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.
Document Coffee Bar3850 Wilshire Blvd, Koreatown
The sea of outlets and rows of tables with plastic chairs lend this K-town spot a high school cafeteria feel, but in a way that's weirdly conducive to getting focus-heavy tasks out of the way. Order the Document Cold, a maple-syrup-spiked cold brew reminiscent of New Orleans chicory coffee. Make sure to take a breather and look around, the whitewashed space also serves as a gallery.
Honey Mee Ice Cream3377 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown
While there’s no dearth of ice cream shops in LA, somehow quality soft-serve is still difficult to find. Honey Mee not only fills the hole in the market but it does so in a way that’s just a little bit healthier. There are no unnecessary flavors added to make the ice cream taste like vanilla, which results in an exceptionally creamy consistency that’s slightly less sweet than the traditional stuff. What’s more, in lieu of sugary toppings there’s granola, honey oats, slivered almonds, and real honeycombs, meaning that both kids and grown-ups can get their fix without going into a full-on sugar coma. There's another outpost on Sawtelle.
California Donuts3540 W. 3rd St., Koreatown | 213.385.3318
When it comes to non-cake celebratory desserts, donuts have long since eclipsed the cupcake. As evidenced by an ever-present line, the ones at California Donuts are some of fluffiest and freshest in town. The shop is open 24/7, but you have to call ahead to order their signature donut letters.
California Market450 S. Western Ave., Koreatown | 213.382.9444
What was formerly called Gaju Marketplace has recently been remodeled into an incredibly vast food court and grocery store that’s a staple for the goop staffers who live in Koreatown. The banchan (small prepared sides like bean sprouts with sesame oil) are convenient to pick up for a light solo meal or for an impromptu dinner party. And because of the big Latino community that also lives within K-town, you’ll find the freshest avocados and papayas alongside daikon and jars of kimchi. The best part: the free, on-site, five-floor parking structure with panoramic views stretching from DTLA to Culver City.
Rose & Blanc Tea Room301 S. Western Ave., Koreatown | 213.330.6787
A pause in the afternoon for a cup of tea is standard in many parts of the world, but drinking anything other than an iced beverage in LA is almost an anomaly. Rose & Blanc Tea Room is an exception, bringing a dose of international tea culture to Koreatown in a hyperfeminine blush-and-white setting. The tea menu is legit—French Palais des Thés, American Harney & Sons, as well as Rose & Blanc’s own blends (the Earl Grey rooibos is our favorite). Its version of afternoon tea runs more on the sweet side than the cucumber-sandwich side—imagine delicate macaroons, scones, and waffles with lavender syrup.
Beau Bar3300 W. 6th St., Koreatown | 213.382.8482
The coffee menu at this K-town spot is one of the most extensive in a city already saturated in custom lattes. Mint matcha tea, honey, and lavender versions are popular, as is the cold brew sweetened with organic maple syrup and the almond milk horchata. It’s not really a morning-coffee-on-the-go kind of place. Instead, come in the afternoon, when you can settle in for a treat (there are also tasty turkey avocado and chipotle chicken sandwiches).
Klat621 S. Western Ave., Koreatown | 213.674.7776
The rib eye fried rice with spicy kimchi is a specialty at Klat’s, but the nitrogen-infused cold-brew coffee is what’s really out of this world. Klat’s method is similar to that of a soda fountain, creating a creamy head, like what you’d find on a pint of Guinness. If you’ve had too much caffeine for the day, the strawberry basil sparkling lemonade is sweet, tart, and refreshing.
Bia Coffee3907 W. 6th St., Koreatown | 213.568.3007
At Bia, a cup of coffee is an art. Silbia “Bia” Lee started off as a florist in her native Korea, but after making the move Stateside, she decided to combine her old career with a new passion by opening a floral-themed coffee shop. The beans come from Klatch, a direct-trade, family-run LA micro-roastery. The floral essences used in the coffee itself are all made in-store and pair surprisingly well with the more bitter coffee flavor. Rose petals and lavender buds are steeped in cane sugar and water for days to extract their distinct character and create a subtle but unmistakably floral syrup. Lavender lattes are dusted in acai powder, while the rose versions are topped with rose-petal dust. The drinks understandably take a while to prepare, and when they arrive, you’ll probably find them so pretty, you’ll almost refrain from taking that first sip.