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Two patrons laugh over glasses of wine
After dark, Red Room flips the Coffee MCO space into a vibey natural wine bar with Cal-Korean small plates and neon-red lighting.
(Michael Blackshire/Los Angeles Times)

Where to eat, drink and party late-night in Koreatown

As the sun sets and the curtain goes down on Los Angeles, Koreatown comes alive. Neon-lighted signs, a soundtrack of honking cars and the aromas of grilled meat and fried foods all vie for attention, an almost psychedelic assault on the senses.

Once your eyes adjust, you’ll find a dense urban playground that invites you to choose your own adventure. Looking for late-night eats? Take your pick between Chicago-style deep dish, Thai noodles, Hawaiian-hued bar snacks or a World Series-worthy baseball steak. Tippling the night away? You can keep it classy at a velvet-walled haunt, pair natural wines with Cal-Korean cuisine or knock back beers at a treasured dive. Regardless of where you end up, there’s nearly always a stage with a microphone for crooning your heart out with karaoke.

And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one of these experiences. The neighborhood is so glutted with options, you can easily crawl from one spot to the next, perhaps capping the night with a flaming plate of galbi jjim from 24-hour-restaurant Sun Nong Dan.

The nightlife scene in Koreatown is both stuck in time and always evolving. There are the long-standing stalwarts outfitted in leather booths and vintage decor, as well as new entrants that steal attention with creative cocktails and vibey interiors.

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Frank n Hank first opened on Western Avenue in 1933, and in 2015 was passed from longtime owner Tuyet “Snow” Rogers to Koreatown local Jimmy Han, who also owns Love Hour, a nearby cocktail bar with a burger window. Outside of common-sense updates like expanding the spirits collection and accepting credit cards, Han purposely left Snow’s bar unchanged.

“I kept everything the same as it was, the bathroom, even the carpet, I think it’s fine. Every dive bar needs its own cologne, if you will, a little musk,” Han said. “Same dart machine, same jukebox, same pool table.”

Despite Hollywood’s reputation, Koreatown is the true epicenter of L.A. nightlife. Night after night, its magnetism draws cross-generational crowds of locals and out-of-towners for bowling, arcade games and endless forms of fun. And yes, the parking is terrible, but that’s what shared rides and public transportation are for.

For whatever trouble you’re looking to get into, here are the best places to stay up late in Koreatown.

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Four galbi tacos from BiergartenLA
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

BiergartenLA

Koreatown Korean Gastro Pub $$
For live Los Angeles Football Club and Dodgers games, Biergarten has you covered with multiple mounted screens, more than 25 beers on tap, a full bar that extends to soju and Japanese whiskey and a food menu that blends Korean, German and local influences. The lengthy menu spans pub classics such as burgers, wings and a double-twisted Bavarian pretzel with spicy mustard but also ventures into specials that you’d find only at a Koreatown gastropub, such as galbi tacos with chopped perilla and German fried rice with sausage, galbi, sauerkraut, sriracha, beer gravy and a fried egg on top. Biergarten gets packed for Tuesday trivia nights, and it’s recommended to head there early to secure a good seat, especially if you’re with a group. Another bonus: Biergarten has its own parking lot, so you don’t have to fight for a spot on the street.
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A mojito push pop from Blipsy Bar
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

Blipsy Bar

Larchmont Dive Bar $
Blipsy Bar opened in 2010, but with vintage arcade games that run 25 cents apiece and a cash-only bar (there’s an ATM at the back), it feels like it’s been around forever. Even the soundtrack feels frozen in time, with ’90s artists such as Mazzy Star warbling overhead. This dive has beer by the can or bottle and simple bar drinks, but it’s the boozy push pops in flavors such as mojito, Vietnamese iced coffee and pear for $9 each that make Blipsy a worthy stop on your Koreatown bar crawl. The claw machine, an assortment of stuffed animals balanced on the bar shelves and the massive puppet that’s stretched across the ceiling complete the carnival atmosphere.
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The interior of Break Room 86.
(Kailyn Brown / Los Angeles Times)

Break Room 86

Koreatown Cocktails Speakeasy Bar $$
Go behind the Line Hotel to an alley off Ardmore Avenue and you’ll find Break Room 86, a nostalgic speakeasy from the Houston Brothers of Houston Hospitality (Level 8, Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, No Vacancy). Staffers will tell you to put your phone away as they lead you to a secret entryway that’s tucked behind a trick vending machine. Entering the bar feels like you’ve stepped through an ’80s time machine with vintage arcade games, stacks of box TVs with static-fuzzy screens and tape cassettes decorating the walls. Private karaoke rooms can be rented with an advance reservation, or you can get comfortable in booths backed by lockers that will transport you right back to high school days. Throwback dance nights are hosted regularly, with performances ranging from breakdance crews to live bands to burlesque. Don’t miss the ice cream truck on the patio that serves a separate cocktail menu, including Jell-O shots and boozy ice cream.
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The common area at Cafe Brass Monkey karaoke bar features a Spuds Bud Light neon sign.
(Jeong Park / Los Angeles Times)

Cafe Brass Monkey

Koreatown Bar
Cafe Brass Monkey is the platonic ideal of a Koreatown karaoke bar. It’s loud and crowded, the drinks are cheap and strong, and there’s hardly a pause from 5 p.m. to close as the mic gets passed from one vocalist to the next. Karaoke here features a well-balanced mix of genuinely talented singers and courageous amateurs who stumble over lyrics, but the crowd’s applause never wavers. The house cocktails skew sweet and fruity; the Amazonian Monkey with Midori, coconut rum, blue curacao, 99 Bananas and pineapple juice stands out as one of the best. For food, there are sandwiches, burgers, wings, mozzarella sticks and other typical bar snacks. Arrive early if you plan on performing and consider tipping the DJ to move you up in the queue.
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The dumbbells and seafood pancake at Dan Sung Sa in L.A.'s Koreatown.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Dan Sung Sa

Koreatown Korean Gastro Pub $$
Some restaurants and bars are favorites, others are legends. Dan Sung Sa is both, as well as one of L.A.’s most transportive spaces. Once your name is called and you can make it past the perennial throng of customers waiting in the strip mall’s parking lot, head through the wooden door to find yourself face to face with a large Seoul-style pojangmacha, or street tent, built inside the main dining room. Low seats line the rectangular, show-stopping grill, where smoke from the signature Korean anju, or bar snacks, billows and scents the room. There’s graffiti etched into what feels like every square inch of the wooden booths and countertops, and the sound of laughter and loud conversation over round after round of soju never ends.

This is one of the best spots to close out a night, especially considering service runs until 2 a.m., but beware if you’re starting the evening at Dan Sung Sa with plans to head anywhere else: With skewers, stews and other Korean classics on lock and an ambiance so lively, time here easily slips away, and before you know it, it’s closing time. Nearly 40 years in and Caroline Cho’s quintessential Koreatown haunt — now in the L.A. Times 101 List Hall of Fame — doesn’t just feel indispensable to the city’s late-night scene, it’s defining it.
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Three shelves of liquor bottles at the bar Frank N Hank in Koreatown.
(Daniel Hernandez / Los Angeles Times)

Frank N Hank

Koreatown Bar/Nightclub $
Frank N Hank has been around since 1933. Inside, it’s barely changed: A wooden bar, natty carpeting, wooden panel walls and plenty of decorative glass promo signs for mass-market lagers that acquire a vintage tint the moment they’re hung up. The mind can freely conjure the characters that might have drunk and passed troubles here over the decades, including the great L.A. poet of vice Charles Bukowski, various Rat Pack-adjacent figures and, for decades, proud owner Tuyet Rogers, known to all her regulars as “Snow.”

In 2015, Snow passed the bar on to Jimmy Han, a Koreatown native who grew up drinking there and who’s found success in other local ventures, including Beer Belly and Love Hour. He promised he’d keep the bar just as it’s always been: a reliable, open-hearted, serious drinkers’ spot with nothing to prove to anyone.

The other night, I walked in and had a few beers as I settled into a groove with the people near me. Dodgers bobbleheads hung out near displays of snack-size chips. Some young kids worthy of being carded had spilled over from the Wiltern; it was fine. The regulars were obvious lords, and I admired them. An older guy named Jim in a very vintage Lakers windbreaker told me he’d been coming to the bar for 30 years. “This is like a bar in New York,” said a well-meaning friend next to me. “No,” I said, correcting with a lush’s confidence. “This is like a bar in Los Angeles.”
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Baseball steak and chicken piccata with martinis and a can of beer at Koreatown's H.M.S. Bounty.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

H.M.S. Bounty

Koreatown American Cocktails $
Come for the maritime-themed aesthetic, stay for some of the best budget-friendly drinks in the city. With curved leather booths, wood paneling and oil paintings of large wooden ships, H.M.S. Bounty feels like the throwback it is: This bar with steakhouse fare debuted at the base of the century-old Gaylord Apartments building in 1962 and has doled out countless baseball steaks, martinis, boilermakers and shrimp cocktails ever since. The place feels like a seafaring “Cheers,” with plenty of regulars lining the bar overlooking an encased model ship and sipping the $6 Wise Man Special — a beer-and-shot combo — or the $7 martinis, Manhattans and margaritas.

For the full experience, tuck into a booth and order wallet-friendly steak dinners, sandwiches and old-school entrées such as chicken piccata, sautéed sand dabs and shrimp scampi. It also serves modern bar food classics such as plump chicken wings, gooey quesadillas and crispy calamari, with a little something for any craving. The iconic Koreatown bar advertises its offerings as “food and grog for the weary sailor,” but make no mistake: Even the most landlubbing patron will find something to love at the Bounty.
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The Korean army soup at Honey Night in Koreatown.
(Daniel Hernandez / Los Angeles Times)

Honey Night

Koreatown Korean Bar/Nightclub $$
I came upon this low-key Korean pub behind black-tinted glass walls while ambling into Oxford Center Plaza on 8th Street, drawn by a neon sign with one word: pocha. The spot is actually named Honey Night, a pocha itself, like the antro, in Mexico, I now tell my friends. This particular space is dim and suffused with a compelling K-pop track list at a comfortably loud volume, under shifting LED lamps. The crowd is mostly unpretentious yet hip neighborhood young adults, usually letting off steam after school or work. Since it opened in 2018, Honey Night has become my go-to hangout for a late night. You go with a date or a close friend due for a catch-up, order a tall Cass and a bottle of Chamisul or makgeolli. It is cozy and neat, home to a kitchen that somehow hits everything right.

The galbi sauce fried chicken is excellent by any Koreatown standard. It’s served over paper and a bed of fries in garlic sauce, along with cubes of crispy pickled radish. The menu is expansive, but for me, Honey Night excels in soups. The jjamppongtang, or spicy seafood soup, is a complex journey across scallops, mussels, shrimp and more, served in a sharing bowl set over a burner to keep the broth bubbling. The seafood egg soup is hearty and layered, giving you a hint of what the vibe might be like sitting roadside under tarps in Korea having delicious snacks with chilled soju and beers, hanging with friends. Sometimes I’ll end up dancing absently in my seat, bopping along to the hits that everyone else in the room seems to know the words to.
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People stand outside a building with a neon sign on the wall that says Pizza to Go
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Lock and Key

Koreatown Bar/Nightclub
It’s easy to spot this self-described speakeasy from owner Cyrus Batchan of Michelin-rated Camphor in the Arts District. Just look for the line of impatient clubgoers standing on Vermont Avenue. In order to enter, you’ll have to find the right doorknob on a wall full of mismatched handles. The interior has an Art Deco vibe with patterned wallpaper and a mirrored ceiling above the bar, while the patio offers a more relaxed atmosphere with string lights and walls with artificial greenery. The food menu features several styles of pizza (Chicago deep dish, New York, Sicilian and focaccia), including a pie topped with house birria in addition to the usual Margherita and pepperoni options. Lollipop wings, garlic fries and a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich complete the offerings. As a bonus, you can take food or drinks to go as long as you place your order before last call. Arrive early to skip the line and be mindful of the dress code.
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Colorful cocktails sit on a table at Koreatown's Love Hour.
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

Love Hour

Koreatown American $
If you’re a fan of the thin, lacy-edged smashburgers that Love Hour used to sling as a vendor at Smorgasburg L.A.’s Sunday market, you’re in luck. The Koreatown bricks-and-mortar is going strong with a comfort-driven menu that includes the crowd-favorite burgers as well as fried chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, onion rings and French fries with house-blended seasonings. The burger window is open until 10 p.m., with beer, wine and a signature cocktail menu available at the bar until 1:30 a.m. Almost-nightly programming includes “Love Is Blind” watch parties, live DJs, karaoke and a monthly party that celebrates local queer and trans communities of color. Curious about the world of wine? Stop by for Half Full, a monthly wine tasting hosted by natural wine club Clink.
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A charcuterie and cheese board, a glass of red wine and a glass of white wine
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

NiteThyme Wine Bar

Koreatown Wine Bars Bar Bites $$
It’s not every day that a former sommelier of one of the country’s most prestigious restaurants opens a wine bar, especially one that’s hiding in plain sight. In 2023, former Alinea somm Fahara Zamorano and her husband, Daniel Adomian, debuted NiteThyme Wine Bar: a sleek destination for bottles, glasses, food pop-ups and entertainment that takes over coffee shop 3 Thyme Coffee and Tea in the evening. Zamorano’s curation spans the globe, but her focus is less on the regions and more on the farmers themselves: She prioritizes wines that are not only quality but also made via regenerative farming and organic and biodynamic practices, and serves them alongside bites such as conservas and charcuterie boards. Keep an eye on the bar’s Instagram for updates on pop-ups and programming like live music, K-pop Lotería, tasting events and stand-up. For those looking for an even rarer pour, a private sellers’ list of one-offs or hard-to-obtain bottles can be procured, most sourced from collectors and the private estates of Zamorano’s contacts in the wine industry. Find NiteThyme Wine Bar pouring Wednesday to Sunday.
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The Poet's Dream cocktail at the Normandie Club bar.
(The Normandie Club)

Normandie Club

Koreatown Cocktails $$
Attached to Hotel Normandie with Cassell’s diner next door, the Normandie Club helped establish Koreatown as a destination for creative craft cocktails when it opened in 2015. The moody lounge features low lighting that emanates from dangling fixtures, a curved bar with a back-lighted spirits collection and plush circular lounges for whiling the night away. The cocktail menu hews classic with playful departures, such as a pi?a colada that swaps rum for Japanese whisky and cognac, adds angel food cake and tops it off with green chartreuse foam. If you’re in the mood to dance on a Friday or Saturday night, head through the hallway to a secret door that leads to Damn Fine, where you’ll be greeted by spinning disco balls, faux foliage and strings of red lanterns, plus a second bar with a separate cocktail menu.
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Mini Me and Purple Rain cocktails with garlic-furikake fries and Spam musubi
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times )

Paper Tiger Bar

Koreatown Hawaiian Cocktails Bar/Nightclub $$
Finding a bar where everyone knows your name can feel elusive in Koreatown. The neighborhood is congested and fast-paced, which doesn’t always lend itself to casual conversation with a bartender or server. Paper Tiger Bar is an exception, and it’s not unusual for owner Mark Debuck to introduce himself to patrons and strike up conversations. Similarly, the bartenders are always happy to offer cocktail recommendations or share their favorite bites from the Hawaiian-leaning menu by the Local Moco. The sultry space features Victorian details, such as a crystal chandelier that sparkles above a seating area with an imperial staircase backdrop. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, but with R&B and hip-hop tracks playing overhead. Embrace the ambiance with an order of spam musubi or kalua pork tacos. The cocktail menu leans into local seasonal produce, such as the Mini Me with muddled kumquat and your choice of spirit.
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Los Angeles, CA - March 19: People enjoy an evening at The Prince on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

The Prince

Koreatown Korean $$
Get whisked away to a different time at the Prince — perhaps the noir mysteries of “Chinatown” or the indulgent “Mad Men” era, just two of the many movies and TV shows filmed on its premises. For decades, the long-running restaurant served as a glitzy celebrity hot spot known as the Windsor, but when new ownership took over in 1991, the name was changed to the Prince and Korean dishes were added to the menu. The opulent 1940s decor remained intact, including maroon-and-gold velvet wallpaper, life-size medieval statues, portraits of noblemen that hang above red leather booths and a horseshoe-shaped bar with stained glass paneling. It’s this setting that most come for, in addition to stiff drinks and plates of deep-fried spicy chicken. Tucked on a quiet corner with a simple red awning and matching door to welcome you in, the Prince gets busy during dinner time; patrons can join the wait list via Yelp.
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Lights festoon the exterior of R Bar.
(Jeong Park / Los Angeles Times)

R Bar

Koreatown American Bar/Nightclub $
R Bar has something for everyone. Nautical details and red string lights swoop over cozy cushioned booths, and the drinks are spirit-forward and priced just right. There’s a small stage where locals belt out karaoke hits and the bar hosts trivia Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. Visit any time on Tuesday or Sunday night or Wednesday through Saturday between 4 and 7 p.m. for a happy hour that discounts well drinks to $9. Sunday brunch brings chilaquiles, a breakfast sandwich and avocado toast to the menu, along with bottomless mimosas, a Bloody Mary and an Aperol spritz. The regular menu features the typical bar bites, plus a grilled cheese sandwich with jalape?o Jack and cheddar cheeses paired with tomato-basil soup that’s perfect for those chilly Koreatown nights.
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A spread of Korean small plates with two glasses of wine from Red Room in Koreatown.
(Michael Blackshire/Los Angeles Times)

Red Room

Harvard Heights Wine Bars Bar Bites $$
Red Room knows how to go from day to night in style. The two-story space typically functions as chipper cafe Coffee MCO, but Thursday to Saturday evenings it flips to this neon-lighted, laid-back natural wine bar with modern Korean small plates. When it comes to sipping, peruse the list of German, Italian, French, Slovakian and other primarily European bottles downstairs and ask for a taste if something catches your eye, but don’t overlook the bites from Yoon Sung, formerly of Hanchic, Chimmelier and Woodberry Kitchen. The chef — and medical doctor — leans on California produce to inspire his spins on classic Korean dishes: Here, the jeon takes the form of pillowy potato bites under ikura and lemon crème fra?che, the bulgogi can be found as the patty in a trio of smashburger sliders, and specials like mandu en brodo riff on both the Korean dumpling and the brothy Italian pasta dish. Order at the ground-floor counter and take a seat there, on the patio or in the most literal red room: the second floor, which is bathed in red and purple neon lights and occasionally serves as the stage for DJ sets. If Red Room couldn’t sound any more appealing, there’s more: This wine bar features a designated free parking lot in back — a true blessing in Koreatown.
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Shatto 39 Lanes features colorful indoor lighting.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Shatto 39 Lanes

Koreatown Bowling Alley
Shatto 39 has been a Koreatown institution since 1954, with 39 bowling lanes, a room with billiard tables and old-school arcade games open for play daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., including holidays. The lanes are first-come, first-serve, and prices fluctuate based on the time and day — go early on weekdays for the best deal. But weekend nights are when the entertainment center is most alive, with a bar that pours strong, well-priced drinks and Shatto Coffee Shop, which is more of a general-purpose, fast-casual spot with burgers, nachos, personal pizzas and carne asada fries. There’s a decent veggie burger, plus fresh churros if you’re craving something sweet.
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A bright green cocktail in a large-format silver bowl on a red table with ladle and stir-fries at Koreatown bar Thai Angel
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Thai Angel

Koreatown Thai Cocktails $
Part dive bar, part pitch-perfect Thai restaurant, part party scene, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Thai Angel can play many roles — even over the course of a single night. Matriarch Jamie Eich reigns over her red-tinged, near-hidden watering hole, usually from behind the bar, where she pours a rainbow of mixed drinks served strong and in pint glasses. (Her namesake Jamie Juice contains six types of liquor, but don’t ask what they are; that’s a top-secret blend.) These cocktails also can be enjoyed in the $45 “Thai bucket,” an ornate silver bowl for ladling out large-format orders, and one that’s best imbibed over some of Eich’s Thai specialties: sauced pan-fried noodles; just-blistered sour sausage with cabbage and peanuts; basil-tinged, wok stir-fries; and crunchy, salty chicken “bat wings” named for her late son, who helped create the recipe.

Indeed, the whole bar is a family affair, with her children Boss and Salanya “Angel” Inm also lending a hand in its operations. Thai Angel serves as a continuation of Eich’s Hollywood restaurant, which she ran for nearly 40 years before relocating to Koreatown. This bar-restaurant is livelier and home to regular dance parties, karaoke nights, album-release shows and DJ sets for a perfect fusion of culinary hits and nightlife. Come on the early end for a quiet dinner and drinks, later for the party.
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A dimly lighted karaoke room at the Venue
(Jeong Park / Los Angeles Times)

The Venue

Koreatown Private Karaoke Room
If you’re going to go all out for karaoke in Koreatown, this is the place to do it. While the Venue does have a general bar and lounge area where you can order food and drinks, it’s the private karaoke rooms that book up with parties looking to belt mainstream and K-pop hits. Instead of an iPad that connects you to YouTube, you’ll get a machine that’s paired with your in-room TV and is loaded with chart-topping songs in English and Korean — note that all English songs regardless of genre are categorized under the “pop” label. The machine also lets you play with tenor and tempo or add applause. You’ll get a grade after each song, in case you want karaoke with a competitive edge. Order dishes such as glazed ribs, shishito peppers and truffle mac and cheese straight to your room and sample creative cocktails that poke fun at the setting, like Rest Ya Throat with chamomile-infused scotch, herbal bitters, lime, ginger beer and ginger juice.
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