a top-notch sound system, a great song selection, disco lights, and even great drinks! Plus, they're open until 2am.
Karnak on Wilshire is the spot for "booking" in Koreatown (which basically entails buying a table and having waiters bring girls over to you).
La Defence, located in Koreatown, offers reasonably priced private rooms that come with unlimited karaoke and bottle service.
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.