Los Angeles’s Koreatown is without question the mecca of Korean cuisine in America. The food served in this vibrant neighborhood, full of neon lights and late nights, is so stellar that even food obsessives visiting from Seoul marvel at its sheer quality and quantity. While most diners are quick to limit Korean food to all-you-can-eat barbecue feasts, there are a tremendous number of regional specialties worth seeking out in and beyond Koreatown. From knife-cut noodles swimming in seafood broths to bubbling cauldrons of spicy stews, here now are 20 essential Korean restaurants in Los Angeles.Read More
20 Exceptional Korean Restaurants to Try in Los Angeles
Where to find Korean barbecue, soups, stews, and banchan
Sun Ha Jang Restaurant
Popular Korean duck barbecue spot Sun Ha Jang has opened up a front outdoor patio for one of LA’s most unique tabletop grill styles. After a parade of fatty, delicious duck seared on a skillet, diners get flavor-packed fried rice to end the meal.
Seafood staple Soban can do no wrong, starting with an amazing array of banchan to begin each meal. The menu features terrific raw crab dressed one of two ways, either in a garlicky soy sauce or thick spicy red pepper sauce, as well as pan-fried fish and spicy braised black cod (or opt for the spicy beef short ribs instead).
Mapo Dak Galbi
There’s basically only one menu item at this Koreatown classic: large cast-iron pans of spicy Korean dakgalbi, a dish that develops through the course of the meal with tender pieces of chicken thigh, rice cakes, cabbage, and a sweet-spicy sauce that reduces over time. And at the end of the meal, servers take the last portion of each serving and make an amazing seaweed-and-perilla-infused fried rice.
One of Los Angeles’s longest-running Korean barbecue restaurants continues to excel at two things: quality and classic flavors. With a large outdoor dining space and a solid takeout situation, Chosun has endured because of its dedicated following and impressive execution. Try the naengmyeon with a combination meat platter to impress anyone looking for great Korean barbecue.
Pelicana Chicken Los Angeles
One of South Korea’s most prolific fried chicken chains, Pelicana has opened in Koreatown with its selection of sticky, saucy fried chicken pieces served with pickled radish cubes. The spicy variants actually bring a real punch while the soy garlic and non-sauced fried chicken are among the best in the genre thanks to juicy, well-seasoned birds.
Also featured in:
Han Bat Shul Lung Tang
The cloudy bone marrow broth here is legendary, as are the tender slabs of brisket and various organ meats floating in it. The menu here is very simple — seolleongtang only. Build the meal with seasonings, kimchi, and rice, along with a dash of salt and sprinkling of green onions.
HanEuem by Chef Kang
Chef Kang. The name pops up in restaurants around town like Sul Box, Food Truck, and Salmon Talk, but chef Wonsuk “John” Kang’s best restaurant might be HanEuem, a modern Korean drinking spot with upscale versions of classic dishes that would feel appropriate in Gangnam or Apgujeong in Seoul. The modeum jeon, a basket of various bits of battered fried meats and vegetables, is the most popular thing to order, but the stews and braised wagyu beef ribs are tasty too.
Jun Won Dak
Koreatown’s longtime mom-and-pop (in this case, mom-and-son) restaurant Jun Won has reopened as a takeout-only spot serving some of the city’s best samgyetang, a comforting cold weather soup of ginseng chicken. Jun Won Dak also serves some longtime favorites, from galbijjim to eundaegu joorim (spicy braised black cod) to enjoy at home.
Known for its terrific mul naengmyeon, this casual restaurant indeed serves one of LA’s most refreshing versions of the buckwheat noodle soup, which is great with a sizzler plate of grilled galbi. The menu is otherwise reasonably compact, and while cooler days might not lead to cravings for cold, tangy noodle soup, things like boiled mandu and kalguksu (hot knife-cut noodle soup) are worth trying outside of the summer months.
Yerim Korean BBQ
There’s a lot of all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue in LA, but perhaps none has stood the test of time as well as Yerim, which retains excellent overall quality for a modest price of under $50 for most menu options. The tender, flavorful meat coupled with free-flowing drinks and attentive service make this a solid pick for groups that need a lot of KBBQ in one sitting.
MDK Noodles (Myung Dong Kyoja)
Formerly known as Myung Dong Kyoja, the easier-to-pronounce MDK has the same carb-laden menu of knife-cut noodles, pork dumplings, and chewy spicy cold noodles called jjolmyeon.
Mapo Kkak Doo Gee
This classic K-Town restaurant had an ownership change in recent years, but longtime customers likely won’t be able to tell the difference on the plate. Everything from the stellar radish banchan (the restaurant’s namesake) to the seared fish tastes as it should, which is to say, just like a grandmother’s cooking. The tiny, packed dining room filled mostly with Koreans should be a key indicator that this place remains a community fixture.
With some of the finest knife-cut noodles in town, Hangari regularly fields ridiculously long waits. The dumplings and boribap-style banchan starter are also terrific here. As for the noodles, both the clam and the chicken noodles are worth trying.
Sun Nong Dan
Koreatown’s all-night galbi jjim destination serves it with tender chunks of short rib, chewy rice cakes, and tons of spice. While the soups are more than respectable, crowds wait in line for the meat festival in a stone bowl. Top the galbi jjim with cheese to take it to the next level. There’s a big new location along Western Avenue as well — in the former Sizzler building.
Surawon Tofu House
Koreatown loves soondubu, the silken tofu stew popularized at places like BCD and Beverly Soontofu. But Surawon Tofu House makes its own tofu on the premises, resulting in a rich, almost nutty tofu with a lot more complexity. The combo deals here are fantastic too, such as the one with fried mackerel big enough to split for two.
An iconic Koreatown cocktail spot with an impressive midcentury interior, the Prince offers a modern Korean pub menu of crispy whole-fried chicken, seafood pancakes, and other classic drinking fare in a dining room resembling a movie set. This makes sense since the venue has been used in countless movies and television shows.
Seong Buk Dong
This restaurant might be on the small side, but it serves up well-crafted traditional Korean dishes with huge flavor. The braised short ribs are a table-pleaser, along with the strong pot bibimbap. The spicy-braised mackerel is the show stopper, with layers of rich flavor that go perfectly when spooned over multigrain rice.
This is the premier Korean barbecue restaurant in Koreatown, and Park’s delivers with prime-grade meats served at the table, along with a slew of other traditional Korean dishes in a clean, smoke-free ambiance. The quality of the meat and banchan is simply unsurpassed, rivaling some of the best in Seoul itself. The front parking lot has been converted into an outdoor Korean barbecue setup for additional seating.
Though lunchtime crowds go for the bossam, a Korean specialty featuring pork belly slices and accoutrements, it’s worth trying the traditional dishes as well. The hulking seafood pajeon is a classic, as well as the kimchi stew in a stone pot. The classic, dimly lit dining room is now open again.
Enduring Korean barbecue specialist Yangmani treats intestines on the same level as primal cuts, and the crowds every night as evidence of the restaurant’s popularity. Owner Jennifer Choi, who also owns Ong Ga Nae in Koreatown, and has recently expanded Yangmani to Rowland Heights, is always ready to get creative with her dishes, including a stellar kimchi fried rice studded with nubs of crisped gopchang.