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Best Bets for Brunch in Koreatown LA

Best Bets for Brunch in Koreatown LA

Best Bets for Brunch in Koreatown LA

Koreatown is a neighborhood that provides residents and travelers with a diverse and always-active cultural scene. With a central location in Downtown Los Angeles, many must-see landmarks, activities, and museums are within walking distance. 

Koreatown offers a wide array of premium shopping options, museums, luxury apartment complexes, student housing, and… some of the best brunch bets in Downtown Los Angeles. That’s right! Koreatown, the place that already had it all, is home to a burgeoning scene of brunch restaurants!

Korean signs, by Rémi Thorel

The brunch scene in Koreatown is just as diverse as the community. In Koreatown, you’ll find a smorgasbord of brunch options. Many of these spots include brunch basics like coffee, pancakes, and bottomless mimosas. Some places also offer brunch in a fusion or exclusively Korean-style. For the breakfast connoisseurs, Koreatown also has several bourgeois brunch spots. 

Make no mistake, you would not truly experience Koreatown’s 24/7 scene without stopping by one of these Koreatown brunch restaurants!

Late Night at Caffe Concerto’s bar, by Concerto

Keep reading to get an in-depth overview of all the best bets for brunch in Koreatown. Along the way, you’ll also develop an understanding for why this unique and growing neighborhood is affectionately loved by so many visitors, residents, and Koreans.

Korean-style Brunch in Ktown

Korean cuisine is developed from ancient agricultural and nomadic traditions in the Korean peninsula and southern Manchua. Over the centuries, Korean cuisine has evolved from the complex interaction of the natural environment and cultural trends. 

Korean cuisine is primarily focused on rice, vegetables, and meats. Most dishes come with a plethora of side dishes. Ingredients typically include doenjang (fermented bean paste), gochujang (fermented red chili paste), soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and cabbage. Kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) is almost always served! 

Visitors and residents of Koreatown are able to enjoy a meal belonging to any time of the day. We’ll teach you the basics of Korean-style breakfast and direct you to the hottest brunch restaurants in Koreatown, where you can relish this tasty cuisine. If you’re seeking a more typical Sunday brunch with pancakes, coffee, and a few mimosas we’ve found several traditional options, as well!

Ktown Brunch bar at dawn, by The LINE

Korean-style Breakfast Basics

The average Korean breakfast is not too different from a day’s other meals, except they come on the lighter side (with fewer dishes). A traditional Korean breakfast may include kimchi fried rice, galbi (grilled short ribs), spicy seafood salad, kongnamul bab (bean sprout rice), oi naengguk (cold cucumber soup), or moo saengchae (radish strip kimchi).

While not an official “breakfast” staple, bibimbap is a great choice to start your day especially when ordered with a fried egg. “Bibim'' means mixing, while “bap” refers to rice, so bibibmap is literally a Korean mixed rice dish. It’s usually served with namul (seasoned spinach), kimchi, and gochugang (red chili paste), and soy sauce.

Bibimbap served with galbi and kimchi, by Albany Capture

Kongnamul muchim is a popular bean sprout side dish, which is tastefully seasoned with roasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy (or fish) sauce, sugar, black pepper, onions, and garlic. Kongnamul muchim typically comes in two varieties, spicy or savory, and is a favorite of Koreans who want to have a light snack.

A popular Korean breakfast spread includes a vegetable omelet served with tofu and red and black bean rice served alongside kaktugi (radish kimchi) and Korean coleslaw. Korean coleslaw is basically the same as an average coleslaw with a healthy addition of kimchi. 

Kimchi is also added to fried rice (another mixed “bap” dish) along with diced vegetables, and topped with a fried egg, to make kimchi fried rice.

Kimchi fried rice, by Emanuel Ekstrom

Tost-u or gaeran tost-u is a Korean breakfast sandwich commonly sold by street vendors in Korea. This breakfast sandwich is similar to an American egg sandwich, but with cabbage and a dusting of brown sugar. Great with Korean-style coffee, which can be found in many Ktown cafes, gaeran tost-u is an excellent way to start off a day exploring Koreatown!

Something Koreans share in common with Americans is a love for java. Naeng-keopi has been around for a while and is a simple iced drink, popular in the summertime. It has a strong flavor balanced with a sweet and nutty taste. Naeng-keopi is usually made with instant coffee, powdered creamer, and a little bit of honey.

Dalgona can also be found in the streets of Ktown. It was popularized by a Korean TV show called Pyunstorang, in which actor Jung Il-Woo traveled to Macau to try the drink. He remarked that it tasted like dalgona, a spongy sugar candy in Korea. Dalgona is made by whipping instant coffee with sugar and hot water and is served on top of cold milk.

Korean-style Option A: Chunju Han-il Kwan, Korean Hangover Cure

Chunju Han-il Kwan is at 3450 W 6th St, to the North of Robert Kennedy Inspiration Park, and opens at 8AM. This restaurant has a popular military stew known as budae jjigae and serves kongnamul haejangguk, a bean sprout soup with rice. 

Haejangguk, by Sangmins

Haejangguk, which roughly translates to “hangover chasing soup,” is a definitive Korean breakfast staple that is a spicy tonic of bean sprouts, napa capa cabbage, and green onion served alongside banchan and a steaming bowl of rice. Although this step is not required, the hangover cure is created when the bowl of rice is added to the soup. 

After an evening out in Koreatown enjoying the 24/7 nightlife, a quick Sunday brunch at Chunju’s is the perfect way to recharge.

Korean-style Option B: Yangji Gamjatang, Hearty Pork Stew for Breakfast

Yangji Gamjatang is one of the best options to enjoy a hearty and tasty brunch in Koreatown. Open from 7AM to 3AM, this spot is a true representation of Koreatown’s 24/7 culture! 

Yangji Gamjatang’s specialty breakfast dish, called gamjatang, is the namesake of this well-liked brunch restaurant.  Matthew Kang, Eater LA’s Editor, considers gamjatang to be a near-perfect soup.

Gamjatang at Yanji Gamjatan, by T Tseng  

One of the heartiest Korean breakfast dishes, this rich and red-hued stew is an entire meal served in one bowl! The stew consists of pork neck bone that’s been boiled to perfection (the meat slides right off the bone), perilla leaves, green onions, red pepper powder, and potato chunks. 

The pork is so tender that a separate dish is provided for the bones. Diners typically remove the pork from the bone before adding a bowl of rice. This makes the soup heavier while toning down the strong flavors.

Yangji Gamantang is located at 3470 W 6th St  across from the bustling H Mart City Center, close to Robert Kennedy Inspiration Park.

Korean-style Option C: Bonjuk, Savory Abalone Rice Porridge

With comfy chairs and a traditional Korean atmosphere complete with dark wood paneling, Bonjuk is another great place to sample a Korean-style breakfast. Juk roughly means “savory rice porridge” in Korean. As expected by its name, Bonjuk primarily specializes in rice porridge but also serves a variety of Korean favorites like bibimbap and noodle dishes on their menu. 

Bibimbap brunch with Kimchi, by Jakub Kapusnak

The abalone juk is extremely hearty; the briny taste of abalone is well complemented with sesame oil. Pine nut juk is a lighter option that is also great for breakfast. Bonjuk is at 3551 Wilshire Blvd on the Western border of Koreatown and starts serving breakfast at 7AM.

Bourgeois Brunch Spots in Ktown

Being a major cultural and ethnic hub of Downtown Los Angeles, it’s possible to find all sorts of brunch restaurants in Koreatown. Next up on this list are some of the best Ktown restaurants if you are seeking bourgeois brunch offerings, with different cultural inspirations. These restaurants are perfect for anybody seeking to enjoy an unconventional and possibly excessive Sunday brunch.

California-inspired brunch spread at Openaire, by The LINE

Bourgeois Brunch Menu A: Amandine Patisserie Café Ktown, Happy Hour Brunch

Since 2002, this café has combined baking traditions from France and Japan to create unforgettable pastries and breads. Open from 7AM to 10PM, you won’t find plain pancakes at a spot like Amandine! The menu focuses on French/Japanese foods including all sorts of coffee beverages, macaroons, french pastries, danishes, and omelets. 

The all-day breakfast menu features traditional staples like avocado toast, breakfast burritos and wraps, eggs benedict, and steak and eggs served with potatoes. One tip you should know: the Ktown location has a 4PM-close Happy Hour during which all croissants, danishes, and morning breads are 50% off (making this a great spot for a very-late Sunday brunch).

Amandine Patisserie Café has two locations, the Koreatown one is at 3121 W Olympic Blvd two blocks West of Seoul International Park. Do note that the menu is alcohol-free, so you’ll have to keep on reading to learn about Ktown’s best boozy and bourgeois brunch spots!

Bourgeois Brunch Menu B: Escala, Bottomless Mimosas

From the exterior to the interior and menu, Escala seems like another one of Downtown LA’s Latin-inspired brunch restaurants… but it’s not! Reflective of Koreatown’s mixed diversity, the menu at Escala was crafted by Korean-American chef Chris Oh and features unique Korean-Latin dishes. Alex Torres, born in Colombia, “remixed” the menu while Og Chino, born in Seoul and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, keeps the flavorful dishes coming from 11:30AM till 2AM. 

Basil and lemon mimosas, by Caglar Araz

At Escala, the motto is “Good food, Good music, Good people.” This becomes a reality every saturday and sunday, between 11AM and 5PM, when the Beats and Eats brunch courses are available. 

You can enjoy mango chili or maracuya (passion fruit) bottomless mimosas and a variety of fruity and boozy drinks. If dining at Escala for Sunday brunch, you can feast on Korean-Latin fusion dishes like Ktown Rice con Pollo, Spicy Fried Chicken and Coconut Waffles, Kimchi Rice Empanadas, or the Pacific Seafood Stew with tilapia, shrimp, manila clams, and green mussels. If you’re with a large group and desire a shareable brunch, try out the Picada party platter which includes galbi (korean BBQ short ribs), spiced chicken wings, Colombian chicharron and chorizo, sweet plantain, and papa criolla.

The rotating full menu includes tasty dishes like loaded arepas, smoked octopus, braised oxtail, and bistec al caballo. You can also enjoy a healthy selection of adult beverages, including soju, beer from Korea and Colombia, along with various Latin cocktails. 

Escala is located in the Historic Chapman Plaza at 3451 West 6th St (between Yangju Gamjatang and Chunju Han-il Kwan). The restaurant is half a block away from The Gemma, a new Koreatown high-rise residential building that offers views of the neighborhood and Hollywood from its units and art-lined outdoor patio.

Koreatown’s Hottest Brunch Restaurants

By now, it should be clear that Koreatown is home to a variety of traditional and unconventional brunch spots. With this level of diversity, it’s no surprise that Koreatown is not just a hot market to rent an apartment in… it’s also a culinary hot-spot that attracts Michelin-starred chefs. We’ll give you a quick introduction to two of Koreatown’s hottest (and highest-rated) brunch restaurants.

Hottest Sunday Brunch Spot A:  Openaire, Two Michelin-stars and a Greenhouse

Aptly named, at Openaire you can dine on a menu curated by two Michelin-starred chef Josiah Citrin inside the twinkling greenhouse of the Line Hotel’s patio. Openaire is a plant lover’s paradise where seasonal California-centric menu items await you. Some choices pay homage to Ktown through the inclusion of Korean ingredients. Inside the greenhouse, an immaculate marble bartop contrasts with abundant plants hanging from the all-glass greenhouse. The outdoor terrace offers alternate seating where you can soak up the California sun.

Openaire’s light-filled greenhouse, by The LINE

Openaire offers a brunch menu and a multi-course prix fixe menu. Fresh starts include California-inspired dishes like avocado toast with radish and sprouts, ahi tuna tartare served with a yuzu vinaigrette, and smoked salmon plate. The standard menu and prix fixe options share certain options like eggs benedict (with choice of ham, smoked salmon, or crab), huevos rancheros, lobster chilaquiles, and hibachi grilled flat iron steak and eggs served with kimchi fried rice plus the option of adding a grilled Maine lobster tail..

Brunch at Openaire, by the LINE

Recommendation: order Line Breakfast if you wish to enjoy a traditional American breakfast, complete with pancakes, two eggs, and bacon or chicken sausage. The prix fixe menu is $60 per person and lets you select six of chef Citrin’s curated offerings.

Openaire is located inside The LINE LA, a boutique lifestyle hotel in the heart of Koreatown. It is right across from The Gemma, a newly-built and boldly designed two-building luxury apartment complex. Saturday and Sunday brunch starts at 10AM and wraps up at 3PM. Openaire offers standard day-time menus all week. With an extensive wine and cocktails menu (but no mimosas),

Openaire almost made it to the “bourgeois brunch” list, but it’s solidly one of of the hottest spots for brunch in Koreatown.

Hottest Sunday Brunch Spot B: Caffe Concerto, Endless Mimosas 

Concerto serves Korean-Italian fusion cuisine in the middle of Ktown. Concerto's distinctive culinary style combined contemporary European and Korean dishes with rich flavors. You'll also find cocktails, gourmet coffee, and lavish desserts at this stylish eatery. If you want to eat well-crafted and exciting dishes in an upbeat and vibrant atmosphere, give Concerto a try. 

Wine Tasting, by Concerto

The brunch menu is available from  10AM to 3PM on weekends. Concerto is a great place to enjoy endless pineapple, cranberry, and orange mimosas served alongside a breakfast platter that comes with two pancakes with mixed berries, banana, whip cream, eggs, and bacon or sausage. Other delectable options for Sunday brunch include fried chicken and waffle, steak or veggie omelet, steak or smoked salmon benedict, and french toast.

Brunch with Mimosas at Concerto, by Concerto

Outside of brunch, the diverse menu includes grilled octopus, truffled fries, blistered shishito peppers, a wide range of salads and pizzas, seafood nasigoreng, bulgogi fried rice, and a gorgonzola crusted filet mignon. You can also enjoy lobster pasta, frutti di mare, vongole, kimchi carbonara, spaghetti, bolognese, and an oriental cold pasta.

Lobster Pasta, by Concerto

This place can easily become your favorite spot for brunch, lunch, and dinner! Concerto is located at 610 S Serrano Ave across from Liberty Park. Ample outdoor and open-air seating is available at all times.

Top Cafes in Koreatown

It’s totally understandable if the brunch options in Koreatown seem a little intimidating. If you just want to sip on some caffeinated beverages or tasty treats while starting your day, there are dozens of spots where you can enjoy traditional or Korean-inspired offerings.

Ktown Cafe A: Heuk Hwa Dang, Dalgona Coffee

You can find Heuk Hwa Dang at 621 S Western Ave, next door to House of Axe, a famous spot for axe-throwing and Korean BBQ. Heuk Hwa Dang is a Korean-based premium tea house with dozens of locations throughout Korea, including Seoul, Busan, Incheon, and Jeju.

At Ktown’s newest tea house, you’ll find an unrivaled dessert menu, a huge variety of tea types (including brown sugar bubble milk tea, brown sugar latte, rose bubble milk tea, and fruit flower tea), and dalgona coffee, which we mentioned in the introduction to Korean breakfast basics.

Heuk Hwa Dang, by Koreatown LA

Brown Sugar Bubble Beverages, by Heuk Hwa Dang

We strongly recommend trying anything with brown sugar bubbles here, especially the brown sugar bubble ice cream. Heuk Hwa Dang handmakes the nation’s first brown sugar bubble right in front of customers! Also, park in the Madang Plaza parking garage as you can get your parking validated.

Ktown Cafe B: Document Coffee Bar, Minimalist Space w/ Art

Document, located at 3850 Wilshire Blvd, offers patrons an easygoing vibe, pastries, and an extensive selection of beverages. The menu includes tea, Korean tea, tea-lemonade, smoothies, shakes, and cold brew. This is a great place to recharge mid-day.

The wall of portraits is nice to appreciate while sipping on your cup of joe (or tea). Document displays Angeleno artists’ work with a variety of themes, including the BLM movement. This spot hosts the occasional art night.

Ktown Cafe C: Alchemist Coffee Project, Ample Room for Studying

Alchemist is a New Orleans-style cafe on 698 S Vermont Ave, in between Robert Kennedy Inspiration Park and Lafayette Park. Inside Alchemist, there is a long dark wood table where you can meet up with friends or fellow study buddies. An eclectic selection of sconces and hanging light bulbs give this cafe a high-energy vibe.

Caffeinated lineup, by Quang Nguyen Vinh

Drinks and pastries are flavorful but not too sweet. You can enjoy specialty drinks like the tiramisu latte, spanish latte, or alchemy shake alongside a selection of hot sandwiches and pastries. Some items on the menu are vegan-friendly.

Alchemist is close to The NEXEN, a newly-built refined mixed-use building that offers contemporary luxury housing options to residents of Koreatown. The NEXEN hosts several businesses at street-level and has two rooftop decks with outdoor grills and cabanas, co-working space, and a pool terrace with zero-edge pool. 

About Koreatown LA or “Second Seoul”

Koreatown LA, or Ktown, is a favorite of Los Angeles locals and folks who are trying to get an authentic taste of Korean culture. With an unofficial promise of providing all-day fun to everybody, Koreatown boasts the highest concentration of nightclubs and 24-hour restaurants and businesses in the country. Much like the country of South Korea itself, Koreatown is thriving on a rich cosmopolitan scene that is culturally diverse and socially vibrant.

The “24/7 promise” is met in full force by Ktown business owners and entrepreneurs, thanks to an eclectic mix of vibrant neon lights and street art, architecture that includes Art Deco buildings to shiny modern skyscrapers, music emanating from karaoke rooms, and the ever-present savory smell of Korean BBQ joints wafting through the air. 

Streets of Seoul, by Stephan Valentin

Koreatown History

Occasionally referred to as a “Second Seoul” of sorts, Koreatown is often considered to be the best Koreatown outside of Korea. Ktown, at a relatively small 2.7 square miles, is home to 120,000 residents, around 20 percent of whom have Korean heritage. 

Koreatown was founded by Hi Duk Lee who lamented that the Korean-American community did not have “any good restaurants for entertainment or meeting places.” In a 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times, he observed that “Chinese people have Chinatowns everywhere: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montebello. But there’s no Koreatown.” 

South Korean Flag by Daniel Bernard

To make his dream a reality, Lee opened the Olympic Market grocery store in 1971 and later opened VIP Restaurant and VIP Plaza, the latter of which served as a business plaza and central gathering hub for the Korean community in Los Angeles. VIP Plaza featured Korean-owned businesses including a bookstore, photography shop, and barber. 

Lee’s early projects influenced the future of Koreatown, as they were designed in a distinctly Korean architectural style, including roofs with blue tiles imported from Korea. 

Korean Friendship Bell (San Pedro), by Jeffrey Clayton

Due to the large influx of Koreans in the 1970s, LA’s Korean economy quickly became the most thriving and prosperous Korean economy in the United States. Pressured by a multitude of factors, Lee sold his properties in 1982. 

By this time, Lee had already made his contribution to Koreans and Los Angeles. With the encouragement of Lee, the neighborhood of Koreatown was officially designated in 1980. Lee told the Korea Daily, in 2016, “my failures became fertilizer to bloom flowers. An old-timer never dies. He just disappears.”

Living in Koreatown LA

Thanks to pioneering entrepreneurship from Korean immigrants adapting to Western culture like Lee, Koreatown was given a solid foundation to become a great and diverse cultural hub, much like the country of South Korea itself! Today, Koreatown is one of the hottest and fastest-developing neighborhoods in Los Angeles.Tourists from around the world are able to enjoy a nuanced version of Korean culture amongst a backdrop of American lifestyle and amenities.

It’s no surprise that life-long residents of Downtown Los Angeles and incoming UCLA and USC students are choosing to move into a centrally-located apartment in Koreatown. If you’re a future resident or visiting traveler, Koreatown has something for you. A sure-fire way to experience all this neighborhood offers is to move into one of several budget-friendly or high-end luxury apartments for rent in Koreatown.

Cameron Tu
Best Bets for Brunch in Koreatown LA