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Koreatown bars: The neighborhood's top lounges, dive bars and cocktail bars

Koreatown is a neighborhood that never sleeps with a bar on nearly every block. Keep 24-hour good times rolling at the hood's top watering holes.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Lock & Key

Koreatown is a neighborhood that never sleeps. Flooded with watering holes from humble dive bars and beer bars to swanky speakeasies and hidden gems, K-town keeps the drinks flowing and the party going. We suggest pacing yourself and bar hopping by foot in this walkable 'hood. And when you're in need of some late night fuel (to soak up all that alcohol, most likely), look no further than the 24-hour, cheap eats spots around every corner. Just remember: never pour for yourself and that's "Gun-Beh!"

RECOMMENDED: Koreatown neighborhood guide

Lock & Key

Following in the speakeasy trend set, Koreatown's newest cocktail destination is unmarked with a stylish red door that leads to a theatrically disorienting wall of doorknobs and keyholes. Once inside, the cocktail program is front and center. Fresh herbs, fruits, simple syrups and torches set the stage for well-made, craft cocktails prepared by attentive and friendly bartenders donning classic white collared shirts and black vests. There’s a late-night, food menu from the next door Stall 239—try the Lollipop Chicken Wings ($7) and not-so-date-friendly garlic fries ($3). Weeknights offer more of a "Sinatra" vibe, which we take to mean there’s “No one in the place," while weekends offer a completely different experience with an undoubtedly Koreatown contingent of the young, attractive and well-dressed—dress code is enforced—crowd into banquettes. When the bar gets slammed, an abridged cocktail list replaces the 11 signature cocktails ($12) normally on offer and DJs turn up the music giving the place a "club" feel.

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Koreatown

HMS Bounty

Naturally enough, LA's best nautical-themed bar sits fully 15 miles from the water. Located in Koreatown, this agreeably egalitarian bar is famed for the warmth of its welcome and the cheapness of its drinks, characteristics that are embraced by everyone from visiting rockers to residents of the Gaylord apartment hotel directly above the taproom. Saddle up to the bar or stake out a red leather booth where well-seasoned waitresses serve up dishes—don't miss the Famous Baseball steak—from a traditional American menu.

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Koreatown

The Prince

Want to eat octopus tentacles while sitting on Naugahyde? The oak paneling, oil paintings and moody red lighting of this historic Korean haunt will make you feel like you’re conducting some dirty business in a secret spy restaurant. (No wonder Nicholson and Dunaway filmed a scene from Chinatown here.) Feast on sea snails and squid parts or try the famous Korean fried chicken and the unusual yet delicious fruit platter. The drinks menu is generous, but the drink aren't cheap, so stick to something simple (bottled Hite, perhaps).

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Koreatown

Beer Belly

The first thing you need to know about Beer Belly is that the parking lot is not the one directly in front of the restaurant, as one might logically conclude, but rather the one next door, on the other side of the fence. The second thing you need to know is this: fried chicken. Everything else is just background noise. Although, pretty much everything is highly enjoyable—the eclectic Koreatown clientele, the ear-splitting rock-n-roll, the French fries slathered with duck confit, the sloppy, grease-dripping grilled cheese and the well-curated craft beer list. Order at the counter, then try to find a table. Tables are first-come, first-served, so be prepared to circle like vultures.

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Koreatown

La Descarga

To enter this reservations-only bar, patrons must pass through a secret closet, which leads them down a spiral staircase and straight into a Havana-inspired speakeasy, offering rum-based cocktails, a selection of cigars (though it's OK to bring your own, too), and regular burlesque performances.

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Hollywood

Dan Sung Sa

Dan Sung Sa, named after an old theater in Korea, serves up cheap Korean bar food in a dimly lit, lively atmosphere, perfect for adventurous small groups. The kitchen, located in the center of the bar, whips up Korean “delicacies”: chicken gizzards, heart and feet—all grilled on a stick. Don't miss the hot wings and “lunchbox” of fried egg, rice, and kimchee. For fun, order off the Korean menu, point to your favorite number and order what you can’t translate.

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Koreatown

Brass Monkey

Located in the ground floor of a nondescript office building (park and enter at the back), this ski lodge-styled room has one of the most comprehensive karaoke songbooks in the city. Waiting times on weekends routinely hit 45 minutes, so you'll have time to down plenty of liquid courage before you get your shot on the stage.

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Koreatown

Biergarten

LA-raised Neil Kwon took a cue from the biergartens of Berlin and Munich in bringing craft beer to Koreatown in 2010. His beer hall, Biergarten, views Germany through a Korean prism. Platters of brats are dished up alongside Korean fried chicken, kimchi short rib fried rice and burgers both American and international—try the spicy Chosun One with red chili paste aioli and pickled daikon or a Southwest version with chipotle-infused black beans and fried green tomato. The beer list combines Old World ales like malty Spaten Optimator with West Coast IPAs like Bear Republic Racer 5, none of which appear in yard-long glasses served at kitschier neighboring spots. The space also touts flat screens that draw UFC and sports fans.

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Koreatown

Shatto 39 Lanes

Standing strong since 1954, the bowling alley boasts (surprise) 39 lanes complete with a roundabout bar, coffee shop, arcade and billiards room. Pre-game at the bar with $4 cocktails served up by Eddie, a veteran employee and staple bartender for 35 years, then graduate to a round of in-house bevvies—the super strong Shatto Sandbagger, a mind-bending blend of Bacardi 151, Remy Martin, Grand Marnier, sweet and sour mix and cranberry juice ($7.50), promises a punch. In between celebratory strikes, refuel with salty snacks like heat lamp–ready (and heartburn-guaranteed) nachos ($2.75) or the Shatto Special, a combo of chicken wings, stir-fried cabbage and fried egg over rice ($6.50).

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Koreatown

R Bar

This K-town dive bar brings in a young crowd to its American speakeasy-style space—check the bar's social media websites or call ahead for the password. Head this dimly lit wateringhole for karaoke Monday, Wednesday and Sunday nights.

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Koreatown

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