Koreatown cafes: Where to sip tea and coffee in K-town
There's more to Koreatown than Korean BBQ. Find the best cafes, coffeeshops and dessert destinations—sit, sip and stay awhile.
Wed Oct 30 2013
Photograph: Katherine Kims
Koreatown has its share of late-night pubs and dive bars, but it's also a hood that has enough coffee shops and cafes to keep night owls caffeinated around the clock. But these aren't your usual brewed-coffee-and-biscotti joints. A full menu of lattes, frappes, cold brews and pour overs could make any barista blush, while in-house baked goods and refined desserts step up the pastry game. Pair with charming ambiance and you've got a formula for a perfect Koreatown cafe love story.
RECOMMENDED: See more in our Koreatown guide
- Price band: 1/4
In the heart of K-town, wedged next to a Korean supermarket, Brew/Well is an unexpected surprise: The lofty, light-filled coffee shop keeps its cuteness factor to a minimal with serious coffee and smart design. The modest-sized storefront channels a Downtown vibe with patterned tiles, geometric wooden chairs and wall-to-wall glass panels. PDX's Coava and local Handsome Coffee are on rotation to satisfy coffee nerds, while those looking for something new can order off the "creative menu." Try honey and cinnamon-flavored latte or lavender-infused, sparkling "lavonade." Baked goods are courtesy of Quenelle—caramelized banana pudding, gelato and scones from lavender pistachio served with apricot jasmine tea jam to cornbread with vanilla honey butter—give the coffee a run for its money.
- 3525 W 8th St, Ste 101
- Price band: 2/4
Where's the place to be on any given night in K-town? It's not some secret-password-required speakeasy or dressed-to-the-nine nightclub. Iota is Koreatown's place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. Groups and date nighters can order wine and beer along with orders of pasta, pizza, burgers and Korean-fusion creations. Booze-less options include the usual coffee and tea offerings as well as boba, fresh juices and frozen shakes from green tea to almond.
- 528 S Western Ave
- Price band: 1/4
With over 800 stores (yep, that's eight. hundred.) around the globe, Caffé Bene is taking over the world (forget Starbucks) and has made its way over to LA. The Seoul-based coffeeshop steps up its coffee game with its own beans and its own house-baked waffles, proving that Koreans do love their European desserts. Try topping the classic Belgian waffle with yogurt or cream and fruit, or order up honey bread aka thick, white toast topped with sweet toppings. Wood paneling and bookshelves add homey warmth to the industrial space. A young, Korean crowd fill tables with laptops, notebooks and playing cards. Wifi can be spotty but the on-site parking and valet (only in LA) makes for an easy exit.
- 611 S Western Ave
- Price band: 3/4
The furniture may be an eclectic mix (i.e. crushed glass, colored lighting, pom pom pillows) and the prices are astronomical (tea is a whopping $5.50), but the seating is aplenty and comfy, the wifi is free and the food options, well, sweet. Plush couches line the glass wall that look onto Western Ave, while back tables and banquettes offer quiet for cafe-goers on their laptops. A mellow playlist of Jack Johnson is a nice change from the usual K-pop, though music videos play on the dual flat screens. Laze the day or night—they're open until 3am on weekdays and 4am on weekends—away as you indulge in bowls of Fruity Pebble-topped shaved ice and fruit-filled crepes.
- 537 S Western Ave
- Price band: 2/4
Pavarotti lands in Koreatown via Versailles in this restaurant/cafe that's one part Italian villa, one part patisserie and 100% charm. A hodgepodge of furniture fill the expansive, bi-level space that covers an outdoor patio, bar, dining room and upstairs lounge. Elegant tarts, petite cupcakes and rows of colorful macarons fill the glass display of desserts. An almost all Korean contingent fill up seats upstairs and on the patio. Snuggle up under heaters and with, our favorite detail, blankets over cups of Intelligentsia-brewed coffee and chestnut or sweet potato latte ($6.50). Lunch and dinner diners fill up on an around-the-world smattering of Italian pastas, fried rice, Asian stir-frys; and the after-work crowd can order cocktails, sake and wine and tapas to pair. Prices may be high, but it's the price to pay for a European staycation in the middle of LA.
- 610 S Serrano Ave