Budget Bites in Los Angeles: Koreatown Plaza

Blog, budget bites, Food, Guide

We don’t need to explain how tough it can be as a middle-income earner living and surviving in Los Angeles. With housing prices on the constant rise with gas doing the same, searching for food and reaching deeper into your wallet can become less and less appealing. Eating is crucial.. and so is saving money!

Fear not, fellow food seeker! Cause there are, and always will be, budget friendly bites in Los Angeles and all throughout the greater Los Angeles region! In this article we’ll cover one of our favorite local spots in Koreatown, the Koreatown Plaza food court

Koreatown Plaza, Los Angeles, CA

Located on the southeast corner of Western and James M.Wood, Koreatown Plaza is not only a mall, but it’s a place for people to hang and chill, bro. On those hot summer days, visitors crowd around the central water fountain and bask within the Plaza’s ice-cold AC system.

los angeles budget bites koreatown eats

I’d like to tell you to just travel head first directly into H-Mart on a Saturday around lunchtime, avoid eye contact with anyone and just hit those sample rows.. Or go into Bosco Bakery, get a decadent sweet or savory pastry and people watch.. but that’s too easy and isn’t necessarily budget friendly eating! We’ll talk about H-Mart and Bosco Bakery [mini choc-cakes are fire bruh] another time. 

The food court highlights a solid selection of Korean as well a few additional Asian dishes that are worth a try when you’re eating on a budget!

Though not hip nor chic, while you eat underneath hazy yellow lights and a lack of decor, the establishment shouldn’t be overlooked, definitely iconic and has been in Koreatown for decades. Business owners have come and gone, however, a few spots have withstood all of the latest food trend waves and always changing Los Angeles landscape while holding their ground. 

Here, we’ve highlighted budget bites in Los Angeles, two of which happen to be our favorites in Koreatown Plaza: Tonkatsu House & Pho 2000

Tonkatsu House

Hands down, one our favorite spots in the Koreatown Plaza food court. For around $8, you get a piece of tonkatsu that can easily feed 2-3 people. With it, you receive a mac salad, greens and some rice. The tonkatsu is layered with breading that’s crisp, a juicy inside and a sauce you’ll happily smother all over your sides.

Match that with sweet staff members and Hawaiian decor, and your boy’ll be burpin’ out an Alo-Ha at the end of the meal! Truly, a budget eat win that you can eat for lunch tomorrow!

Pho 2000

Often overlooked due to the ‘new-wave’ options and traditional KTP food court staples, Pho 2000 is consistent, tastes amazing and falls completely in-line within the budget bite family. What I love about these spots is the shareability with low price points. A bowl of their house Pho will cost you a little under $8. Yes, that’s what we call a budget friendly bite!

The portion size is phenomenal and can easily be eaten and shared between two adults. Solid, quality Pho that’s prepared well and served relatively quick. 

Pro Koreatown Plaza Tip: Water is served basically at every eatery, however, you’ll need to order to receive a cup!
Pro Pro Koreatown Plaza Tip: There are bathrooms located directly outside of the food court if the bathrooms within aren’t to your plaza standards.

So, have you been to Koreatown Plaza? What’s your favorite spot in the food court? Let us know your thoughts about eating on a budget in Los Angeles!

The Best Coffee Shops to Study/Work in Koreatown, Los Angeles

Blog, Coffee, Drinks, Guide

It’s no secret that Koreatown is a mecca for coffee in Los Angeles. Fortunately for us, this healthy competition for the best drips and brews in town has us finding a new place to love every week. And when you’re drowning in a city filled with hustle and bustle, sometimes all you really need is a refuge – a safe haven to grab a cup o’ joe, crack open a laptop, and just soak in the ambiance.

Here are our top 10 favorite coffee shops to study/work in L.A.’s very own Koreatown. (Note: at the time of writing, all cafes offer WiFi and have outlets for you to plug-in when the juice is getting low.)

1. Document Coffee Bar

Document Coffee Bar Koreatown
Photo Credit: Document Coffee Bar

One of the more highly sought-after cafes in this neighborhood, Document Coffee Bar offers an environment to help get those creative juices flowing with communal tables and a clean layout.

Pro tip: They also carry OATLY for you oat milk fans! If you’re lucky enough to find a seat, we recommend ordering the house special: Document Latte.

Parking: Free with a large lot in the back. Close to the Wilshire/Western Metro station (Purple Line).

2. Alchemist Coffee Project

A bustling cafe that’s seen plenty of changes over the years, Alchemist Coffee Project has risen to the top of the crop with its consistently great coffee, delightful special drinks, and food offerings (for those study sessions that unexpectedly extend past lunch time!).

With a warm and inviting setting, grab a chair and try the Alchemist Shake, a blended coffee drink that’ll put frappuccinos to shame and have you feeling like this may be one of the best coffee shops around.

Parking: Small lot, free before 10:30am. After that, be prepared to pay $2 for valet. Close to the Wilshire/Vermont Metro station (Red/Purple Line).

3. Balcony Coffee and Tea

Balcony Coffee in Koreatown California
Photo Credit: Spoonderful

We love this place for the service, alone! But that aside, Balcony Coffee and Tea is somewhat of an enchanted cafe with a cozy, rustic garden feel – a real hidden treasure in Koreatown.

Try their Brad Pitt (yes, you heard that right). It’s one of their signatures and always a fave for this coffee addict.

Parking: Free small lot in a strip mall. 5-10 minute walk from the Wilshire/Western Metro station (Purple Line).

4. Sharp Specialty Coffee

Sharp Specialty Coffee is one of those “just right” coffee shops. Soothing ambience, excellent drinks. not too loud, not too quiet… we could go on! The only downside is that everyone else in K-Town seems to love it too, so seating can be tricky. But if you’re able to enjoy some time here, try their Spanish Latte.

Parking: Street parking is your best bet, but if you do go Metro, it’s located equidistant from Wilshire/Normandie and Wilshire/Vermont stations (Purple Line).

5. Urban Cate

Urbane Cate Cafe Coffee Koreatown Los Angeles Best
Photo Credit: Spoonderful

We are big fans of Urban Cate. This two-story cafe has a clean and modern aesthetic with a touch of luxury, and let’s not ignore the fact that the second floor also opens up into a spacious and refreshing balcony.

With tableside service, it’s easy to lounge for hours and order more than one beverage while you click-clack away on your laptop. If that’s the case for you, definitely start with their coffee soda – it’s top notch!

Parking: Small valet lot for $2. 5-10 minute walk from the Wilshire/Normandie Metro station (Purple Line).

6. Awesome Coffee

Awesome Coffee Koreatown Best Los Angeles
Photo Credit: Awesome Coffee

If you’re the type to be more productive at night, Awesome Coffee might be the place for you.

One of the few places open past midnight (closed at 2am), this coffee shop sits atop the second level of a small strip mall and always has a seat available when you need it.

We recommend their affogato – it hits the spot!

Parking: Free large lot in a strip mall, but may be limited as it gets full from neighboring businesses. Close to the Wilshire/Western Metro station (Purple Line).

7. Have Some Coffee

Have Some Coffee Shop Koreatown California
Photo Credit: Have Some Coffee

Another cozy little coffee shop, Have Some Coffee has some unique and memorable drinks on their menu that’ll keep you well-caffeinated and focused on your work at hand. We like coming here for shorter study sessions as a means to refuel and recharge before we’re back on-the-go.

If you visit, try their signature Military Latte.

Parking: Free large lot, but limited to 2 hours. 5-10 minute walk from the Wilshire/Western Metro station (Purple Line).

8. Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning Coffee Koreatown Best Los Angeles
Photo Credit: Sunday Morning

If you’re the type that needs peace and quiet to get work done, Sunday Morning is the place for you. This cafe is entirely conducive to a peaceful atmosphere and has an environment best described as “Instagrammable”…not a bad thing, in the slightest!

Their drink menu offers lots to choose from and oat milk is also served here. Space can be limited, but if you find a seat, order their Strawberry Mocha Latte.

Parking: Garage lot in the back, $2 to park. Between Wilshire/Normandie and Wilshire/Vermont station, though slightly closer to the latter.

9. Design Cafe Dabang

Cafe Dabang Coffee Los Angeles Koreatown best
Photo Credit: Spoonderful

One of the more casual and cool coffee shops on this list, Design Cafe Dabang is a go-to for when we’re in the mood to work someplace mellow. It’s more of a hidden gem in the outskirts of Koreatown, but we make this trek because the coffee is excellent, the ambience is chill, and we love the creative flow of this space.

The Dabang Latte is our go-to.

Parking: Street parking in a largely residential area.

10. Second Round

Second Round Coffee in Koreatown California
Photo Credit: Second Round

What sets Second Round apart from most other coffee shops is their offering of beverages on-tap (cold brew, nitro, and kombucha), though these tend to change every so often. That aside, it makes for a great environment to study as crowds are minimal and the interior is clean and modern.

As for drinks, we recommend the Creme Cafe Latte.

Parking: Free small lot, but $2 valet in the evening. 5-10 minute walk from the Wilshire/Western Metro station (Purple Line).

Honorable Mention

11. Caffe Bene Wilshire

Caffe Benne Wilshire Koreatown Los Angeles
Photo Credit: Caffe Bene Wilshire

Once a dominant chain in the industry, we’re seeing this business slowly disappearing across the city. However, one location still stands strong in Koreatown and we can’t deny that we frequent it quite often out of convenience and familiarity. Caffe Bene Wilshire has an industrial aesthetic with lots of room, plenty of outlets, and the luxury of a quiet second level space.

As for our recommendation, go against the grain and try their Misugaru (multigrain powder) Latte.

Parking: Small lot in the back for valet parking, marked at around $2-3 with validation (though we’ve heard reports of varying prices here, so YMMV).

Best Coffee Shops in Koreatown

Really, the best coffee shop in Koreatown can be based on number of personal factors unique to you.

Are there any on this list you thoroughly enjoy? Or is there another coffee shop in Koreatown that deserves to be dubbed ‘the best’? Leave a comment and let us know!

food and travel blog spoonderful

Best Burgers in Los Angeles, CA 2019

Blog, Burgers, Food
best burgers in Los Angeles, CA

What Makes a Burger the Best Burger?

It’s an all around classic that brings people together. A creation that’s evolved over time, expanded in popularity and’ll make your taste buds tingle while you salivate over it’s smell during prep. Eating a burger is an experience that should be cherished and never downplayed!

Ultimately, a good burger comes down to one’s preference in flavors, ingredients, preparation and any additional flare. Meat to fat ratio. Bun to meat ratio. Meat type and flavor. Crisp crust. Medium rare. Seasoning and toppings. Tomato and cheese. Indoors. Outdoors. Alone. In a crowd. With peers. Or even with your foe [remember: keep your enemies close!] 

Kidding aside, if you’re not in the mood to slap your own burger together within the means of your humble abode, the options for a solid burger are actually endless – especially if you’re living in Los Angeles, CA! 

Whether you’re prepping it at home, hitting that drive-thru, sitting down at a diner, bar-top, or high-end restaurant – finding a solid go-to burger can take time, effort, and some money! 

(All of which, we’re absolutely willing to risk for.)

Let’s take a look at our favorite / best burger choices in the greater Los Angeles region:

Spoonderful! Best Burgers in Los Angeles, CA 2019

Pie N’ Burger

best burgers in los angeles pie n burger pasadena california

Pasadena, CA
Just off South Lake & California Blvd., Pie N’ Burger first opened its doors in the fall of 1963 and has valiantly held its ground at that location to this very day. Catering to locals, students, and the wandering burger aficionado, Pie N’ Burger is a quaint joint that does the burger true justice.

What to Get: Classic Cheeseburger Combo w/ an Apple Pie for Dessert!
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness: They’re the home of America’s top 5 cheeseburger as ranked by the Food Network and use the same preparation methods they’ve used since its inception over 40+ years ago. Biting into a Pie N’ Burger cheeseburger is truly a unique California experience of its own; a quarter-pound of fresh beef, griddle-cooked on a toasted white bun w/ American Cheese, the fixins, and in-house Thousand Island Dressing makes the Pie N’ Burger an instant classic and a must-try.

The Apple Pan

best burgers in los angeles the apple pan westside 2019

West Los Angeles, CA
Opened in and under the same management since 1947, the Apple Pan is locally famous for its hamburgers, apple pies served with vanilla ice cream, and banana cream pie. Their motto is “Quality Forever” and has withstood the ever changing West Los Angeles landscape while adhering to core values.

What to Get? Steakburger
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness? The steakburger is the Apple Pan’s original burger, first structured in 1927. Cooked over a flat-top griddle lightly drenched in grease, the burger patties are made on the griddle in front of you within the Apple Pan’s iconic V-shaped counter. It gives diner’s a glimpse into what the dining experience was like for visitors back in the 40’s, 50’s & early 60’s.

Humble Potato

best burgers in los angeles humble potato

Culver City, CA
A down-to-earth local Culver City neighborhood eatery that serves their interpretation of American comfort food with a Japanese flavor twist. Humble Potato offers a relaxed setting and casual dining experience that is great for enjoying a beautiful day on the Westside while eating an out of this world burger.

What to Get? Battle Royale
What Else to Get? Katsu Kare Sando
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness? There’s something about the Battle Royale’s mixture of caramelized onions, garlic jam, Shichimi Togarashi and HP spicy sauce on a juicy angus patty that fits the ideal blend of flavors needed to create an all-around epic burger.

Father’s Office

best burgers in los angeles fathers office hamburger

Santa Monica, CA
Father’s office was founded in 1953 and was influential in the rise of America’s craft brewing industry and the establishment of smoke-free bars in California. Now home of the much touted Office Burger, Father’s office has become critically acclaimed gastropub by Chef Sang Yoon as of the year 2000. His focus? Pairing the world’s best craft beers with excellent food in an environment that feels close to home.

What to Get: Office Burger
What Else to Get: One (or 2) of their 32 beers on tap
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness: The ‘Office Burger’ is a patty of fine dry-aged beef topped with caramelized onions, Gruyere + Maytag cheeses, Applewood-smoked bacon compote and arugula served on a soft role. Infamous for allowing no substitutions or alterations to any food at Father’s office, including no ketchup – makes this place noteworthy of a solid burger.

Monty’s Good Burger

best burgers in los angeles Montys koreatown

Koreatown, CA
Monty’s Good Burger is a plant-based concept that started in 2018. Featuring artisanal burgers made from locally sourced ingredients, Monty’s Good Burger creates a hamburger that virtually anyone can enjoy. They encourage new choices, healthy eating lifestyles, sustainable eating and 100% plant based meals!

What to Get: Monty’s Good Impossible 100% Plant Based Burger
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness: It tastes, smells, and cooks exactly like the beef you know and are infatuated with – but it’s made directly from plants! Eating one of Monty’s Impossible Burger’s contributes to a great cause, too.

Cassell’s Hamburger

best burgers in los angeles cassels koreatown

Koreatown, CA
A quick decline over the years had Cassell’s closing up its 70-year old shop having locals believe that the beloved burger joint was gone for good. As of today, thankfully, Cassell’s Burgers is now operating in a retro space within Koreatown Hotel Normandie. And guess what? They’re serving burgers than they ever were prior.

What to Get: Cheeseburger Combo
What Else to Get:  A hand churned milkshake
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness: When it comes to a solid burger, simplicity is key. That’s exactly what Cassell’s aims for and succeeds at accomplishing. With a 60’s diner vibe, gracious staff and a deconstructed burger you can add things to yourself, Cassell’s is a landmark for burgers that we hope withstands the ever changing eco-business environment of Koreatown.

The Oinkster

best burgers in los angeles the oinkster

Eagle Rock, CA
What to Get: The Royale Burger
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness: It’s the spiritual home to Los Angeles’ annual burger. Heck – flavortown mayor, Guy Fieri, stopped by the Oinkster and gave it his honorable seal-of-approval. Pastrami on a burger should be a sin, but until then, try it before you’re praying for forgiveness.

In N’ Out

best burgers in los angeles in n out

Anywhere in Southern California!
What to Get: Double-Double with Cheese & Grilled Onions
What Else to Get: Animal Style Fries & Milkshake
Why It’s Worthy of Burger Greatness: When you fly in to LAX and drive North on Sepulveda Blvd., it’s likely your nose has sensed the tantalizing smell that exudes itself from a California staple, In N’ Out. It’s a Californian staple, with the classic Thousand Island Dressing, grilled onions, melted cheese and the company grinds and patties their own meat from whole beef chucks, ensuring great taste and authentic Californian burger experience.

Best Burger in Los Angeles, CA Honorable Mentions

The Morrison Pub Atwater Village, CA
Golden State Burger  – Los Angeles, CA
Hawkins House of Burgers – Los Angeles, CA
Hache LA – Silver Lake, CA
HiHo Cheeseburger Santa Monica, CA
Pono Burger – Santa Monica, CA

A Useful Tip for at Home Burger Cooking

Most chefs highly advise to those who want to dabble in the art of burger crafting – use a heavy cast-iron skillet. A hot skillet is absolutely the way to go! Why? The point is to allow any rendering beef fat to gather around the patties as they cook. The beef fat collected in a hot skillet then acts both as a cooking and flavor agent. Grease, in itself, is a great condiment that is natural – just like the beef you’re cooking!