Photo Courtesy of Tanveer Badal
The Koreatown Guide
There are three square miles west of Downtown LA known as Koreatown, and this relatively small pocket of the city manages to pack in so many restaurants, karaoke lounges, cafés, and day spas that it feels like we could be there all day every day and still find new treasures. While the neighborhood is rightly famous for its food (you’ve probably heard of the BBQ—it lives up to the hype), there are also great new hotels, shops, and markets right next to the old-school spots we’ve loved for years. Spend a day, spend a weekend, or move in for good—you’ll understand why K-Town is LA’s best-kept-but-wide-open secret.
Break Room 86630 S. Ardmore Ave., Koreatown | 213.368.3056
This ’80s-themed club behind the Line Hotel is entered through an alleyway on Ardmore, on the west side of the building. Once you pass the bouncer, you'll be taken through the back halls of the hotel and through a false refrigerator door into the actual bar. The private rooms play karaoke, and there's a burlesque show every hour where dancers do a Michael Jackson routine in their Calvin Kleins; it's the kind of place you go for a long night of dancing.
HMS Bounty3357 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown | 213.385.7275
Everything about this place speaks of comfort: the friendly, loyal servers; the kitschy, nautical vibe; the jazz jukebox in the corner; and the complete lack of pretense. The Bounty is a classic, dark, dive-y LA landmark that's endured despite K-town’s hipster invasion—and the prices have stayed relatively low. We don't come here for the food (although the fish and chips is solid); we come for the generous, consistent drinks. There's comfort in knowing that it's always the same every time we come. But you know what else is consistent? How far away the bathrooms are (which is: in the adjacent historic hotel, past the lobby desk, down the dark basement stairs, and next to the laundry room).
OB Bear3002 W. 7th St., Koreatown | 213.480.4910
Crispy, spicy, and slathered in gojuchang (a red chili paste), the fried chicken wings at this dive-y pub are considered the real deal among the Korean fried chicken experts in the city. Its name comes from the Korean beer brand OB, and naturally, an ice-cold pint is the typical pairing with an order.
The Normandie Club3612 W. 6th St., Koreatown | 213.263.2709
If you're looking for a bar to impress visiting friends, you have now found it. The space is as classy and refined as it is cool—dark leather chairs, painted brick, and low lighting. The drinks are, in a word: impressive. The mixologists at the Normandie Club have invented house specialties that all put a unique spin on a classic: a daiquiri with a salted-grapefruit cordial, an old-fashioned with coconut bourbon. Our favorite is the shandy: a crisp lager elevated with Suze, blueberry mint syrup, and a squeeze of lemon. The drink is crisp, refreshing, and sweet without being cloying. There's also a generous selection of global liquors, including brandy, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, mezcal, tequila, and cider on tap. Given there's no food, this is a perfect spot for a nightcap after dinner.
Soopsok4070 W. 3rd St., Koreatown | 213.380.0909
Since 1986, Soopsok has been the place to belt out Top 40 hits, classic rock ballads, and current K-pop favorites in one of its twenty karaoke rooms (some of which can accommodate up to thirty people). Order a couple bottles of soju (Korea’s national drink) and some plates of spicy chicken wings and nachos, and it’ll be impossible to not have a fun night.
Toe Bang3465 W. 6th St., Koretown | 213.387.4905
This lively, dive-y K-town bar is a popular spot when you’re waiting for a table at a nearby restaurant, like Quarters or Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. But it’s also a worthy destination in itself for its soju-based cocktails (we’re partial to the mango and lychee flavors), the fun hip-hop playlist, and bar snacks like kimchi pancakes, bulgogi cabbage wraps, and scallop skewers. Sports fans can watch Lakers and Dodgers games on the big-screen TVs.