913 Vermont Ave., Koreatown
The soup known as al tang embodies so much of what we love about Korean food: hot and spicy; packed with paengi beoseot (long, delicate bunches of white mushrooms), tofu, daikon, generous heaps of fish eggs; and punched up with chili powder and garlic. The best version in Los Angeles is at A-Won, a low-key spot that also specializes in hwe dup bap (the Korean version of sashimi), which is really more like a poke bowl. It’s mixed with seaweed, watercress, sliced cucumber and carrots over rice, along with plenty of chili paste.
3575 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown
When Korean-American chef Roy Choi decided to go vegetarian a few years ago, he named this place as one of his go-to restaurants in K-Town for its vegetable soon tofu. It’s a spicy, bubbling stew full of squash, mushrooms, broccoli, and onions, served in a traditional Korean earthenware bowl. In a neighborhood that prides itself on its BBQ dishes, BCD Tofu acts as the perfect meeting ground for both bulgogi fans and vegans.
Beverly Soon Tofu
2717 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown
One of the beauties of Koreatown is the number of restaurants that do one thing and do it really well. For over three decades, the masters of soondubu (a spicy, fire-engine-red soup) at Beverly Soon Tofu have perfected their take on this Korean staple. The menu offers ten soondubu flavors, including barbecued galbi, bulgogi, spicy chicken, squid, and tofu steak, but dress lightly—they all come in a stone pot with veggies and a chili-flavored broth that’s almost guaranteed to make you sweat.
3551 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown
Part of a popular Seoul-based chain and located on the ground floor of an office building, Bon Juk is an ode to rice porridge, the ultimate Korean comfort food. Oversize photos of its various types hang on the wall, acting as a kind of communal menu, and feature popular iterations like chicken and ginseng, black sesame, and octopus and kimchi. On those rare chilly LA days, this is the place to come for a warming, satisfying—utterly Korean—meal.
Buil Samgye Tang
4204 W. 3rd St., Koreatown
Samgyetang is the Korean version of homemade chicken soup (according to folklore, a better remedy than any medicine), and Buil Samgye Tang, in a tiny strip mall space, serves the best samgyetang this side—or any side—of Seoul. The restaurant stuffs a whole chicken with fresh ginseng, sticky rice, garlic, sweet potato, green onions, and herbs. After our first bowl here, we knew we were probably ruined for any other chicken soup.
Dong Il Jang
3455 W. 8th St., Koreatown
With dim lighting, red vinyl booths, Formica tables, and antique-style Korean scripture wallpaper, the atmosphere at Dong Il Jang feels like something out of a 1950s movie. It’s been around for decades, with pretty much the same menu the entire time—high-quality cuts of grilled brisket, short rib, and rib eye and addictive bowls of kimchi fried rice.
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.
Eighth Street Soondae
2703 W. 8th St., Koreatown
Soondae isn’t for everyone. It’s a type of Korean sausage that’s a mixture of cow’s blood, sweet potato glass noodles, ground beef, and various vegetables, sliced and served with a side of offal (tongue, liver, and heart being the most popular). Eighth Street Soondae is the king of soondae in LA, and for those who are ready to take their next step in the world of Korean cuisine, this is the place to come. Like so many spots in the neighborhood, the strip mall location and bare-bones interior aren’t much to look at, but when you come here, you’re guaranteed to try something you haven’t before.
3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown
Guelaguetza is the most authentic Oaxacan food you’ll find outside of Mexico. There, we said it. And it’s all thanks to its owners, Fernando Lopez and Maria Monterrubio, who brought their family recipes with them to LA—and have been faithful to those recipes since they opened their restaurant in 1994. Today, the couple’s children run the place, but the menu remains unchanged and includes Oaxacan classics like enmoladas (black mole chicken enchiladas served with queso fresco) and salsa de carne frita (pork ribs fried in a spicy tomato sauce served with rice and beans).
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.
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