L.A.‘s Koreatown is a total hipster hangout and not at all touristy, making it the perfect destination for intrepid city breakers. Being one of the densest populations in Los Angeles, means you’re in a city within a city that never sleeps. Twenty-four-hour restaurants are just the beginning. Within steps of the hotel are round the clock spas, karaoke clubs and cocktail bars ripe for exploring. Like art? You’ll find impressive street murals and art deco treasures on every block. But the best part about staying in Koreatown is The Line hotel.
The Line Hotel in Koreatown
The Line is arguably L.A.’s hippest hotel at the moment. A collaboration between celebrity chef Roy Choi and trendy lifestyle brand Poketo (all the cool kids follow them on Pinterest), it’s certainly stylish, a mix between minimalism and Cloud Cuckoo Land. Rooms are cozy, but efficient with spectacular views of the Hollywood Hills via floor to ceiling windows. Be sure to check out the mini bar should you be hankering for some sesame biscuits, gummy bears, condoms, a lover’s intimacy book or sleeping pills.
Dining inside The Line hotel
I don’t usually say this, but room service is pretty fantastic at The Line hotel. Arriving in stacked metal tins and wrapped in cloth it’s totally Japanese bento style, but way more savoury. The unassuming sounding breakfast burrito was anything but. Marinated chunks of beef short rib sandwiched together with eggs and zesty cilantro sauce kick started my morning. The side bowl of assorted fruit was actually a full casserole dish size. Tea comes in a hipster canister, preserving it nice and hot for a good half hour even after arriving. And POT Cafe has THE BEST, snacks particularly the Mocha (voted L.A.’s best cookie) and the guava cheesecake POT Puff.
The whole point of staying in Koreatown is the ability to gorge yourself on Korean barbecue several times a day. For truly authentic Korean barbecue, search out Ham Ji Park, a little hole in the wall that Anthony Bourdain has eaten at. Pork ribs are the most popular and like most Korean BBQ joints, your meal with come with ban chan side dishes. Known as ban chan, these side dishes change all the time, but you can expect some kind of salad, veg (I had bean sprouts and broccoli in hot sauce), pickled radish and always kimchi.
Likely the most popular barbecue joint is Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. Waits at this strip mall restaurant can stretch for two hours, but it’s worth it. You’ll feast on perfectly charred meaty morsels and will slurp back the most divine garlicy clear soup (served cold). A metal ring surrounding the BBQ is filled with corn and shredded cheese in one section, onions and peppers in another and raw egg poured in dramatically by kettle fills the last compartment. The egg is soon scrambled, the peppers charred and melted cheese oozes over the corn.
While Asian families have been flocking here since 60s, Koreatown was only designated as such in 2010. To assume the neighbourhood is primarily Asian is actually incorrect. This revitalized community is comprised of over 50% Hispanic folks and only 35% Asian. A trove of food, culture and nightlife, you’ll definitely want to suss it out on your next visit to L.A. Here’s a neighbourhood guide to Koreatown so you know what’s hot. And if you’re staying for longer, check out this L.A. itinerary that takes you through city hot spots in threes.
Spas in Koreatown
The downside to The Line is it doesn’t have it’s own Korean spa. Korean spas are a thing of wonder. Mostly 24-hours, mostly naked, mostly cheap. A day pass can be had for around $20 bucks and offers a variety of tricked out saunas, relaxation rooms and pools to plunge into. You can also get treatments done such as massage, facials, and body scrubs. Check out this piece I wrote on Wi Spa in Koreatown for an in depth look on getting naked or going home.
Best coffee shop in Koreatown
Coffee shops are everywhere, but in Koreatown, you’ll find Caffe Bene, Korea’s answer to Starbucks. Located just off Wiltshire Blvd on Western Ave., this trendy java joint serves up the regular suspects, but what you’re after is Misugaru. This latte type drink is a totally authentic Korean staple. Made from brown rice, sesame seeds and black beans, it’s high in protein, low in calories, caffeine free and good for digestion. Frothy and warm, it tastes similar to malted milk, but with a bit of a toasty tang. Caffe Bene also dishes out proper Belgian waffles, interesting looking cheese bread and hot bubble tea.
Shopping in Koreatown
City Center Mall is a bustling mini-mall brimming with Asian goodies. Pick up fab beauty supplies (BB cream, potent $3 facial masks, etc…) or get your hair blown out for only $30.
Zion Market is a grocery store inside this mall, where you can find everything from salty squid snacks to seafood pancakes to great deals on sushi ($6.50 for an eight piece roll). Make use of your hotel room kettle and score some instant ramen and corn tea. Best is the goldfish sweet buns a lovely elderly gent makes fresh every few minutes. I recommend going for bung pung vs. the red been paste. The light, sweet dough is crispy on the outside and a smooth vanilla custard oozes from its center.
Have you ever been to Koreatown or stayed at The Line hotel? What did you think?