It would appear as if L.A. is in the midst of an Asian chain invasion. Following in the footsteps of Din Tai Fung, the famous Taiwanese dumpling shop with 2 locations in Arcadia and 1 in Glendale, we’ve seen a steady stream of big (?) names from overseas open all over the city. Korean BBQ from Kang Hodong Baekjong, Sichuan specialities from Meizhou Dongpo, Hai Di Lao’s hot pot, and Japanese ramen chain Larmen Dosanko are just a few of the new spots looking to test how hungry L.A. eaters are for “authentic” Asian experiences- without having to go through LAX. The latest to join the parade is Mister Bossam, a South Korean cafe specializing in pork belly and something called “LA Grilled Cheese Baby Pork Ribs”.
Archive for 'Koreatown'
Exciting news for fans of lunch and Roy Choi’s The Line Hotel in the heart of K-Town. Commissary, the new in-a-greenhouse-on-the-2nd-floor-by-the-pool restaurant w/ a veggie friendly menu, is now open for lunch. The menu, which forces you to decide what you want based on clip art drawings of single ingredients, is the same as the dinner menu- but there are some lunch friendly items that keep things close to $10. Like the $6 grilled cheese sandwich (outtakes from Chef anybody?), a $12 burger, and the (might be in the running for best) french dip (in the city) shown above. It’s also $12, but the fries are $3 extra. Of course good luck trying not to order the roasted carrots, the corn, or the figs.
For something a little bit cheaper, you’ll want to head back down to the lobby- because POT has just unveiled a new lunch menu that launches a week from today (Friday, September 26th). Spoiler: it involved stone pot bibimbap.
Check it out below.
No amount of heat will get me to completely give up ramen or pho or kalguksoo, but as the temperature goes up in the summer it certainly causes my lunchtime brain to dream of cooler bowls of noodle goodness. These 6 soup-less noodle bowls, like the hiyashi chuka at Santouka, make for some great heat wave lunching. And if you have time to make the drive down to Torrance, you can’t do better than the cold soba from Ichimiann Bamboo Garden. But if you’re craving Korean food, you pretty much have only two options: a bowl of naengmyun from one of the many places in K-Town that serves the ice cold tangy noodle dish, or The Corner Place.
It know it’s hard to believe, but a lot of people are starting to come around to the idea that Los Angeles’ Koreatown might have better food than Korea itself. All you can eat barbecue places, which Koreans will tell you are as Korean as sushi is Japanese, act as a magnet for meat lovers all over the city, but it’s the spaces in between that make K-Town truly special. Combine the highest population density in the city with a culture that likes going out to eat its own food, and the result is a seemingly endless wishlist of quality lunches waiting to be explored.
The most recent development in K-Town’s ongoing evolution is that it’s not even enough to just have a speciality anymore. You’ve got to do your specialty well enough (or some sort of gimmick) to attract people away from the other 5 places that specialize in the same thing. Take seolleongtang, the cloudy ox bone noodle soup that comes to the table bland, and requires the diner to add salt and scallions to taste. Hat Bat has long been considered the go to place of choice, but Young Dong has carved out their own fan base from those looking for a cleaner, less murky broth. Technically they serve the same dish, but it be impossible to say which is better. Both are great in their own way, both are extremely popular.
So how does a new place like Sun Nong Dan make headway against these two established soup specialists? Funny enough, with head, actually. And feet. And a surprisingly spectacular version of braised Korean short ribs.
If you are a regular reader of Midtown Lunch you know that my favorite $10 all you can eat Korean BBQ is the newest $10 all you can eat Korean BBQ. From Don Day to Bud Namu to Man Kang, I hop from new place to new place like… well… like a short fat guy who believes that the best cheap all you can eat Korean BBQ place is the newest cheap all you can eat Korean BBQ place. And the latest place to cross my radar is Dream, on Western near 1st Street. They do all you can eat Korean BBQ for just $9.99, but the thing that really caught my eye was their all you can eat salad and panchan bar.
“So how long do you think your dumplings will be on sale?” I asked.
“Don’t know,” the older Korean lady standing next to the register said with a wry smile across her face. “Could be a day…. could be a year.”
That’s the party line at Cho Man Won, the Korean Chinese spot that has gradually gotten busier and busier since being written about in the L.A. Times back in August. Yesterday you could have walked right in to O Dae San, the popular Korean BBQ place next door that owns Cho Man Won. But for cheap dumplings and Korean Chinese food? There was a wait at 12:45pm. The good news is, the dumplings are still marked down from their regular price of $7.99. The bad news? They raised the price from $4 to $5.
No matter how you measure it, Koreatown is without a doubt the cheapest lunch neighborhood in Los Angeles. Nowhere can you get as much good, hot food, for so little money as you do in the ever expanding corridor that starts between Western and Vermont. $5 will get you a pretty great bowl of noodles in black bean sauce, $6 will get you a decent bowl of soup or bibimbap and one of the best assortments of banchan in K’town. Hell, that same $6 can even get you a good Korean style chirashi sushi bowl. And, of course, there are the all you can eat BBQ places- where for as little as $9 during lunchtime you can feast on all the meat you can eat.
At this point not being able to get an under $10 soup or stew at a Koreatown restaurant is the exception not the rule- an exception that borders on extinction. Now, you could be thinking “What about the expensive and famous restaurants? Like Park’s BBQ! A meal at that place, lunch or dinner, can cost almost $50. There’s no way they’re going to let you get out of there for lunch for under $10.” And to that I say, “Guess again.”