Los Angeles, where my sister and her family live, has become like a second home to me. But until recently I never got to explore Koreatown, known for its Galleria mall and hot nightlife. Here’s what I discovered during my first visit to this booming area:
The 411 Koreatown, centrally located just west of downtown L.A., is one of the most densely populated areas of the country. The name “Koreatown” refers to the many Korean-owned businesses in the area, although the vast majority of its residents are Latino.
For anyone who thinks downtown L.A. gets too quiet at night, Koreatown will prove them wrong –– the all-night restaurants, loud karaoke bars and busy food trucks provide continous entertainment.
Shop ’til you drop K-town’s Galleria is one of the neighborhood’s anchors. This multi-level mall (with free parking in an adjacent garage) sells everything from trendy clothing and all the Hello Kitty products you could ever want, to Korean-language books and DVDs and tricked-out car accessories.
The mall’s first floor is occupied by the busy Galleria supermarket, known for its huge selection of meat, fresh seafood and produce and baked goods, as well as kimchi, banchan and other Korean specialty foods. For many locals, this is their go-to Asian market.
Kimchi fried Rice or Brazilian grill? When you are ready for a snack, the mall’s top level has a popular food court with nearly every Korean dish imaginable. This is the place to try clam noodle soup at Chungwa Korean Noodle or Kimchi fried rice at Manneria.
During my visit, I also checked out the newly-renovated M Grill, which offers a Korean-style take on the Brazilian churrascaria. Modern and upscale, the restaurant serves over 19 kinds of charcoal-grilled premium cuts. M Grill is also vegetarian-friendly, with a robust salad bar.
Meanwhile, its sleek bar pours Brazilian-style cocktails made with fresh juices, including the most authetic caipirinha I have sipped this side of South America.
Secret nightcap Before calling it a night, I checked out a nearby speakeasy-style bar, called the Lock and Key. The owners take this name literally, as guests are greeted by a wall of locks and need to find the right doorknob to enter. A fun gimmick, it certainly encourages patrons to quickly get into the spirit of this “underground” taproom.
Behind the correct doorknob is a larger-than-expected bar with a popular outdoor patio and well-crafted cocktails. A nightcap here offered a fitting end to my Koreatown adventures.