I’m still pretty new to Los Angeles (almost 5 months now) but I already have a few favorite places in each neighborhood.
Here are my favorite places in Koreatown (so far). The funny thing is they’re not even Korean-food related..
Aca Grill (pronounced Ah-sah)
A small and homey Argentinian BBQ restaurant owned and operated by a Korean family. The Inca Kola soda is like crack, the meat is succulent and the chimichurri sauce is on point. Eating here made me feel at home because of how the meat plate (I got #1 (Asado, pork belly and chorizo)) was so well cooked and balanced- reminded me of how my mom puts so much love and care into her cooking. The empanadas are also delicious. They have another location in DTLA but this is the original and the one I went to.
3062 W 8th street
On the East Coast, my family and I would go to a Korean Spa in Jersey quite often for some much needed bonding time and R&R. Korean Spas are known for the fact that you’ll have to be naked in front of strangers. By that I mean you change into a loose cotton uniform (to be worn commando style) in the locker area, where you will then proceed upstairs to enter communal and co-ed saunas to sweat. But eventually, in the washing/shower area you will have to be nakey, in front of other people. You might have seen the video of Conan and Steven Yeun visiting Wi Spa. I promise it’s not as awkward as it looks in the video. It is only awkward if you make it awkward. My favorite sauna is the clay room. It’s like a grown up ball pit but instead of plastic balls, the whole room is filled with clay balls for your body to sink into.
If you think Korean spas sound weird, you’ll get used to it and find comfort in the fact that 1) it’s nothing you haven’t seen before 2) you will most likely never see these people again. My favorite part about Wi Spa is how big it is. Even if there’s a lot of people there’s a lot of space for napping and relaxation. There’s even a rooftop for you to lounge in. Only in California since the weather is nice all year round. You can also get spa services like a body scrub and massage, surf the net in the study/internet lounge and eat Korean food in the restaurant on the main communal floor.
Uba Tuba Acai
When my friend introduced me to this place I was really intrigued. Amidst all of the Korean eateries was this Acai place with images of Brazilian life and Bossa Nova music playing in the background. I had tried Acai bowls before (both on the East Coast and in LA), but the ones here are by far my absolute favorite. I like the kind of acai bowls that are smoothie-like, not creamy and here they have delicious consistency, taste and presentation. It tastes fresh and fills me up despite how light and healthy it is.
My favorite on the menu is the Felix which is Acai with bananas, cacao nibs, bee pollen and granola . They also have awesome empanadas. I like the beef japaleno.
549 S Western Ave
Koreatown is saturated with cafes. There’s Tom n Toms, Caffe Bene, Starbucks and then there are the more independent cafes for your studying pleasure. I haven’t been to allll of the cafes in Koreatown but I’ve been to most and Cafe Americano is my favorite. Not only is the ambiance simple and relaxing, it’s quiet, clean and allows for a productive temporary working space. I came here early one weekend and stayed until early evening. Time flew by because of all the work I had done (rare). Outlets are everywhere and the wifi is free for your use. I don’t drink coffee so I was glad to see they had a great offering of tea. Not the usual boring black or green tea but things like the lavender camomile tea. Also… I don’t know another place that serves honey lavender toast unless you go to Pasadena.
4003 Wilshire Blvd
Sul and Beans
Bingsoo is a Korean dessert that can be easily ruined. You could have great toppings, but the shaved ice part could be all melty and watery when you scoop into it. The toppings could all clash together if not combined well. Sul and Beans is the best rendition of the shaved ice dessert that I’ve ever had outside of Korea. It’s different than your typical shaved ice. They take making this quite seriously. Instead of just sprinkling the powder on top, the powder is expertly layered inside the ice. The topping to powder to ice ratio is perfect, allowing for you to get the perfect scoop. All of the flavors here taste authentic, whether it’s the injeolmi, black sesame, green tea, or the classic red bean. I recommend the injeolmi and green tea. I can’t wait to bring my mom here when she visits.
621 S Western Ave, Ste 208
Meli’s Italian Ice
I like to think that because I grew up on the East Coast, I know what good water ice tastes like. Apparently not a lot of people know what water ice is to begin with…. It’s not water with ice. It’s also not quite shaved ice with flavoring. Meli’s Italian ice is a bit like creamy ice. Softer in texture, more natural in flavor and the custard (should you order it) is creamier. The staff here is so friendly and generous with the unlimited number of samples. I always have a few before I decide on the perfect combo (which they twist together) that will satisfy my craving. When I was a kid I always got watermelon and vanilla chocolate chip… At Meli’s I love Taro and pink panther (which I believe is a combo of lemonade and cotton candy) though their flavors change. Their radioball combines the water ice with custard. You really can’t go wrong here.
4059 W 3rd St
So there you have it. Some of my favorite places here in Koreatown, Los Angeles. Koreatown in LA is maybe 20 times larger than it is in New York and it’s not exactly “all Korean” like the one in New York is… So I guess you can say I’m excited to explore more places in here! Did I miss any? Have you tried these places? Any recommendations?
Stay tuned for more “neighborhood guides!” More to come as I get to know LA more.
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