5 New Things I Learned About Korean Food in L.A. This Month

If you’ve been disgusted by the amount of Korean BBQ in my Instagram feed recently (I’m looking about you, people who care about my health) I assure you there has been a good reason for it.  Well, maybe “good” is a strong word.  But there has been a reason.  I’ve been participating in a project that required me to eat at 10 assigned Korean restaurants in L.A. in about 15 days.  It’s a tough life, I know.  Some were great Midtown Lunch spots that I know well, others I had never been to.  But there were 5 things I learned that would be useful next time you’re looking for a good Korean food lunch in L.A.

Galbi Jim ($15) w/ lunch special banchan

1. Over the past few months Kang Ho Dong Baekjong has assumed the mantle of hottest Korean BBQ spot in L.A., starting with this review in the L.A. Weekly and culminating in The Guru’s review last week. Sadly, it’s really tough to get out of there for under $20 if you want to grill your own meat, and their lunch specials are all of the non-BBQ variety (which is what the place is known for.)  That being said, their Shaken Dosirak ($8) lunch box is starting to make a name for itself, and they have a completely different set of banchan for those people who order lunch specials! (Including a pretty great marinated squid dish.)


2. Food outside of Koreatown is terrible.  Ok, maybe this one is a bit obvious but it’s really true.  Over the course of two weeks, I was forced to eat a decent but forgettable meal at Tofu Ya on Sawtelle, a place on Lincoln in Venice where you have to pay for extra banchan during lunch (!?!), and Gushi in Westwood- which as much as I love it, bears more resemblance to Yoshinoya than it does to Bibigo.  But the biggest crime against Korean food humanity is on Hillhurst in Los Feliz.  Not because the place is inedible, or their dependence on Groupon and Living Social to draw in customers, but because of how close it is to ACTUAL KOREATOWN.  Why would anybody eat here with Vermont one block over.


3. Myung Dong Kyoja is still great.  I wish more places were committed to the perfection of one (or two things.)  If there a more satisfying place to get a bowl of kalguksoo in L.A., I haven’t found it yet.


4. I don’t have one favorite all you can eat Korean BBQ place to go to for lunch in L.A., so much as I have a list of places each with their own reason to go.  If I want to splurge on quality and variety, I’ll go to Oo Kook and spend the $20.  If I want pork neck and the great brisket, for super cheap I’ll head to Man Kang. Bulgogi? Bud Namu. A little sashimi with your ayce BBQ? Go to Ssang Kogi Nara.  I had never been to O Dae San, and I don’t see myself rushing back again anytime soon.  But if beef belly is what you crave, their $9.99 ayce lunch special is worth checking out.


5. So, this one doesn’t really have to do with lunch but I felt compelled to mention it.  Biergarten is not terrible!  Despite being a strange hybrid of Korean food and American sports bar fare (and having an owner that decamped for NYC pretty shortly after it opened) they make some pretty great wings, and a surprisingly good burger.  Next time I need a place to watch sports in Mid City, this is where I’m going.


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