Koreatown has bragging rights: Not only is it L.A.'s densest neighborhood it also boasts the highest concentration of late-night businesses. Now, Koreatown finally has the hotel it deserves. The Line, located in what used to be the Wilshire Plaza, "soft opened" on January 1. In keeping with the modernist style of the building, which dates back to 1964, the décor is minimalist with lots of exposed concrete, accents of orange, and occasional ornate flourishes.
"Everything we've done before is less spare, but this building called for a modern aesthetic," says Andrew Zobler, CEO of Sydell Group, a company that develops "lifestyle-oriented hotels"—like the Ace hotels in New York and Palm Springs, the Saguaro hotels in Scottsdale and Palm Springs, and the NoMad Hotel in New York.
The overarching idea for the Line's vibe and décor was "celebrating everyday stuff," according to Zobler. Hence the art installation made of old t-shirts that hangs over part of the lobby and the colorful faux detergent bottles that sit on nightstands.
"Los Angeles is an incredible melting pot of neighborhoods and restaurants," Zobler says. "It's so overdone to do 'L.A. as Hollywood' or 'L.A. as the land of swimming pools.' Tourists may not realize all the amazing things going on here."
When it's fully operational, the 12-story hotel will have 388 rooms, two restaurants and a café overseen by Roy Choi (one's a Korean hot pot joint and the other is vegetable-driven), a lounge area in the lobby, a full-on bar overseen by the Houston Brothers (the nightlife impresarios behind La Descarga, Pour Vous, and Dirty Laundry), a Poketo store, and a newsstand. None of that is ready yet, but you can still borrow one of the hotel's Linus bikes and use it to explore the 'hood. Here's where to go:
You thought the American South had a lock on fried chicken? Kyochon's double-fried drumettes coated in a spicy-sweet glaze are insanely addictive; alas, the local chain's flagship location on 6th Street is closed until early February (according to the internet) but there are plenty of other shops specializing in the treat: Yangnyeom Tongdak, Kokio Fried Chicken, Dan Sung Sa, and OB Bear.
You have to know where to look to find hip little Beer Belly, which is semi-hidden at the back of a strip mall. Jimmy and Yume Han pick a nice rotating selection of craft beers and if you log into the bar's wifi you can control the music. At Lock & Key, you'll need to try several fake doorknobs before you can get into the speakeasy-themed bar (be sure to order the Taiwanese-style fried chicken next door at Stall 239). There's also the Prince (a classy joint that the Rat Pack supposedly frequented back in the day), semi-divey neighborhood watering hole Frank 'n Hank's, Bobby London (which is the sort of place you might imagine Bukowski hanging if Ktown was his hood), and the nautically-themed H.M.S. Bounty.
Brass Monkey is still the fun, rowdy bar where every Agneleno ends up doing karaoke at least once, but if you prefer more privacy, you can book your own room at Palm Tree L.A. Other options include Rosen Music or Orchid Restaurant.
You're at ground zero for Korean day spas, those hot tub havens where you can soak up the steam in a soothing atmosphere or have every bodily crevice violently scrubbed. Our favorite is Wi Spa but Natura Spa, Beverly Hot Springs, and Olympic Spa are also good bets.
Visit the Koreatown Galleria with its large Korean Market and impressive food court.
Shatto 39 Lanes, which dates to the early '60s, is somewhat dingy but it's fun and fascinating—as much for the people-watching as for the bowling.