A Day in Koreatown

The city’s most dense sub-cultural enclave is within the bounds of Koreatown, AKA “K-Town.” The three-block radius of K-Town is intensely packed with some 100 businesses that capture the culture and vibrance of an Asian city. K-Town’s modest beginnings can be traced back to the opening of a Korean bookstore in the 1980’s. The business soon flooded in, from restaurants to spas, all catering to Korean and Korean-Chinese immigrants. The boundaries of Koreatown start at West 31st Street and spread north to 33rd Street. The neighborhood spreads between 6th Avenue to the west and 5th Avenue to the east. Some Korean businesses extend as far north as 36th Street. The landscape in K-Town is dominated by tenement buildings and lofts. The residences are typically located above many businesses, from karaoke bars to banks.

Bread & Butter

The start of your first day in Koreatown will undoubtedly be a little different. The charm of your new neighborhood is that you feel like you are not home – rather, you will feel as if by magic you had been transported to Korea. The first stop on your Korean NYC getaway begins at Bread & Butter. The Asian-themed grocery store is open 24-7, and it has several locations in Manhattan. This location is the most popular, offering a solid and straightforward breakfast and coffee to get your day started. Feel free to explore the store to experience all the little Korean culinary nuances scattered throughout.


Food Gallery 32

Yet again, at the very start of your afternoon, Korean food becomes the center of attention. The place to be is the Food Gallery 32. The cafeteria-styled food court, the largest culinary venue in Koreatown, has become a popular for residents from K-Town and NYC in general. The multi-cultural foodie destination includes 14 vendors to choose from for your luncheon needs. Revel in the offerings such as Kung Fu Tea, Korea House, Kobeque and The Gochujang (Korean-style school food). Don’t miss a chance to experience Sweet Churros as these will possibly be the best ones you’ll ever taste.


Koryo Bookstore

Just beneath all the shops on West 32nd, there’s a place you must visit. The Koryo Bookstore is a remarkable kaleidoscope of all things Korean. The bookstore carries hard-to-find Korean books, stationary and toys. There’s even a section of posters and pictures of K-Pop singers that are currently popular in Korea. But of course, their main draw is an endless plethora of books. A large selection of English-language books complements their Korean counterparts.

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You soon learn that K-Town is a foodie haven. Korean, as well as Asian, restaurants and supermarkets are everywhere. Naturally, the next stop in your tour of the neighborhood is H-Mart. The Asian supermarket is easily the gem of the area. They carry some of the hardest to find Asian dishes and selections such as black noodles and Korean porridge. There’s even sushi-grade fish that is sold wholesale for the novice sushi chef, which means you will be getting a healthy block of white tuna for you to carve into a masterpiece in your own kitchen.


Korea Way

The bounty of food has made you a little sleepy so this is a perfect time to explore and soak in the streets of Korea Way. The stretch on West 32nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue feels like traveling to Korea. The one-block is smorgasbord of high-density Korean eateries, spas, karaoke bars and shops. The lights, colors, people and signage create a unique atmosphere unlike anywhere else in New York City. Take your time to explore the all the nooks and crannies. Many of the buildings have multiple levels with vertically stacked storefronts. Electronic outlet stores, video game rentals and stationary shops intertwine ever upwardly.

A Night in Koreatown


Jongro BBQ

There are plenty of Korean BBQ joints to choose from in K-Town. Today, I’ll help you make your decision. Grab a seat at Jongro BBQ. The restaurant is possibly the most popular spot in the area and it usually gets busy early and late to cater to the partygoers, so a dinner around this time of the day is perfect. The meats are freshly delivered daily and are cut in-house (yum!!). The atmosphere that also adds to the experience is the joint’s decor that pays homage to the 1980’s Korea. What gives the idea away is the sea of posters, enhanced with the menu that includes snacks from the era – the biggest plus among the regulars.


Spot Karaoke & Lounge

You do know that you can’t leave K-Town without doing karaoke. There are more than 20 karaoke venues located on Korea Way – so your challenge tonight is in picking the right one. The best place to display your vocal skills is at Spot Karaoke & Lounge. The karaoke joint is located on the 9th floor at 34 West 32nd Street. When the elevator doors open, you are greeted with a revelation of the musical sense. From K-Pop to K-Rock to classic rock, you’re exposed to the sounds of singers and revelers dancing on tables and chairs. Just think about karaoke on steroids and you’ll get Spot Karaoke.

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The Starry Night NYC

Ever imagine what a Korean dive bar would look like? If your answer to this is positive – all you have to do is step into The Starry Night NYC. The moment you walk in, you are hit with a burst of Korean imagination in a basement-like setting. The walls are covered with Korean drawings, animation and paintings. A slew of Christmas lights adorn the walls all the way to the back to the bar, which features plenty of Korean beers and liquors. A second floor behind the bar provides a secluded, lounge-like appeal. You discover this will be the most amazing spot for regular visits.

Words by Arte Vincent

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