LA's Koreatown has some of the best Korean food in the country, there's no argument there. But you can only eat bibimbap and Korean barbecue so many nights in a row. Luckily, the Koreatown food scene is blossoming well beyond its namesake cuisine. Here are 17 of the best restaurants in Koreatown that don't serve Korean food (for the most part).Read More
What to Eat in LA's Koreatown Besides Korean Food
Going beyond Korean barbecue and kimchi.
1. Beer Belly
At this hip Koreatown beer bar, you won't just get french fries — you get them cooked in bacon fat and topped with maple syrup vinegar and fried bacon. Instead of standard grilled cheese, you get four layers of cheese with bacon and maple syrup added in for good measure. To wash it down, a solid list of craft beers on tap and in bottle.
2. Belly & Snout
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Filipino food is finally gaining recognition with a larger audience in Los Angeles, but for those not yet initiated, Belly & Snout is a delicious place to start. They serve a variety of Filipino specialties, including sisig and pork adobo, and tater tots with toppings like oxtail and longanisa.
Biergarten serves up a delicious fusion of beer hall fare and Korean flavors. Their kimchi fried rice is a must. The walls are lined with several TVs and a large projector screen making this a great place to watch a game or just catch up with friends. Biergarten has 25 craft beers on draft and an impressive selection of bottles. Order the flight if you can’t choose just one.
4. Cassell's Hamburgers
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Al Cassell opened his namesake burger joint in 1948 and, for the roughly half-century it was open, was praised as the best burger in town by everyone from Jonathan Gold to Calvin Trillin. After its close in 2012, Koreatown was in need of a serious burger establishment. Cassell’s answered the call again. But this time under different owners. The new location, a few blocks down 6th street at the Hotel Normandie, uses Al Cassell’s same methods, as well as the same broiler, patty press, and grinder. Cassell didn’t do french fries because, as he said, he wanted to focus on as few things as possible and make them perfect. Chef Christian Page (formerly of Short Order) keeps the tradition alive.
Roy Choi’s rooftop greenhouse is definitely a place to see and be seen. Located poolside at the ultra-trendy Line Hotel, Commissary’s menu is seasonal and produce-heavy, with an emphasis on small shared plates. Don’t underestimate the food, though. The vegetables play with a mix of flavors and the french toast off the brunch menu is the right way to wake up after a long night.
6. EMC Seafood And Raw Bar
This sleek, modern seafood bar has one of the best happy hours in Koreatown: $1 oysters and cheap house wine. There’s even a late-night happy hour is you’re still craving soft-shell crab sliders after 10 p.m. Apart from the deals, the menu is an eclectic selection of cooked and raw offerings, some with Korean inflections. The uni pasta is a must-try while the tarragon-topped lobster roll is worth savoring.
7. Guelaguetza Restaurant
Guelaguetza is one of the most well-known Oaxacan restaurants in the Southland, and, following their recent James Beard Classics award, the most lauded. The Lopez family started the restaurant over 21 years ago and is run today by the second generation. Guelaguetza’s various mole sauces are its signature, but they also serve more adventurous and exotic items like a plate of cricket tacos. Pair your meal with a one of the best mezcal cocktail menus around.
8. Isaan Station
Isaan Station specializes in the street food of northeastern Thailand (meaning more Laotian and Cambodian influence), rather than the central or northern Thai cuisine that most LA restaurants serve. The dishes here are spicy, but you can expect layers of flavor beneath. For something sweet, the papaya salads (or som dtum) cannot be beat – the som dtum with blue crab, especially. The bright flavors on the plate are complimented by the bright, cheery décor along the wall. And Isaan is open until midnight, so its perfect for a late-night larb.
Today’s Koreatown is home to a large Central American population with the cuisine to prove it. Jaragua’s pupusas are as tasty as anything you’ll find in a home kitchen or street cart. And the traditional Salvadorean curtido topping is a nice substitute for Korean kimchi. Jaragua serves a few other staples in addition to their pupusas, including their Salvadorean-favorite pan con pavo and some mean empanadas. The Copper Still, which is always good for an old fashioned or one of Nancy Kwon’s recent inventions, is attached next door.
10. Le Comptoir at the Hotel Normandie
Los Angeles, CA 90020
A ten seat counter and a six course tasting menu – that’s it. For chef Gary Menes, simplicity is the name of the game. The hyper-local hyper-seasonal menu is sourced primarily from his own urban farm in Long Beach -- where Menes grew up watching classic TV cooking shows and absorbing everything they taught. Year later, Menes began Le Comptoir as a pop-up and an experiment in finesse. If you’re lucky enough to land a reservation here and taste the house-made ricotta ravioli or the signature sourdough donuts, you’ll realize that the experiment worked and that Le Comptoir is primed for national recognition.
Also Featured in:
11. M Grill
M Grill might just be the ideal substitute for Korean barbecue. Copious amounts of grilledpicanha (sirloin cap), linguiça, and bacon-wrapped chicken are served alongside chewy cheese bread, fried yucca, and plantains. M Grill is all you can eat, of course, so come prepared. The dining hall is a neatly appointed space where men dressed as gauchos bring you skewers like medieval swords stacked with meat. Make sure to finish with their famous Brazilian flan.
12. Pollo a La Brasa
Los Angeles, CA 90005
The piles of wood logs scattered about should hint at how good the rotisserie chicken you’re ordering will taste. There is always a line at this Peruvian chicken stall, and that’s not just because of how small it is. Brasa serves a juicy chicken with skin done crisped to perfection. And if you like spice, add in a few squirts of addicitve aji (green chili) sauce.
13. Saint Martha
Chef Nick Erven (formerly of Tart at the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel) has created a true hidden gem with Saint Martha. Sitting quietly aside in a strip mall along Western Ave., the dishes here are some of the most playful and inventive in the city. The menu changes frequently, but you’re bound to stumble across creations like Santa Barbara shrimp with burnt orange served on a block of salt. Steak and oyster tartare is the most talked about dish. [UPDATE: Saint Martha has closed since the original publication of this article]
14. Taylor's Prime Steak House
Taylor’s Steakhouse was opened in 1953 by Bruce Taylor when this part of town was a bustling business district akin to what Century City is now. Today, Taylor’s is one of the final remnants of this old neighborhood. The walls are draped with signed USC sports memorabilia and countless newspaper and magazine clippings. Generations of Angelenos have come here for grilled ribeyes and filet mignons. Ask for a stiff martini and order up a steak medium rare.
15. Tea Room at Southwestern Law School
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Bullocks Wilshire was once the height of luxury in the Southland. Celebrities rolled through here daily. Today, the historic building is a law school. But hidden between the library stacks and mock trial courts lies a buried treasure left from the days of yore. The tea room may not retain the grandeur of what it once was (nor retain its storied coconut cream pie), but you will definitely feel the history. Grab a sandwich, a cookie, and some tea, then enjoy your time here. The law school does a public tour of the Bullocks building once a year, which is your best chance to visit the tea room outside of knowing a student.
16. The Boiling Crab
The lines are long at Boiling Crab but the experience inside is well worth it. The restaurant was opened by a Vietnamese family that hails from coastal Texas, and their hybrid of Asian and Southern flavors will give you a spin. First, choose from 10 types of seafood (lobster, shrimp, etc.) which you order by the pound along with level of spiciness you want. The fruits of the sea are then cooked in a spice-heavy sauce and served to you hot and messy in a bag. Spicy here really means spicy, but the beer flows freely enough to wash down your three-pound bag of crawfish.
17. Wako Donkasu
Los Angeles, CA 90006
You start by grinding your own sesame seeds. From there, it’s katsu everything – the Japanese style of breading and frying. Tonkatsu, which comes in pork, beef, or chicken forms, is almost as popular in Korea as it is in Japan. And those ground sesame seeds? They are added to the katsu dipping sauce that has an addictive savory kick. Dishes are served with a side of cabbage, miso soup, rice, and kimchi.