Home to some of the city’s most vibrant restaurants and nightlife, Koreatown is a perfect example of LA’s eclectic melting-pot culture. Koreatown, or K-town as it’s often called, has one of California’s highest populations of young singles and the youthful energy permeates throughout this uniquely colorful neighborhood. We’ve picked out five spots not to be missed in K-town.
Dan Sung Sa is an indoor version of Korea’s pojangmacha, the open air street carts for soju and late night meals. On the corner of Berendo and 6th, diners will recognize Dan Sung Sa by the mural of North and South Korean presidents atop a building with a chicken wire panel adorned in tiny padlocks by sweethearts to symbolize the strength of their love. Inside the heavy wooden interior marked with the scrawls and signatures of its patrons over the years, Dan Sung Sa does serve full meals, but groups are encouraged to share some of their small plates, tapas-style. The meat selection, ranging from beef intestines to fried pork belly (a glorious Korean bacon), are served hot on skewers perfect to share amongst a table. Dan Sung Sa serves beer and makgeolli, a lightly sweet rice wine.
Photo via their official FB page.
The Brass Monkey is one of LA’s most noted celebrity-sighting spots and perhaps one of the most fun. It's a raucous karaoke bar in the heart of K-town with sprawling tables and a thick song selection book. It fills up any time after 9pm and gets packed to the gills on weekends when the liquid courage and supportive crowd flow enough to get even the tone deaf on stage. Karaoke is western-style, meaning budding Shania’s will be in the spotlight of the full bar rather than a in a private room. The Brass Monkey serves food, although it seems like a waste when you’re in a restaurant mecca. Best to visit the Monkey as a watering hole and soak up the end of night with ramen and wings at one of K-town’s late night pojangmacha spots.
Although Wi Spa is Koreatown’s mega-spa, Natura picks up points for being just a little off the beaten path and with just a little less hustle and bustle than its local competitors. Natura is a gender-segregated nude spa with clean, bright hot tubs, dry saunas, plunge pools and resting rooms. At $15 to enter the spa’s jimjilbang, and body scrub and acupuncture treatments starting a $30, Natura strikes the perfect balance of zen and affordability.
Literally a hidden gem, DwitGolMok isn’t visible from the street, but you’ll be highly rewarded for an adventurous spirit here. Although the address marks it on Wilshire, the entrance is actually on Berendo on the corner building north of Wilshire. See that white building with the green exterior staircase? Cross that parking lot and go up the ramp leading to a door that lets you out into a quiet courtyard garden. Go straight up the stairs directly ahead, past the fish tanks, and you’ll find yourself in the warm bustle of one of Koreatown’s best dining spots. DwitGolMok (sometimes referred to as DGM) serves large portions of spicy, fresh Korean favorites washed down with ice cold beer or makgeolli. DGM’s word of mouth is picking up speed; DGM added English translations to its menu just last year. The nakji bokkeum (spicy squid with rice) is some of the best in the city and the grapefruit makgeolli is perfection on a hot summer night.
Since Koreatown has one of the highest densities of bars and restaurants of anywhere in the country, it’s easy to write off K-town for being a singles-only adult zone. And although the Shatto Lanes bowling and arcade crowd tends toward to hip and skinny-jeaned, it’s a great family destination during the day and early evening. The leagues and more serious bowlers avoid Shatto, leaving it open and perfect for casual groups. Nothing about the place has changed much since the 80s, including the prices and free parking. Shatto also has a refreshments area with a cheap, strong pour on drinks and bar food fried to a golden crisp, although it shows its K-town pride with its "Shatto Special" of fried chicken wings, cabbage and a fried egg over rice.