Neighborhood Snapshot: Koreatown
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Growing up as a Korean American in Southern California, going to LA meant going to Koreatown or, more affectionately known as “K-Town”. To my family, K-Town was LA and vice versa.
With one of the largest concentrations of Koreans in the world, LA’s K-Town has become a piece of Korea in itself. Restaurant and cafe franchises that originated in Korea are now a familiar sight with places like Tom n Toms and Cafe Benne.
As Korean culture has become more popular, with Korean food becoming the new hip cuisine for foodies and the annoyingly famous Gangnam Style, K-Town has become a welcoming place where Koreans and non-Koreans alike live, work, and play.
K-Town’s borders are roughly from Olympic Blvd. to Santa Monica Blvd. from north to south and Western Ave. to Vermont Ave. from west to east. Near K-Town is Thai Town, Little Armenia, and the University of Southern California.
K-Town Public Transportation
Between Western and Vermont, there are three Metro stops. The Wilshire/Vermont station allows easy access to North Hollywood or Downtown LA by splitting the Red Line and the Purple Line. The Purple Line takes the same route as the Red Line, but splits at the Wilshire/Vermont station, continuing to the Wilshire/Normandie and Wilshire/Western.
Conveniently located across the street from the Wilshire/Western stop is the historic Wiltern Theater where you can watch all your favorite bands and artists perform.
What to do in Koreatown?
A large part of Korean culture is eating and drinking, so it’s no surprise the area is full of places to indulge. The most prevalent meal everyone seems to know and love is Korean BBQ. And it’s no surprise either. Ranging anywhere from $9.99 to $24.99, one can fill their stomachs to his/her heart’s desire with meat of your choice. The quality of the meat is proportional to the price. Some notable places in the mid-to higher range are OO-Kook on Wilshire, Hae Jang Chon on 6th Street, and Star BBQ also on 6th. If you’re not looking for an AYCE (All-you-can-eat) option, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong is a popular spot, named after a Korean celebrity. Each place typically specializes in different types of meat, so it’s worth trying them all.
If you make enough Korean friends, you know a night never ends with just the meal. Round 2 or “ee cha” is where you can go and get your drink on Korean style. Typically, you’ll sit in an area, order drinks to your table, and drink there with friends or people in your area. Food is also usually served including sweet potato fries, chicken wings, and fruit. Chapman Plaza, once again on 6th, is a popular spot for the younger crowd as well as some older. And if you’re not too keen on the Korean style of drinking, there are other options as well. Beer Belly on Western and 6th is a gastropub that sells craft beer and interesting delicacies like including their grilled cheese or duck fat fries.
Now that your belly is full and you’ve had a couple of drinks, maybe you want to go dance and club. Just be forewarned; however, that not all clubs are created equal. Korean style clubs use what is commonly known as “booking” in which the guys sit around at tables while the groups of women that enter the club are brought to the tables, drinking and eating what the guys have ordered. After clubbing, you can take yourself to any of the fine “noh-reh-baang”’s or karaoke rooms. You and a group of friends can rent out a room and sing your hearts out. Pool halls are another choice, although the majority of pool halls do not have pocket ball and instead play 3-ball or 4-ball, a game without pockets on the table
When all is done, head over to a 24-hour restaurant in K-Town. If you’re still in the mood for some more Korean food, you can go to BCD Tofu House on either Western or Wilshire for a bowl of hot, spicy tofu soup. But maybe you’re done being Korean for the night and you’re craving some of LA’s finest Mexican food. Just outside of the boundaries of K-Town is El Taurino, the godfather of LA chain King Taco. Remember though, the red sauce is spicier than most places.