What started as one Korean grocery store on Olympic Blvd. in the 70s turned into a full–blown town. Not anymore LA’s best-kept secret, food-driven Koreatown is so huge in terms of cultural evolution. Not limited to bulgogi and bibimbap, there is a lot to be obsessed about in this town. I come here a lot, like 2-4 times a month. I have my hair done here, I love the melting hot oil massages here, I check what’s new at the trendy Korean stores and specialty markets. Even the Philippine Consulate is on one of the buildings on Wilshire.
Food in Koreatown is quite complex. Other than bbq and other traditional Korean food that we know too well like in old reliable joints like Park’s Barbeque and Kubawoo, Koreatown is home to one of the best American burgers in the entire Los Angeles. At Cassell’s Hamburgers, in the revamped Hotel Normandie, you’ve got to try the juicy burgers!
Not to be outdone, hotdogs, a more spirited kind of hotdog sandwiches, a specialty of Japanese Sumo Dogs on Western Ave. to be precise, has a cult following. I’ve already tried three kinds, and I’m getting addicted to the signature sumo dog with pork dog, topped with pickle relish, strips of nori and a special teriyaki sauce.
Among LA’s best donuts, California Donuts has the best maple bacon I’ve tried. They have a good selection of yummy sweet and savory donuts and cronuts. There’s always a line, so it’s best to go at off peak hours.
Soft serve ice cream gets a whole lot of different trendy treatments in K-town. It’s a mood thing, like you can choose from cotton candy topped (a specialty of CottonHi), to powder-dusted (in Creme), to honey cube topped (in Honeymee), and at Bumsan, organic milk ice cream is held by pretty candy-laced cones
Other non-Korean Asian food that makes me keep going back to Koreatown, besides the Taiwanese pastries, are Japanese curry at Coco Ichibanya, and katsu and cold soba at Wako Donkasu.
High-end, quality K-bbq to affordable all you can eat, there’s always a bbq place to suit your budget. Yelping is always a good idea.
Have you ever tried Korean dumplings? Move over XLB! I swear by Myung In Dumplings delicious buns! I also like Myung Dong Kyoja’s pork and shrimp dumplings. Not to mention, their vegetarian guksu (noodles) in milky kong (soy bean) soup is wonderful.
Manly sullungtang, ox bone soup cooked for days, is the specialty of Sun Nong Dan. But check out the video of galbi jjim below. It is the same hearty short rib stew that celebrity chef David Chang (of Momofuku and Majordomo fame) eats more than anything else when in LA. In a way, with cheese, it’s like caldereta back home in Ilocos.
Koreatown is not Koreatown without bingsu. My fave places to have this shaved ice dessert is Anko and Okrumong. There’s also Hwa Sun Ji for traditional patbingsu.
Injeolmi comes in toasts (like in photo above) or sticky rice cakes covered in bean powder. There are really so many kinds of Korean rice cakes. I’ve tried a few, but with their long names, it is difficult to memorize all. There’s savory and there’s sweet like mochi. The baked ones, black and white bean-filled, from Okrumong are so delicious that I can forget about other sweet stuff!
Time at a Korean salon is deliberate in between food stops.
It was fun sharing with you my trips to Koreatown, a place I so love in Los Angeles. I hope you will love it, too.
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