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Feb 24, 2015
36 Hours in LA's Koreatown - The New York Times

The antidote to Hollywood’s seasonal Academy Awards fever is just a few blocks away, in Koreatown. It’s hard to imagine that two decades ago, K-Town, as it is known in local parlance, was a flash point for the Los Angelesriots: a low-rent district engulfed in flames. Today this sprawling, three-square-mile community just west of downtown has become one of the city’s hippest areas thanks to the continuing renovation of its rich architectural heritage, a new subway traversing its Wilshire Boulevard hub and recently opened boutique hotels like the Line and Normandie. Moreover, K-Town never sleeps, given its strong Asian and Latin work ethic and its clubs, bars and restaurants that have become urban night-life hubs. As the most densely packed part of Los Angeles, it’s also one of the city’s most strollable, with Art Deco buildings and palm-lined boulevards. With the influence of three generations of Korean and Latino immigrants, these once-mean streets have become a picturesque and prosperous “Blade Runner”-ish warren of ethnic culinary hot spots imbued with an East-meets-West sense of fun.


1. 5 p.m Coffee and Culture Clash | 5 p.m 

Old Los Angeles and new Korea collide in Chapman Plaza, a riot of Asian coffee shops, boutiques, cafes, discos and karaoke joints, all within a 1929 complex of Spanish-revival towers, stained glass, Moorish grillwork and one of the funkiest courtyards in town. Take it all in on the terrace of the Lighthouse Waffles & Cake cafe with rose petal tea to match a slice of velvet cake ($12). Cross the courtyard for a stylish Korean gray skirt with leggings ($49) or a white sweater with animal print ($68) at Collette, or watch the Plaza’s fabulously incongruous Korean water wheel while you indulge in a Korean-style egg roll ($7.99) and kimchi egg omelet ($8.99) at Toe Bang.

2. Korean Feast | 7 p.m.

Angelenos debate endlessly about where to find the best Korean barbecue, but judging from the celebrity photos on the wall and the crowds of Asian cognoscenti who crush into this strip mall restaurant, Park’s is a winner. Join the perpetual party of local families, salarymen and the city’s hipsters as they talk over the open grills centered on each table where hyperkinetic waiters cook, for example, bulgogi beef, shrimp and octopus accompanied by a dozen side dishes of kimchi, chile paste, pickled roots and other tasty additions. Dinner for two is around $110. The blissful spirit is aided by an impressive wine list and ice buckets of Hite beer and soju. Geonbae!

3. Karaoke Confidential | 11 p.m.Enter through the parking-lot side of a darkened office building on Wilshire, pass the security guard at the steel desk, and take the elevator to the Palm Tree Cafe on the fourth floor, home to dimly lit bars and a restaurant where smoking laws are sometimes ignored (cocktails start at $10; beer at $5). You know you’ve done something right if your drinks are suddenly accompanied by heaping plates of freshly cut fruit. But perhaps the best part of the Palm Tree is wandering its corridors lined with 20 private karaoke rooms where serious-looking businessmen turn into screaming divas over bottle service and videos featuring everything from Philippine love ballads to Korean gangsta hip-hop to Coldplay. Private karaoke rooms start at $20 an hour.

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36 Hours in Koreatown, Los Angeles 

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Lock & Key
Iota Brew Cafe4
HMS Bounty9
Wiltern Theater8
Aroma Spa& Sports5
Palm Tree Cafe3
Wi Spa11
Koreatown Plaza6
Park’s Barbeque2
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