Ten years ago, a list of great happy hours in Koreatown would be strictly Korean: smoke-filled, dark bars full of steaming hot pots of tofu, kimchi pancakes and shots of soju. No longer. Los Angeles' Koreatown now is a hodgepodge of old-school Korean bars, nouveau seafood restaurants, hipster beer parlors and fabulous dive bars. Dress up, dress down; pick at spicy snails or fancy grilled cheese; grab a microbrew or a bottle of Hite. No matter who you are, this neighborhood is for you. Here's a list of five places worth your time.
The Prince, located in a Koreatown basement, is soooo L.A. It's got Hollywood street cred (with cameos on Mad Men and in Chinatown), midcentury swank (with red leather banquettes, a horseshoe bar and funky carved lights) and excellent Korean food. Happy hour runs until 8 p.m. with half off all drinks – and that means not just beer and soju but a full bar and top-shelf liquor, too. Order up your semi-cheap cocktail and dig into the kitchen's famous deep-fried chicken – fried Korean style, with no batter, it's all crispy skin, moist meat and salt. Pair it with some kimchi fried rice, maybe a seafood pancake and some galbi for a full meal. Bonus: Impress (or horrify) your guests, and order up spicy sea snails to snack on. Just don't forget to ring the doorbell at the table for service. 3198½ W. Seventh St., Koreatown; (213) 389-1586. Happy hour daily, 4-8 p.m.
Tucked back from the hustle and bustle of Western Avenue, Beer Belly is a bar you've probably driven by numerous times without even noticing it. But this charming, brightly painted bar is a craft beer drinker's dream, and at happy hour, a featured draft is $4, while all craft cans are discounted by a buck. You'll definitely find an interesting selection of local brews – maybe an Oaked Arrogant Bastard from Escondido or a Hop Tanker from El Segundo – and there are $5 food deals to pair with them. Pick at duck-fat fries, pork belly chips, deep-fried duck livers or a half dozen hot wings. Hey, the fat will help you absorb the alcohol. In nice weather, kick back with your pint on one of the two outdoor patios. 532 S. Western Ave., Koreatown; (213) 387-2337. Happy hour daily, 5-7 p.m.
EMC Seafood & Raw Bar
A relative newbie to the neighborhood, EMC is fast becoming the swanky after-work spot for Koreatown. Every day from 4 to 7 p.m., oysters are $1 apiece and draft beers, house wine (red and white) and well drinks are $5. The restaurant is extremely pretty, with floor-to-ceiling windows, blond wood tables and an icy raw bar churning out fresh seafood. Those oysters draw an equally pretty crowd, happily slurping their way to dinner. Nosh on some small plates – the softshell crab sliders are particularly fun – and if you're a real baller, keep it going till 10 p.m., when the late-night happy hour kicks in. 3500 W. Sixth St., Ste. 101; (213) 351-9988. Happy hour daily, 4-7 p.m. and after 10 p.m.
Walk into the HMS Bounty for the first time and you'll already feel like you've been there before – it's the ultimate dive bar. It's dimly lit, with low ceilings, red booths and bar seats that have held decades of L.A. butts, including that of William Randolph Hearst. The deal at happy hour, which runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m., is the “wise man” – a beer and a shot of whiskey or tequila for $5.50. But prices here are reasonable no matter the time of day for both drinks (a Manhattan is about $4.50) and food (the HMS Bounty's famous “baseball steak” with fixins is $13). A British nautical-themed pub in the middle of K-town? Why not? You'll fall in love with the Korean grandma manning the bar, who calls you honey while writing out receipts by hand. 3357 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown; (213) 385-7275. Happy hour daily, 5:30-9 p.m.
Finding this bar is a bit of a challenge, tucked as it is on the second floor of a nondescript strip mall, with a sign written only in Korean. But once inside, it's charmingly unhip and unpretentious, with one of the best happy-hour deals in this part of town: From 5 to 9 p.m., seven days a week, it's 50 percent off all food and all drink, with only a handful of exceptions on a menu with more than 200 items. The real draw here is the pineapple soju – served in a hollowed-out, frozen pineapple – and the apple soju, served with carved apple shot glasses. At the low, low price of $10 for a giant pineapple that will easily serve several rounds to a table of four, it's hard to beat. Get some corn cheese, beef skewers or a kimchi pancake to take the edge off – soju will knock you down before you know what hit you. 3959 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown; (213) 386-8001. Happy hour daily, 5-9 p.m.