Jen Yu’s Best Ktown Eats CategoriesLos Angeles · Reviews

Jen Yu’s Best Ktown Eats

Compared to its urban counterparts New York & San Francisco, Los Angeles is sorely lacking for an infinite list of amazing restaurants.  I know, I know, I’m always ragging on LA restaurants.  But there are few, particularly fine dining restaurants, that inspire me to go back time and again.  Welcome to the land of eternal sunshine and mediocre fine dining options.  #LAproblems

Don’t despair, hungry friends, for all is not lost.  We have something against which all other cities pale in comparison.  The not-so-secret epicenter of incredible dive restaurants, laying in obscurity and waiting to be discovered.  Welcome to the Los Angeles Koreatown!

Check out CNN travel’s article on “8 things to know about LA’s Koreatown”.

Ktown, what can I say about you?  You’re the only one I think about non-stop, and smack my lips in eager anticipation before each frequent visit.  A wealth of scrumptious options tucked behind nondescript strip mall storefronts, $2 valet parking, free flowing banchan, and being socially-unacceptable drunk while chowing down at all hours of the night.

Those unacquainted with Ktown are under the impression that it only serves up all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ.  In reality, it’s so much more than that.  Koreatown is a food lover’s Pandora’s box, ahem…minus all that death and destruction.  It’s a paradise of small eateries that specialize in various soups, fried chicken, braised meats, cold noodles, dumplings, bossam, and grilled meats.  The list goes on and on and on.

Since Anthony Bourdain missed all the good spots in his Parts Unknown episode, here’s my list of Best Ktown eats.

Ktown, I love you.  Please don’t ever grow up.

ktownmap

Pantry No 7 han bat

#1 Han Bat Sul Lung Tang

Han Bat only serves sul lung tang (or seolleongtang), which is a milky white beef bone broth with a few slices of beef brisket or organ meats, and some chewy noodles.  It comes unseasoned, so you can add your own salt (I’m pretty sure it’s actually MSG), red pepper, and a dumpster truck of chopped green onions.  Served simply with a bowl of steamed rice, kimchi and kimchi radish, each bite is pure perfection.

If I had to pick one meal to eat for the rest of my life, it would be this.  Next time you feel sad or under the weather, or God forbid, got dumped or fired, get Han Bat.  Try to find eternal soul-fulfilling happiness for under $10 somewhere else.

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 4163 W 5th St. Los Angeles, CA 90020 | (213) 383-9499

Pantry no 7 galbi jjim

#2 Seong Buk Dong

I have developed an unhealthy emotional attachment to this place, a small hole-in-the-wall in the heart of Ktown.  The food is nothing short of amazing.  You feel like you’re at your grandmother’s house, AND your grandmother is the best cook on the block.  It’s sweet, savory, spicy, sour, flavorful, rich, and ALL sorts of satisfying.

Their famous dish is Galbi Jjim, a popular Korean dish of sweet braised short rib. It’s expensive, but so good you will want to drink the broth down! Korean food blog Maangchi.com has a recipe for this, if you’d like to try making it yourself.  I also love the Kimchi Chigae here (it’s super spicy, salty and sour), and the plethora of fresh and tasty banchan.

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 3303 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020 | (213) 738-8977

kyochon-chicken - joonbug.com

#3 Kyochon Chicken

I once parked illegally in a handicap spot with the car running so I could rip open a greasy box of Kyochon fried chicken, and hoover it down while it was hot.  Burnt fingers don’t care.  There’s just NO WAY you can get takeout and not eat it all in your car.

My favorite thing on the menu is, hands down, the whole soy garlic chicken.  Chopped up and fried to a glorious crispy, juicy, piping hot, golden brown perfection.  It’s fantastic with a side of pickled radish, and the boring broccoli salad, which is actually a perfect accompaniment for a salty fatty feast.

The honey wings are also pretty damn delicious.  They stay perfectly crunchy on the outside, even with a thick sweet honey glaze.  On the other hand, the spicy chicken wings are HOT AS ALL HELL.  I don’t even understand how they don’t warn you that you will permanently lose 10% of your taste buds.  That shit should be illegal.

Photo courtesy of Joonbug.com.  I want to eat this photo.

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 3833 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020 | (213) 739-9292

soowon

#4 Soowon Galbi

Soowon is Ktown’s #1 rated Korean restaurant on Yelp, and with good reason.  Look at that meat.  Look at that sexy marbling, the seamless sensual blending of red and white.  Look at those perfectly coiled pieces of brisket, just begging to be unfurled.  And oh, the pork belly!  Thick, chewy, fatty jiggly pork belly.  Stop it Soowon, just stop it.

As if that wasn’t enough, Soowon also has some of the best banchan in town.  I am a fan of the seaweed noodle salad with mayo (sounds weird but it is awesome!  Click for recipe).  The soups are also amazing.  Try the kalbi tang (short rib soup) and kimchi chigae (kimchi stew).

AND they take reservations, a rarity in these parts.

Photo courtesy of Yelp

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 856 S Vermont Ave, Ste C., Los Angeles, CA 90005 | (213) 365-9292

hamjipark - yelp Grace Y

#5 Ham Ji Park

Ham Ji Park is known for 2 things.  Sweet BBQ pork ribs, and gamjatang, a spicy pork neck and potato stew.  They’re both delicious, and served in ginormous portions.  Some people complain that the gamjatang is all bones with no meat.  It’s actually mostly cartilage, which I prefer over the meat itself.  So if you’re into that kinda thing, you will LOVE this!

Photo courtesy of Grace Y on Yelp.

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 3407 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020 | (213) 365-8773

baekjeong - Sally M yelp

#6 Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong & Quarters

2015 Update: Baekjeong, as it’s affectionately known to locals, opened up a sister restaurant in the same plaza (Chapman plaza). It’s glitzier, more modern, and has a open air bar area where you can drink yourself to semi-consciousness before dinner even starts, because you will be waiting an hour an half or longer for a weekend dinner slot. Isn’t that the whole point though?

LA Weekly dissected this KBBQ hotspot to smithereens, so I won’t.  Read it here.

Here is my Cliff’s notes version: Charcoal grill adds smokiness to great quality meat. There’s a metal ring around the grill where you can cook other food, like corn & cheese and eggs.  It’s loud as hell in there, so if you like to drink (and I assume you do), it’s a raging good time.

Sure, you will have to wait for 1-2 hours for a table, but you can drink at one of many bars in the same plaza.  Titanic anyone??   Watch this video for the best drinking game of all time.

Photo courtesy of Sally M on Yelp 

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 3465 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020 | (213) 384-9678

Pantry no 7

#7 E Moon Oak

E Moon Oak is another tiny hole-in-the-wall soup spot in Ktown that serves up excellent Yukgaejang (육개장), a spicy sour beef and vegetable soup.  The big bowl of steaming red soup has long strips of beef brisket and plenty of bean sprouts.  Served with rice, it is not only delicious but also an excellent hangover cure.

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 869 S Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90005 | (213) 387-8899

mapo

#8 Mapo Kakk Doo Gee

Is there another word for hole-in-the-wall?  What a terrible description for this little gem that serves up top notch home cooked food at unbeatable prices, with an unpretentious ambiance.  Unlike some of the restaurants on this list that only specialize in a few items, this place has a wide variety of choices, and they are all outstanding.

Mapo Kakk Doo Gee has a beautiful assortment of fresh and tasty banchan, that rotates frequently.  They serve a few types of crispy tender grilled fish, all sorts of spicy and non-spicy soups, noodles and chapchae, a delicious bibimbap, and dare I say, a fantastic bulgogi.  This is simply home cooking at its finest.

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 3611 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020 | (213) 736-6668

yu chun -unpaidgourmet

#9 Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun

When I walked into Yu Chun for the first time and spotted a “self-service broth” sign taped up to a big dispenser, I fell in love at first sight.  You can literally serve yourself MSG-laden hot broth in a cup.  Goodbye kidneys, hello flavor!!

I ordered the kimchi mandoo (kimchi dumplings), and 6 cheeseburger sized dumplings floated on over like sweet baby angels.  I fell in love all over again.

The star of the show here is the naengmyun (냉면), or cold noodles.  The deliciously chewy noodles are served in huge stainless-steel bowls with an iced broth, slices of boiled beef, hard-boiled egg, julienned cucumbers, and slices of Asian pear.  You mix in spicy mustard and vinegar to taste.  The result is a refreshing, tangy, wasabi-spicy and savory bowl of chilled deliciousness.

Photo courtesy of Unpaidgourmet

Click here for Yelp reviews.

Address: 3185 W Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90006 | Phone number (213) 382-3815

Written by Jennifer Yu

 

Ignoring the road is taking a chance with the lives of others, so it can wait is making an important contribution to helping us to think before we decide entire report to check the phone for one more update

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