Establishment neighborhood
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.
Western Comics
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.
Parks BBQ
955 S. Vermont Ave., Koreatown
COVID-19 update: Open for pickup and delivery (try the premium lunch box). 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. COVID-19 disclaimer: We are working hard to keep our listings as up to date as possible (deliveries, outdoor dining, etc.), but given the evolving nature of local COVID-19 restrictions, we recommend double-checking the information in this guide with any business you plan on visiting. Also, please note that we have not vetted any businesses listed within our guides for their compliance with applicable safety regulations.
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.
Gwang Yang
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.