RECOMMENDED: Best coffee shops in LA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Roy Choi has added to his empire by curating the Line Hotel's dining program, including his hot pot restaurant POT, POT Bar and, for a cup of coffee and a piece of Hello Kitty cake, POT Cafe. Yeah, you heard that right—there's Hello Kitty cake under that glass counter, featuring layers of raspberry and lemon spongecake with whipped cream on top. For something more traditional, ask for a red bean or green tea bun, then pick your coffee: an espresso from LAMILL, a horchata latte or a misugaru latte, perhaps? Seating can either be found in the lobby, where you may have to deal with the thumping music that comes courtesy of POT Bar, or on the outside patio.
Tucked inconspicuously next to an auto repair shop, this Sixth St cafe boasts a large patio filled with a mixed crowd of date nighters, night owls, suited businessmen and all-hours-of-the-day coffee drinkers. With their own house-roasted beans, Haus is serious about their coffee with a focus on Hawaiian beans. Prepare to pony up for the limited Kona peaberry variety that'll set you back $25. There's also the usual espresso-based offerings, but mix it up with the house signature lattes—mint mocha and raspberry mocha. Brunch is served all-day, every day, while an extensive menu of Mediterranean and American plates with an Asian twist (spicy gochujang ravioli, anyone?). But we're sticking with the tried-and-true desserts: Try Belgian waffles topped with a blueberry sauce, ice cream and whipped cream ($11) or with fresh strawberries and blackberry, hold the cream ($9).
Inside this unassuming yellow house lays an oasis of shaded patio tables and lofty upstairs lounge where Koreatown locals drop in for lunch, dinner and coffee. The garden patio is perfect for first date nighters. Add s'mores and cozy blankets to cozy up and you're got the stuff of romance (or at least a second date). If you're feeling hungry, double up on Korean pub grub with under $20 combos. The house specialty is rice cake stew aka dukbogi, which you can dress with cheese, seafood or sweet, marinated beef. But there's no booze here: A lengthy selection of drinks from coffee and tea to juices and milkshakes seem to tame this crowd.
Though the outside doesn't look like much—blink and you'll pass this drab retail space on Wilshire—Hwa Sun Ji is a gem in Koreatown. This authentic tea house is dressed in old-world decoratives to the effect that's more somber than kitschy. A quiet cafe offers solace (and solitude during the week) to find your zen, while an extensive list of teas offer remedies for anything from fatigue and stress to dry skin and the common cold. Each order comes with a plate of cookies, so the steep prices seem justified.