Los Angeles Specialty
1412 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park
By day, this Echo Park hangout is a café where patrons curl up on leather sofas with books and laptops, sipping coffee and ordering salads packed with veggies and grains or comforting bowls of tomato soup with toasted sourdough. Once early evening hits, though, it transforms into a jam-packed bar and restaurant, where locals stop in for the popular happy hour and huge cocktail list.
1716 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
Stories is Echo Park’s much-loved local bookstore, but what most people don’t realize is that behind all the books is a tiny café (and a good one, at that). We love escaping here for the quiet—the stacks and stacks of haphazardly arranged tomes soak up all the street noise. The tables are filled with other studious folks tapping away on computers or reading through screenplays, so there’s not much chatter. You can sit here for hours munching through the pastry selection without being disturbed.
2800 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
From organic produce to the juice bar, prepared foods, wheat, gluten and dairy-free treats, a salad bar, sushi and so much more, this market is a wonderful place for groceries or to have a healthy lunch or dinner. Seating consists of tables outside, so go on a nice day if you’re eating in. There’s another location just off Abbot Kinney in Venice, plus outposts in West Hollywood and Calabasas.
Kae Sung Market
1010 S. St Andrews Pl., Koreatown
The tendency to romanticize the food cooked by our grandmothers runs through every culture, and Korean culture is no exception. At Kae Sung Market, an actual grandmother, Sook Jae Cho, spends her days brining and fermenting the vegetables that make up her kimchi, famous among in-the-know neighborhood locals. Cho has been living in LA. for over forty years and started selling her homemade kimchi as a side business in the ’80s. (The mart is named for her North Korean hometown, Kae Sung.) This side hustle has turned into a full-day market, and on any given day there are up to ten kinds of kimchi on offer, including kosher and vegan-friendly varieties. The signage is entirely in Korean, so look out for the yellow storefront on the corner of St. Andrew’s Place and West Olympic, or just ask a bystander—chances are anyone you ask in the area will know how to get there.
Chong’s Sesame Oil
3560 W. 8th St., Koreatown
The taste of freshly pressed sesame oil is distinct—nutty, a little smoky, and deeply savory. The seeds for this particular oil come from El Salvador, and the owner (simply known as Mr. Chong) roasts and presses them himself. Add a splash of it in dressings and stir-fries and you’ll never go back to the mass-produced stuff again. Like many of Koreatown’s gems, Chong’s is hidden (it’s behind Pollo Alla Brasa). It’s the best sesame oil you’ll find in Los Angeles.
450 S. Western Ave., Koreatown
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.
3907 W. 6th St., Koreatown
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.
621 S. Western Ave., Koreatown
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.
3300 W. 6th St., Koreatown
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).
Rose & Blanc Tea Room
301 S. Western Ave., Koreatown
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.
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