Koreatown has become one of the city's go-to spots thanks to a thriving scene of bars, restaurants and some of the best spas in LA. But unlike more walkable neighborhoods, such as Little Tokyo, K-town lacks a proper city center, and instead its handful of attractions are scattered between its rough borders of Western and Vermont, and Beverly and Olympic. Avoid the hassle of moving your car across town and take advantage of the area’s multiple Metro stops—especially if you plan on having your fill at one of LA’s best dive bars. No matter how you arrive, you’ll find plenty of things to do, from karaoke to shopping malls, with our guide to LA’s Koreatown.
A small, rocky patch off of Olympic might not scream "garden", but this parklet provides a reflective space just far enough removed from the street traffic. In one corner of the space, Da Wool Jung, the richly painted pinewood pavilion, shades picnickers and bookworms alike. The park has historical significance, too, as the site sits just across the street from the area's first Korean grocery store, which opened its doors in the 1960s.
Belt out your karaoke jam
There are probably more karaoke bars than open parking spaces in Koreatown, so the challenge lies in choosing one rather than finding one. For a lively bar that happens to have karaoke, try R Bar, a speakeasy dive with karaoke nights, and Brass Monkey, a weekend go-to spot with the occasional celebrity drop-in. But if you’re specifically looking to sing your heart out, head to Soop Sok or Feel for a variety of decked out rooms that won’t break the bank. Of course, the group you’re with—and maybe a bit of booze—is really the only essential ingredient for a good time, so hit up Young Dong Music Studio if cheap fun is your main priority.
Standing strong since 1954, Shatto 39 Lanes 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).
Shop 'til you drop
Koreatown Plaza comes closest to a centralized, family-friendly shopping district, albeit trapped inside of a distinctively '80s mall—the first shopping center of its kind in the area. The globally branded stores and food court counters (Pao Jao Dumpling House serves up some of the best dumplings in LA) reflect the overall experience: an American mall with Korean flair. Alternative, newer outlets can't compete in size but do warrant visits from curious shoppers. Koreatown Galleria's astoundingly huge bottom floor supermarket is a must-visit, whether you need to stock up on Korean groceries or you simply want to scope out an entire wall of kimchi. Meanwhile, the contemporary-looking City Center on 6th's houses notables such as EMC Seafood and Crystal Spa.
The Pellissier Building's blue-green Art Deco tower stands as enough of a landmark in itself. But it's the inside, the 1931 Wiltern Theatre, that packs 'em in for shows from the indie-rock likes of My Morning Jacket, the Hives and Beach House, to the odd comic act such as Ron White or Tenacious D. Concerts are seated or standing-room-only, depending on the act; sight lines are a plus, but elbow room in the best spots can be at a premium.