Koreatown’s R Bar Secretly Has a Great Brunch
Juliet Bennett Rylah
Going to brunch is a weekend ritual for a lot of people in Los Angeles, and there is no shortage of cute restaurants with sunny patios and "elevated" menus to choose from. And then there is R Bar. Yes, R Bar, that long-standing, not-quite-a-dive on Eighth and Irolo in Koreatown, where you have a blurry memory of singing something embarrassing at karaoke. It's not your typical brunch joint, but it is worth ducking into.
R Bar is marked with a single “R” affixed to its black exterior. On Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., its equally elusive brunch is marked with a simple yellow sign, pale after so many mornings out in the sun, which reads, "Coffee, tea, biscuits, toast." The sign really downplays R Bar's weekend culinary offerings. It's far more than simple caffeinated beverages and assorted carbs. It has a robust menu of well-priced dishes that often taste better than the offerings of its better known, pricier breakfast neighbors. It feels like a secret, and it's often sort of empty, which is relaxing and pleasant enough that this writer contemplated never telling anyone R Bar's brunch existed. But here we are. It's time to be a friend, and tell you that R Bar has one of the best brunches, and possibly the best breakfast burritos, in town.
Though night-time regulars may recall having to suss out a password to give to the bouncer for entrance, brunch ignores the whole speakeasy password thing; guests can simply walk right in. While '80s and '90s tunes dominate inside during spring and summer, football games take over in the fall. It's not too loud, except for the occasional fan screaming at the TV in between bites of breakfast. The service is usually on point yet casual and friendly. You could start with a hot cup of joe, or one of the iced coffees, which has a hint of cinnamon. There is also booze, of course, including a fine bloody mary, various twists on the michelada and a creamy coffee concoction topped with whipped cream. If you plan to stick around, you can get bottomless mimosas for $15, assuming you at least drop $10 on food.
That can be harder to do than you might think. Nothing on the menu is more than $10, and there is a budget section where you can get a small but serviceable breakfast for a mere $5. Options include a single buttermilk biscuit with sausage gravy, or a couple of scrambled eggs with a side of applewood-smoked bacon. You might not get leftovers, but these bargain plates will fill you up well enough. And you can always tack on a side, like the meaty charro beans or curried hash browns.
The best item, however, is the breakfast burrito. It stands up to other burritos around town, tastewise, and it's also gigantic. The cooks take scrambled eggs, hash browns, crisp lettuce, tomato, basil, melty jalapeño jack cheese, avocado cream and chipotle sour cream, then wrap it up with either additional veggies or chorizo in a tortilla. This comes served with a side of sour cream, a light cilantro salsa and a fried jalapeño. The burrito itself is not particularly spicy, so top it off with some hot sauce if you like, and you've got a tasty breakfast that wholly fulfills your calorie requirements for a long day. You'd be hard-pressed to finish the whole thing in one sitting, and because the avocado comes in cream form, it stays good for a great leftover breakfast the following morning.
For something a little spicier, try the tinga tostadas. It's two flat corn tortilla shells, each topped with spicy shredded chicken that's been seasoned in a chipotle adobo sauce. Then, it's piled with shredded cabbage, avocado cream and a generous helping of sliced avocado.
For those who prefer a sweeter breakfast, the Triathlete is a hearty breakfast sandwich on sourdough made with peanut butter, bacon, banana and maple syrup, with an egg on the side. R Bar advises hitting up Runyon Canyon after this one. If you're feeling under the weather, try the Spicy Hangover Soup. It begins with a spicy tomato broth, to which is added onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeño, basil, cilantro and ramen noodles, plus two eggs. And if you're in it for the long haul and just want a meal that feels like you're in a bar, try the Buddy Special. A mere $20 will net you 10 wings, two beers (either PBR or Coors Light) and two well shots.
You can enjoy all of this at your leisure in the main bar area, which has a reasonable amount of natural light, or you can slouch in the back and stave off a hangover in one of the padded booths. Either way, starting your day instead of ending your night at R Bar is an interesting change in routine.
3331 W. Eighth St., Koreatown; (213) 387-7227, facebook.com/rbarktown. Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
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