The secret is out - Koreatown is the best nightlife neighborhood in Los Angeles. Whether it’s a nautical-themed dive, a hidden bar with a glowing money tree inside, or an at-capacity beer garden where chain-smoking is a form of communication, you’ll always find the kind of drinking spot you didn’t even know you needed tonight. But if you go in unprepared, it’s easy to get overwhelmed - and even worse, head home early.
So instead of spending another Saturday night wandering around 6th street, read this guide to the 15 absolute best drinking places in Koreatown and know exactly where you’re headed this weekend. Or tonight.
There’s really nothing quite like Dan Sung Sa on a Saturday night. The dark, all-wood tavern is jam-packed, the smoke from the central grill fills every corner, and everyone is drinking soju like it’s the last batch in the world. In short, it’s a chaotic dreamscape. The large menu is full of skewers, scallion pancakes, and other excellent Korean bar food, all of which is designed to hold off your inevitable hangover.
Hidden along Western, Ddong Ggo is a wild indoor/outdoor beer garden that you can stumble into at any point of the night and find yourself in the middle of the biggest party in the neighborhood. Out on the patio, you’ll find groups of chain-smoking friends engaging in private drinking contests, and inside, things get even louder with TVs blasting Korean pop videos and a private karaoke room if it’s that kind of night. And at Ddong Ggo, it usually is.
A long night of K-town karaoke is a rite of passage in LA, and while there are dozens of great private room spots to choose from, Brass Monkey’s one-room-sing-for-your-life sh*tshow is something everyone must experience at least once. You enter behind a big row of office buildings on Wilshire, and then are promptly whisked off on the tiki drink-filled karaoke night of your dreams. Just make sure you brush up on your Journey lyrics beforehand, because the crowd here expects the best.
If it weren’t for the lack of winter jackets and self-loathing, you’d swear you were in New York. But you’re not. You’re at one of our favorite cocktail bars in the neighborhood. The Normandie Club is dark, kinda cramped, and full of well-dressed people drinking Old Fashioneds. It’s an excellent first stop before a night out in K-town, or where you head after a great dinner date for some strong drinks and possible extracurriculars in a back booth.
Dwit Gol Mok (or DGM, as it’s commonly referred to) feels like the center of the universe, or at the very least, the center of tonight’s Koreatown drinking adventure. The sprawling space has endless nooks and crannies full of friends drinking soju and drawing on the graffiti-covered walls. The whole place feels more like an open-air night market than an indoor bar on Wilshire. When it comes time to line your stomach with some food, be sure to get a seafood pancake and the spicy chicken wings.
With multiple flat-screen TVs, beer banners hanging from the ceilings, and large comfy booths, OB Bear is a true sports bar. If that’s usually a turn-off for you, don’t worry - most people here aren’t actually watching sports. Instead, they’re eating tremendous chicken wings, housing $15 pitchers of beer, and silently deciding that they don’t want to go to any other bar tonight. Warning: Come baseball season, expect gameday to be slammed with Dodgers fans.
Long before the arcade bar became something people in Brooklyn thought they created, Blipsy was feeding our nostalgic urges. But unlike the newer spots around town, Blipsy is dark, grungy, and weird. The exterior is completely nondescript, and the interior is lined with oversized stuffed animals and plenty of machines that don’t always work. The cash-only bar has cheap drinks and a dance floor after 10pm.
Koreatown is a neighborhood where a quick beer turns into an all-night drinking expedition with levels of rowdiness you forgot existed. And after several hours of soju bombs, karaoke, and over-capacity dive bars, you’re going to need a comedown spot. Go to Toe Bang. This casual sports bar has cheap beer, solid bar snacks, and plenty of tables for you and your friends. Also, it’s called Toe Bang.
Tokyo Hamburg is a high-energy Japanese restaurant on 6th Street, and an ideal starting point for a night of debauchery. The modern, sprawling space has large wooden tables, Japanese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and techno pop blasting over the speakers. Everyone’s also grilling their own DIY burgers on individual stone grills and drinking sake like it’s a competition. Maybe it is. Basically, it’s a party from start to finish, and the only place you want to be at 7pm in Koreatown.
Shatto 39 Lanes
You probably don’t always want to go bowling, but when you do, go to Shatto 39. The bare-bones space has $7 games at night and is open till 3am on the weekends. The bar has affordable, dangerously strong drinks that will somehow also enhance your ability to roll a strike. Also, don’t worry if you forgot socks. There’s a vending machine where you can buy a pair.
Jjan’s can be hard to find - head around to the back of the building, through a private parking lot until you see the sign - but once inside, you’ll be glad you searched it out. Especially if you’re nostalgic for the basement ragers of your youth. Blinking lights strewn everywhere, giant pitchers of beer, and tables of friends getting very drunk. They don’t serve great food, but the 420 Fries (topped with cheese, Cheetos, and an egg) are exactly what you want at 12:45am when your vision’s starting to get dicey. Also, you definitely go for some frozen beer - it’s basically regular beer topped with a freezing foam ice cap to keep it colder for longer.
R Bar isn’t a speakeasy in the sense that you can’t find it - it’s pretty visible. It’s a speakeasy in the sense that there’s a nightly password you definitely need to know or else you aren’t getting in. Take a breath - it’s posted on their Facebook and Twitter. Once you’re inside, you’ll find a dark, relaxed space full of cool people, and live music that isn’t invasive. Thursday night karaoke is no joke either.
Located on the first floor of a multi-story shopping center along Vermont, Go Pocha looks like an insurance claims office from the outside, but on the inside you’ll find one of the best bar centerpieces in Koreatown - a gigantic glowing tree with money hanging off of it. It’s not real money, but after a few bottles of soju and some Hite, you won’t be able to tell the difference. They also have a solid snacks menu with some of our favorite cheese corn in the neighborhood.
Plain and simple, HMS Bounty is not cool. And that’s exactly why it’s great. This dive bar’s dive bar on Wilshire has been around since the dawn of time and has an aesthetic that could be described “senile pirate’s living room.” But the drinks are cheap, the crowd is fantastic, and the $12 baseball steak is way better than you think it’d be.
Frank N Hank
Frank N Hank is where you go after you’ve powered through three hours of Karaoke but one guy in the group doesn’t want to head home just yet. The dime-sized spot on Western has a good jukebox, a can of PBR and a shot for $5, and excellent people-watching. That is, if you’re not already the person people are watching.