If you had to choose a part of the city to do a beer crawl, Koreatown would have to be a top pick: There seems to be at least one beer joint at nearly every corner of every block in the neighborhood. Inside, you'll find long lists of flavored soju, soju cocktails, beer and sometimes spirits, usually served alongside a full menu of thirst-quenching Korean bar bites like fresh fruit plates and kimchi pancakes.
Here are five of our other favorite beer joints in Koreatown, all of which are worthy of a stop on your first, second or third round of drinking, before or after a round of karaoke. And one last piece of advice: don't be scared off from trying these places if you don't speak Korean. The language of beer, after all, is universal.
5. Toe Bang
“Toh-bahng,” a waitress informed us, roughly means an earthy country room, which explains the bar's decor, including the water mill at the entrance and the wood-laden interior. Come in for any one of the beers advertised on the banners hanging outside, but stay for pineapple or yogurt soju, or any other flavor on the bar's long selection of sojus. The food is your typical Korean pub grub, except for the corn cheese, which is exactly what it sounds like: delicious. 3465 W. Sixth St.; (213) 387-4905.
Unlike some of the darker, more crowded Koreatown beer dens, Hite is bright, amply lit and roomy — the type of place where someone's dad and granddad hang out and watch football or, more likely, tennis. The décor is straight out of Captain Ahab's sea cabin: a ship's anchor above a door, knickknacks of the ocean tactfully strewn about, a plaque advertising Moby Dick beer (natch). Hite serves mainly Hite beer, but for a variation on that theme, try the “Hite Special,” a black-and-tan that combines Hite and the bar's choice of stout. Call me crazy, but this might be the only proper drink to have with Korean fried chicken and mounds of shoestring fries. 3839 Wilshire Blvd.; (213) 384-7999.
The scene at Bohemian, located in Chapman Plaza, changes over the course of the night: Early in the evening, it's lightly packed with small groups here and there, some of which gave up the long wait next door at Gaam and came here instead. As the evening wears on, however, the music blares louder, the room gets crowded and Bohemian transforms into a bumping, vibrant scene, especially in comparison to the more casual Toe Bang just across the courtyard. Drinking buddies on their rounds make Bohemian their first stop or their last, depending on the collective mood. Platters of fresh cuts of fruit, among other fine Korean bar food, are served almost as quickly as the soju, beer and Crown Royal pours. 3451 W. Sixth St.; (213) 487-6155.
In a town full of cross-cultural culinary creations, the Germany-meets-Korea beer bar that is Biergarten shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. And yet, it's still amusing to see the bar's name, in large, imposing Olde English font, juxtaposed with nearby Mok Maru Jong's small sign, with its restaurant name written in Korean underneath a keg personified as a cute cowboy holding forth a frothy pint. In any case, Biergarten is a gentle giant, stocking the requisite soju but also, more impressively, a great beer selection. Some 25 beers are on tap, and handles are regularly switched out to feature new suds. The food represents both German and Korean inspirations, sometimes individually (a Wurstplatte with various sausages, Korean fried chicken) and sometimes at the same time (kimchi tofu with German sausages). Prost! 206 N. Western Ave.; (323) 466-4860.
At Mok Maru Jong, the beer often is on the house if the Lakers win and manage to keep the opposing team under 100 points. Sadly, the team's recent less-than-stellar performances have meant less-than-frequent pitchers of free beer, but that doesn't stop Mok Maru Jong from being one of the most popular sports bars in Koreatown. In addition to the Lakers, you can catch everything from NFL games to UFC matchups, with a nice draft list — including Fat Tire, Arrogant Bastard and Birra Moretti — to accompany the game. As this is a Koreatown bar after all, there is plenty of soju and, for the undecided, soju and beer combos. 222 N. Western Ave.; (323) 465-6803.