On the western outskirts of Downtown Los Angeles exists a small enclave of Korea; known first for its Hollywood soirees in the 1930s and 40s, then for its Korean influx in the 70s, Koreatown’s reputation took a dive after the Rodney King beating took place there in the 90s and never really recovered. Until now.
Koreatown. (Photo: Jeffrey Zeldman)
I did a double take when I recently overheard a cute hipster girl on Venice’s Abbott Kinney talking up her crazy weekend out in Koreatown. That was a sure sign. Make no mistake: Silver Lake is over, and K-Town has emerged as the city’s hipster hub of cool.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet to everything you need to know to sound like you’re in the know about LA’s hottest new destination neighborhood.
What You Need to Know Before You Go
Koreatown is an area in transition. For all of its hipster cool. Its hidden hotspots, its gourmet food, Korean and otherwise, the neighborhood isn’t all glam. It still has sketchy pockets of crime, and its tumultuous past still has its fair share of ghosts that linger. You’d be well served to explore with an open mind, but be equally mindful of your surroundings, take precautions at night, and always stay close to friends.
Where to Lay Your Head
The just-opened The Line Hotel is the funky, daring lovechild of Roy Choi (the mastermind behind LA’s famous Kogi food trucks) and the Sydell Group (creators of New York’s chic NoMad Hotel) who’ve been luring LA’s cool kids from Hollywood to this restored 60s boutique; 388 small, industrial rooms, stripped to their exposed concrete walls and pale wood fixtures, colored with hexagonal Mexican furniture, and brightened by floor-to-ceiling windows with north-facing views of the hills. Choi’s raved about in-house restaurant, The Pot, puts a glam spin on Korean fusion.
A room with a view of the neighborhood at The Line Hotel. (Courtesy: The Line Hotel)
The Pot is the in-house hotel with Choi’s fusion cuisine. (Courtesy: The Line Hotel)
Where to Get Delicious Eats
Koreatown is also home to the authentic Oaxacan mole at Gueleguetza. (Courtesy: Gueleguetza)
How authentic is the mole negro at Gueleguetza? So much so that when the Governor of Oaxaca come to LA, he eats here. So it only makes sense to hide this Mexican gem in Koreatown, where it first introduced Angelinos to fine Oaxacan cooking more than 20 years ago.
Despite the Korean chef at the helm and a solid Korean patronage, the food at Beer Belly is all hungover hipster heaven: French fries fried in duck fat, gastro pub hot wings, and a tap full of local beers.
What looks like a strip-mall dive from the outside is the best Korean barbeque in an area where the choices are quite ubiquitous. Park’s BBQ is a modern restaurant of steel and glass serving Kobe beef and Koreatown’s best pork belly. But it’s the short ribs that you have to try here.
The Secret Addresses You Need to Know
A tiny coat check closet is actually a hidden entrance into one of the best bars in Koreatown – and LA, period. La Descarga is a Cuban cigar box of a bar with creative cocktails and a transportive ambience. It might serve you well to book a reservation if you want a seat to enjoy the burlesque-style shows.
Koreatown is LA’s true ‘hood that never sleeps, with the highest concentration of restaurants and bars in all of southern California. While the rest of the city’s nightlife shuts down at 2am, Angelino’s are still spilling out of dive bars like the Hangover at 4am. If you love the speakeasy vive like we do, Lock & Key will serve you well. But our favorite all-night party of choice is karaoke, and what better place to indulge than in Koreatown?
Palmtree LA is one of the hot karaoke bars in town. (Courtesy: PalmTree LA)
You’ll board the elevator inside the otherwise nondescript office building, and take it to the fourth floor and step off into the disco-lit, dream world bizarre of the hidden karaoke club Palm Tree LA, where you will sing and drink and dance the night away to Korean pop hits in a club most Angelino’s have never even heard of.
Kenny Porpora has been a writer for The New York Times, New York Daily News, Newsday, and has been an editor for The Huffington Post. He joined Man About World as an editor in 2012.