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.

Thrillist/YouTube
Thrillist/YouTube
Thrillist/YouTube

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.”

Olivia
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

Where to Eat and Drink Near SoFi Stadium

From a classic donut shop to fresh carnitas, Jamaican food, and more.

@carnitaselartista
@carnitaselartista
@carnitaselartista

Football season is in full swing, which is especially exciting for LA Rams and Chargers fans who can now tailgate and watch games live at SoFi Stadium. The brand-new stadium in Inglewood was finished in September 2020, but was closed to fans last season due to the pandemic. Even more exciting? Both of our home teams are actually faring well this season (so far), with four wins and just one loss each.

But after a year of ordering delivery while you watch the game at home, you might be stumped as to where you should fuel up before or after you hit the stadium. The concessions inside of SoFi come courtesy of LA mainstays Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Jon & Vinny’s, Animal, Son of a Gun), and are themed after different neighbourhoods. For example, you can grab a classic hot dog or a cheeseburger sub at Fairfax Ave, or burritos and crispy shrimp tacos at Olvera Street. But if you’re looking to avoid those long lines and inflated stadium prices, there are plenty of spots in the surrounding neighbourhood to choose from. Inglewood is an area that’s rich with the cultural traditions of its residents, showcasing cuisines that range from soul food and Caribbean to Mexican and West African. Since you can’t take any food inside the new stadium, take this opportunity to get a taste of what one of Los Angeles’s best neighbourhoods has to offer.

Randy's Donuts
Randy’s Donuts
Randy’s Donuts

Randy’s Donuts

Founded in 1952, and making countless TV and film appearances since (Get Shorty, Earth Girls Are Easy, and Iron Man 2 just to name a few), you’re likely familiar with the huge, emblematic donut that sits on Randy’s rooftop. But the rings that come out of this iconic donut shop are also worthy of your attention, especially if you’re heading to the stadium for an early game. Indulge in tried-and-tested offerings like a simple raised glazed donut, a Maple Long John with phenomenal shellacked frosting, or a deep-fried apple fritter with all the flavours of fall. Kids will love sugar-laden options like a funfetti cake with ganache or a Cinnamon Crunch raised donut. If you find yourself there during the AM rush, save time by ordering online and utilize the drive-thru.
How to order: Order at the window or online for takeout.

Carnitas El Artista Chávez

Family-owned Carnitas El Artista is the newest power player in LA’s already-robust carnitas scene, recently making the jump from Hawthorne backyard pop-up to this brick-and-mortar location. Despite the glow-up, the operation hasn’t lost that humble family vibe and you’ll still find most of them working behind the counter cooking up carnitas Michoacan-style, which involves simmering the pork in oil or lard until it’s fork-tender. Oh and the carnitas themselves? Well, let’s just say the menu boasts a variety of supple cuts that you can enjoy in hefty breakfast burritos with beans, eggs, potatoes, cheese, and pico de gallo; smothered chilaquiles with green or red sauce; or by the pound for some top-notch tailgate action. If you’re heading to the stadium on one of LA’s rare windy days, take advantage of their hot steaming bowls of menudo that will no doubt warm you up.
How to order: Walk in or order online to skip the line.

@findyourhilltop
@findyourhilltop
@findyourhilltop

Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen

No trip to the city of Inglewood is complete without checking out at least one of the many Black-owned establishments seen on Issa Rae’s hit HBO show, Insecure. Those looking for their next caffeine fix will appreciate the expansive selection of offerings, like a Ethiopian drip-brew coffee with notes of nectarine, honey, and black tea, and a savory sweet potato latte. Hungry? Dive into their droptops, or thick-cut toasts topped with your choice of almond butter, smoked salmon, or avocado. Or maybe you’ll be more enchanted by their breakfast sandwich with a fried egg, cheddar cheese, bacon, and spicy mayo on a brioche bun. They’ve also got tiger shrimp tacos, a crispy chicken sandwich, and a tuna melt if you’re leaning more towards lunch fare. Whatever you do, save room for their beignets, deep-fried balls of dough that are covered in powdered sugar and give way to a plush and pillowy interior.
How to order: Walk in or order online for pickup.

Country Style Jamaican

Stop by this accessible takeaway spot for bold Caribbean flavors by way of Jamaica. Walking into the shop, you’ll be immediately greeted by the good vibes, from colorful green walls adorned with the Jamaican flag to the lively music that emanates from the kitchen. The hardest part will be choosing between protein options like oxtail, jerk chicken, and curried goat. Each entree is served over a plentiful bed of red beans and rice that delivers just the right amount of spice. If you want to get serious, grab a few of the superbly seasoned meat patties from the hot case-you won’t regret it. Wash it down with Jamaican grapefruit soda MVP, a carbonated fruit juice that acts as the perfect accompaniment to refresh your palate after each bite.
How to order: Walk in or pre-order on Yelp.

Veronica’s Kitchen

Specializing in Nigerian cuisine, this Inglewood mainstay is a great option for those seeking a sit-down experience before or after a game. Choose from staples such as various selections of egusi, a soup composed of leafy greens, ground melon seeds, and goat, which pairs well with fufu, or pounded yams with an almost mochi-like consistency that’s ideal for dipping. Feel free to get messy, they even set down a small bowl of water to clean your fingers mid-meal. The jollof rice, made with tomatoes, onions, and other spices, packs a serious punch, and adding an order of plantains is a no-brainer. To quench your thirst over the course of your meal, choose from a selection of palm juices or ginger beer.
How to order: Walk-ins only.

In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out

Look, we get it. Sometimes after the game (and especially after a loss), you’re just looking for some amount of comfort. You want a familiar experience that’s easy and won’t require trying something new. So pull up to the In-N-Out drive-thru or parking lot and appeal to those senses. There’s something about biting into one of their double-doubles (animal style with grilled onions, naturally) after a big event that feels ritualistic, especially when you’re sharing the drive-thru line with other hungry fans decked out in their team gear.
How to order: Pull into the drive-thru or mask up and walk inside.

The Serving Spoon

If you’re looking for a filling breakfast or lunch that won’t ever let you down, cozy up to the counter and pay your respects to this neighborhood institution that’s always spilling over with crowds. Breakfast staples include perfectly fluffy pancakes served with steaming heaps of grits, and french toast that’s perfectly griddled with lace-like edges and dusted with powdered sugar. Of course, you’d be remiss if you didn’t also opt for an order of the crispy fried wings containing equal amounts of crispy crunchy goodness and just the right amount of seasoning. Also, don’t forget to add a side of the delectable salmon crĂłquettes to complement your meal.
How to order: Walk-ins only.

106 Seafood Underground

Perhaps your goal is to grab a bite in an environment that’s as far away from the stadium setting as possible. Look no further than 106 Seafood Underground, which you’ll find nestled in a residential neighbourhood between Inglewood and neighbouring Lennox. Here, Sergio Peñuelas, former chef at nearby Coni’ Seafood, has transformed his backyard into a Sinaloa-style mariscos paradise. You’ll also forget where you are, with the exception of the low-flying planes en route to nearby LAX. But truthfully none of that matters because when your food arrives your attention will be solely focused on what you’re about to consume. Heaping plates of marinero arrive at your table quickly, featuring succulent shrimp covered in a soy sauce-based salsa and bits of mango that deliver an almost heavenly bite of fresh, sweet, and umami goodness. Another solid option is their phenomenal aguachile, which comes with a sizable amount of full-sized, head-on shrimp drenched in their not-for-the-weak salsa verde. Bring your friends to feast family style.
How to order: Call 310-980-3893 for reservations.

The Wood Urban Kitchen & Sports Lounge

It’s hard to resist the groovy sounds wafting from this sidewalk space that comes to life every day (except Mondays) around noon on a well-trafficked section of Market Street. Do yourself a favour and order the brisket… and the hot links… and the ribs-in fact, just go with a group so you can try a little bit of everything. The tender slabs of barbecue sauce-smothered meat melt in your mouth instantly, and pair perfectly with sides like mac and cheese, baked beans, and street corn. You also can’t go wrong with a side of the fresh greens, with sizable chunks of pork. The Wood also represents one of your best options for getting a brew or cocktail before or after a game.
How to order: Walk in or order takeout on Yelp.

Sunday Gravy
Sunday Gravy
Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

Opened just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in LA in late 2019, this family-run restaurant specializes in both Italian and Italian-American classics like spaghetti and meatballs. Siblings Sol and Ghazi Bashirian took over the space from their father who operated a restaurant here for 42 years (first as Ahmady’s and later as Jino’s Pizza & Deli). Sunday Gravy proudly sources their handmade pastas from nearby Florentyna’s and ciabatta for its craveworthy garlic bread from local bakery, Cadoro. It’s the perfect place to feast either before or after a game.
How to order: Via Chownow

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Gab Chabran is a contributor for Thrillist.

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