photo credit: Jakob Layman
Dan Sung Sa
Not taking anything away from the endless bars in Weho or Downtown’s warehouse parties, but LA’s best nightlife is found in Koreatown. It’s one of the few areas left where you can get dropped off without a plan and go where the night takes you. Maybe that means drinking highballs in a shadowy whiskey bar, eating bulgogi in a secret back alley, or singing karaoke with your friends in the very early morning. A sign of a truly great night in Ktown, however, is one that involves at least a stop—and complete suspension of time—at Dan Sung Sa.
This dimly lit tavern on 6th Street isn’t just the center of Ktown nightlife, it’s our favorite hangout spot in the whole city—and a place where the never-ending soju and raucous atmosphere are matched only by the excellent food coming out of the kitchen.
Dan Sung Sa at 10pm on a Saturday night is an experience unlike any other in LA. The sounds of sizzling meat and swinging knives emanate from the central grill, smoke hangs like mist over the graffitied, wooden booths, and everywhere you look, groups of friends pound Hite like it’s the last batch in the world. It’s sensory overload, and one of the many reasons why late nights here go from one hour to three in a blink of an eye.
Dan Sung Sa’s menu (which comes printed on giant wooden blocks) consists of nearly 100 different anju, or tiny Korean bar bites traditionally meant to be eaten while you drink. And sure, most people here are boozing—we rarely leave without having accumulated a Dubai-level skyline of soju bottles on our table—but this food that tastes incredible regardless of alcohol intake.
The best kind of meal at Dan Sung Sa is one dominated by skewers. There are close to 25 different varieties ranging from frog legs and black sausage to spicy chicken that knocks us into chili-induced oblivion every time we take a bite—and the most expensive one is $2.99. In other words, go nuts. They aren’t particularly big, so ordering 10 skewers at a time is encouraged. From there, head for the bigger dishes. We love the spicy tteokbokki filled with plump, cylindrical rice cakes that absorb the sweet gochujang like pillowy little sponges. The beef bulgogi with silky, crystal noodles is a perfect dish to pass around the table, and then immediately order again, because your friends are non-judicious monsters.
You’ll know you did Dan Sung Sa exactly right when someone at your table looks at their phone and bellows, “Wait, it’s what time?”—and no one flinches.
Dan Sung Sa has dozens of different skewers on their menu, and you should plan to put at least five-to-ten on your table. Standouts for us include the sweet scallops and the crunchy shrimp, but just know that each one comes with the same perfectly charred exterior and smoky aftertaste.
This is a dish you can find on 99% of Koreatown menus, but Dan Sung Sa’s version is one of our favorites. It’s simple and well-executed, with a crispy exterior that crackles in your mouth. It’s also big enough to feed three grown adults.
If you’re out drinking in Ktown, you’re eating cheese corn. Don’t mess with the universe’s balance.
Not our absolute favorite chicken wings in Koreatown, but they’re still pretty damn good. They will always get eaten if ordered.
Tteokbokki With Ramen
This is probably our favorite big dish at Dan Sung Sa. It comes with a generous pile of soft, silky rice cakes and various vegetables all covered in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce. You can get the dish as is or with chewy ramen noodles mixed in—and you should absolutely do the latter.
Bulgogi With Crystal Noodles
This dish arrives essentially as a hot pot with tender pieces of marinated beef and chewy glass noodles bathing in a sweet and salty broth. If you’re with a big group, this is a must-order.