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.
730 S. Western Ave., Koreatown
This comic book store—hidden at the top of a strip mall stairwell—consists of two rooms of floor-to-ceiling shelves tightly packed with Korean comics, manga, and graphic novels. The difference here is that you rent—not buy—what you read, and for fifteen bucks, you’re free to browse the archive and settle into one of the comfy leather sofas for an entire day (beverages and Korean shrimp crackers included), or check out a few comics to take home, like a lending library. It’s entirely normal (and encouraged) for people to set up shop for an afternoon, their feet on the table, a stack of comics—and a refreshment—by their side.
Yuk Dae Jang
3033 W. 6th St., Koreatown
Yukgaejang is a spicy, rich Korean soup made with brisket, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and scallions in bone broth, and it’s been perfected at this small, no-frills spot. The menu is limited (printed on a single laminated sheet with pictures), featuring just a few variations of yukgaejang (original, with noodles, or with tofu), as well as handmade steamed pork dumplings, pork belly with a side of kimchi, and cold buckwheat noodle soup.
2716 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown
If you’re familiar with one Korean dish, it’s likely bibimbap—a mixture of rice, sautéed vegetables, fermented chili paste, and, occasionally, sliced meat, topped with a fried egg. Jeon Ju specializes in dolsot bibimbap, a variation served in a hot stone pot that adds a whole other flavor dimension to the meal, with a smoky, crispy bottom layer of rice formed from the additional heat.
Toe Bang Cafe
3465 W. 6th St., Koretown
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.
955 S. Vermont Ave., Koreatown
This is the gold standard of Korean BBQ in this city. The original Parks, in Seoul, is still going strong, and the LA outpost is similarly known for using prime cuts of meat (including American Wagyu and Kobe-style beef) and some of the best-quality banchan—the complimentary small dishes like kimchi, bean sprouts, and soy-brushed lotus root that arrive before your meal—you’ll ever try.
3833 W. 6th St., Koreatown
Incredibly crispy, garlicky, yet not-greasy fried chicken is the specialty at this low-key strip mall spot that was the center of the Korean fried chicken craze a few years ago. The secret lies in the double-fry technique KyoChon uses, but for us, it’s the sauces that really put it at the top of our K-town list. The three choices include honey, hot and sweet, and (our favorite) soy garlic.
Hangari Bajirak Kalguksu
3470 W. 6th St., Koreatown
A hearty, rich noodle soup in chicken stock, dak kalguksu is a Korean comfort food that’s perfected at this bright, airy restaurant. The steaming bowls are flavored with garlic and onions and thickened with potatoes. Protein options include Manila clams, crab, and game hen, and each order comes with sides of radish and cabbage kimchi. Be aware that wait times can be long here, especially during cool weather, when people feel like warming up with something nourishing and hot.
3435 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown
Bulgogi is one of the most ordered dishes by visitors who come to eat in Koreatown, and Gwang Yang serves a version that’s been three generations in the making. A family-owned restaurant founded in Korea, this is the only US location. The marinated, thin, barbecued slices of beef are perfectly smoky and tender and usually accompanied by a variety of side dishes, like bibim naengmyeon (Korean cold noodles in a chilled beef broth) and crisp kimchi pancakes.
Eight Korean BBQ
863 S. Western Ave., Koreatown
The grilled pork belly is the thing to order here—and there eight kinds to choose from. You’ll find variations including black sesame, curry, garlic, and miso, as well as steaming bowls of kimchi stew, spicy buckwheat noodles, and stir-fries. The space is bright and airy, with a slightly industrial vibe (polished concrete floors, super high ceilings) that creates a feeling of breathing room from the smoke at other tables.
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