Los Angeles

Dumbfoundead's Day Off in Koreatown, LA Is an Ode to His Heritage

The rapper and actor shows us what makes LA's Koreatown truly authentic and dishes on his favorite katsu spots and karaoke bars.


Dumbfoundead is so proud of his Los Angeles neighborhood that he probably identifies more as a Koreatown resident than a Korean American, he says.

“Growing up in an area that’s so predominantly Korean, it really gave me the confidence to be who I am and be proud of my heritage and background,” the rapper and actor said in a recent interview with Thrillist. Dumbfoundead’s Koreatown is the empowering community that made him the person he is today. It influenced his personality and his artistic side alike, and his music is a result of that upbringing.

Los Angeles’ Koreatown feels as if a chunk of Seoul was magically transplanted into LA. Everywhere you look, signs are in Korean. Restaurants and bars welcome guests with Korean menus, and somehow, it feels like the neighborhood will stay forever unchanged, like a photograph you took a few years ago. “A lot of people talk about gentrification in different communities, but I think the popularity of Korean culture helped slow down the gentrification in Koreatown,” Dumbfoundead said. “People still want to go to these restaurants and businesses where the signs and menus are still in Korean. They want the authenticity of Korean culture.”

In our series “Ride With Me,” Dumbfoundead guides us into the parallel universe that is LA’s Koreatown, making us feel like we traveled across the world without hopping on a plane. A self-proclaimed Koreatown city council member, Dumbfoundead knows all the right spots for an immersive, exhilarating, and truly authentic Koreatown experience, and dishes on his favorite spots in his beloved neighborhood.

Plates with katsu so big they look like the United States, drinking games at the neighborhood Korean Bar, karaoke sing-alongs, and delicious Korean side dishes that prove a restaurant’s worth are only a few of the many gems Koreatown has to offer. Luckily, we have the perfect guide to walk us through all of them.

So grab your skateboard and make sure you don’t wear a white shirt (mind the sauce!). We’re going to Koreatown.

Places to Eat & Drink

Dan Sung Sa
According to Dumbfoundead, the first shot you should take at Dan Sung Sa is beer and soju-together in the same glass, that is.

“Dan Sung Sa is one of those drinking places you might start off with,” he said. “And if you go in there, it’s like a look into Seoul nightlife almost.” Dumbfoundead likes to go here with his friends to kick off the night, and swears by the classic Korean drinking games.

To help with the alcohol intake, there is always some Korean food. “Koreans love eating while you drink,” Dumbfoundead said. “So I’d probably order something like a fish cake soup, which kind of keeps you stable so you don’t get too out of control.”

Chunju Han il-Kwan
Chunju Han il-Kwan is one of Dumbfoundead’s favorite restaurants in Koreatown, and you can’t go wrong with any of their dishes. But their sides are his favorite. “You can judge a really good Korean restaurant by their side dishes,” he explained.

The restaurant is well known for their army stew, the origins of which date back to when the US Army was stationed in South Korea. “They’d just get a can of Spam and sausage bits or whatnot and dump it in the soup,” Dumbfoundead said. “And I know not a lot of cultures mess with Spam, but I grew up on Spam. I never saw it as a gross thing and I still don’t. I love a good Spam bit in something.”

Koreatown Plaza
Dumbfoundead isn’t really sure about who visits the shops at Koreatown Plaza mall, but what he does know is the mall’s food court is popping.

It’s the perfect place for when you are with a group of friends and just can’t decide on a spot. It’s simple: You split up, get some good food, and meet at the table.

Dumbfoundead definitely recommends the food court’s katsu spot. “It’s one of the biggest servings of katsu you’ll ever see,” he said. “Just a big, fried-like it’s shaped like the United States.”

Dumbfoundead is not going to front: He’s had the best salad of his life at Olivia.

The newly opened vegetarian spot has already won Dumbfoundead’s heart. With all the Korean barbecue and meat places in Koreatown, he said it’s refreshing to get a new, healthier addition to the neighborhood.

Dishes like fried olives, an amazing cheese plate, and (of course) their salads are great options for when you’re craving something fresh and healthy. And don’t forget their pizzas; they’re super tasty and vegan, too.

Things to Do

Radio Korea Plaza
If you’re a fan of skateboarding, particularly the not-so-legal kind, the plaza in front of Radio Korea is made for you.

“[Radio Korea] was one of the first radio stations that broadcasted to the Korean immigrant community that didn’t speak English very well,” Dumbfoundead explained. “And it’s become one of the most infamous skateboarding places in the last 15 to 20 years.”

The sprawling flat plaza makes for a perfect skateboarding spot but, alas, there are many signs-as well as patrolling agents-that prohibit the activity.

What was the phrase? “Out of sight, out of mind?” You get it.

Shrine Karaoke
This is the ultimate night-out-with-friends spot. Music? You have it. Drinks? Ready and waiting.

Owned by one of Dumbfoundead’s friends, Shrine Karaoke is a classic Korean karaoke bar where every group gets their own private party room. “Sometimes I even just like to have the karaoke room and we just put on an aux and we just play our own playlist,” he said.

But don’t think the karaoke will cut you any slack. “It’s intimidating because they’ll have the automatic score at the end,” Dumbfoundead said. “It’s like, God damn, I thought I killed that!”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Janae Price is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She’s a native New Yorker and loves all things cheese, K-pop, and culture. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @janae_larie.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray


Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.


Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery


Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.


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