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Ktown Night Market

Steamed Buns and K-pop Fun All in One. 

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline and came across an ad for something called, Ktown Night Market. “Back by Popular Demand,” it said. Popular demand? Well, if it was exciting enough to make a comeback, certainly it’s something I needed to check out. The days came and went, and I teetered back and forth as to whether or not I’d actually go. Basically, the level of dough in my bank account was dictating my overall desire. Sure, the event itself was only $5 at the door, but with food trucks and stalls galore, I knew there’d be some money dropping throughout the evening.

After spending the day-of venturing around Le Brea, I finally decided to make the trek 7 blocks east and see what all the fuss was about. I rolled up fairly early—around 6pm—so the crowd had yet to gather its full force. I took this as an opportunity to get my fill of food, because I was sure the lines would start forming at any moment (I was right). The funny thing about stalls and trucks, especially at festivals, is that they can vary rather dramatically when it comes to service.

For instance, the first truck I hit was called, The Chairman. It’s a mobile version of the bun and sandwich eatery that has locations in DTLA and San Francisco. I ordered a Spicy Chicken steamed bun, which comes with Panchan pickles; and a Black Pepper Brisket Bun that’s topped with fennel salad and lemon-ginger vinaigrette. The service was speedy, the food was incredible and I even chatted with the staff for a few minutes about the NBA Finals. All in all, it was the type of experience you want to have with a food truck. However, later in the evening I hit a truck called, Okamoto Kitchen. Billed as Japanese comfort food, it’s definitely an unforgettable experience. The truck itself is bright red with a French Maid Manga character emblazoned across the side, while a TV screen rotates through Pokemon-style screens, complete with 8-bit video game noises and music.

When I walked up the line was a little long, but I decided to test the waters and wait. After all, a long line is usually the sign of a good spot. Unfortunately, what I came to find was that it was actually the result of severe mismanagement. When I finally made it to the window, I ordered myself a nice combo of a Chicken Curry Sandwich (a large piece of Korean fried Chicken, topped with gouda cheese, shredded green cabbage and a special curry sauce, housed in a warm brioche bun) and a Green Tea Parfait (matcha-infused custard, topped with sweet red bean paste, fried dough and whipped cream).

Nothing too extravagant, I thought. The problem came after about 10 minutes of waiting. I saw them place my items at the window, but they never called for me. Instead, the person serving food set it to the side for another 5 minutes. Curious, I waited to see how things would play out. I soon realized he was not giving me my order, because the people in front of me had not received their orders yet and… well… I guess things have to go in order?

It was extremely odd to me, especially given that one of my items was to be served hot and the other cold (read as time sensitive). Once I finally received my food though, I have to admit that it was extremely delicious. Was it worth the 30+ minutes I waited for it? Probably not, but in that moment I certainly enjoyed it. From there, I hit up Street Churros and had my very first churro ever—no, really! And then ventured one truck to the right for some gelato. Both were pretty good, but nothing I’d ever write home about.

Once I was filled with food, I went and checked out all of the clothing stalls around the festival. I guess they were curated by something called, The Silk Show? I’m completely unfamiliar, but I did manage to snag a few good deals from some pretty cool brands. The timing was perfect too, as the sun began to set and the evening’s musical acts took to the stage. So, I grabbed some bubble tea from Boba Bear and spent the rest of the evening bobbing along to some Korean rap groups and a few K-pop favorites. Sure, I didn’t understand a word they were saying, but a good beat transcends all languages.

All in all, the evening was really fun. It was nice to get out and explore the culture of my neighborhood a bit. I do live in Koreatown, after all. My only complaint is that I wasn’t able to hit up more of the food stalls. Obviously, it wasn’t because I couldn’t pack away the food. It had more to do with the fact they were cash only and I couldn’t make out any of the menus. There were some questionable meats being used (at least the types I’m used to) and I was deathly afraid of accidentally purchasing duck’s bill or tripe. I think I'll save those for next year. 



Belly & Snout

Delicious, Despite the Intruders

On this particular Saturday, my plans were completely up in the air. You see; there was talk of a backyard barbecue going down in the valley. But, once word came ‘round that the shindig was postponed; I immediately set out to find a suitable replacement that could satiate my hunger for meat. After narrowing it down to two K-town favorites—Beer Belly and Belly & Snout—I couldn’t help but gravitate toward the inventive and inviting dogs of the latter choice.

So, I threw on a pair of shoes, loaded some music into my headphones and set out to have another culinary adventure. Once outside, I could tell this was a near perfect day to explore the neighborhood. The sun was shining and a slight breeze washed over me like a wave of warm cotton. I headed up the block and made my way down Western Ave. until I reached my destination. At first, it was hard to distinguish from the shops and stores that adorn much of the street. But, once I reached the opposing corner, a large white sign with an equally predominate pig silhouette was there to announce I had finally arrived.

Once inside, the cozy restaurant felt warm and welcoming. A long, wooden counter split the room in half with the kitchen hidden away behind it and a few tables tucked into the corner of the foreground. My attention was immediately drawn to the farthest wall, where a multi-colored chalk menu alerted me to the day’s offerings. After taking a few moments to decide, I landed on three separate dishes that would allow me to sample a little of everything this place is known for.

I started with a Two Buck Taco, filled with chicken adobo. Next, I chose the Oxtail Chili Dog that came slathered in peanut-braised oxtail, cotija cheese, garlic crema, black and red beans and cilantro. Finally, I paired these with an order of the Sisig fries, topped with pork, fried egg, red onion, chicharron, green onion and garlic crema. Admittedly, even as I write these words, it’s making me hungry for more!

After ordering, I took a seat in the corner and while looking around, I noticed a plaque for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on a wall behind the counter. As a self-loathing fan of the show, I found it a bit odd, as I had never seen their episode before. It all made sense soon enough though. While waiting on my meal, I began to cycle through my social media and when tagging the restaurant in a #foodporn post, I saw that the ever-curious enigma known as Guy Fieri had actually filmed there just a few days prior. I was Guy Fier-ious! I can’t believe I missed my chance to be on one of my favorite shows. Especially one I love to hate and hate to love.

This is when my experience took an unexpected turn. While sitting there in my seat, indulging in a bit of Snapchat vanity, a couple barged in with their young child. And as soon as they reached the register, the large male of the group began to make his presence known in boisterous fashion. He leaned (too) far over the counter, began reading through the menu in a loud tone of voice and carried on an internal conversation that was surely deafening for everyone within earshot.

Luckily, my food arrived shortly thereafter and I was once again at peace. I made quick work of the taco; an easy feat given how succulent and juicy the chicken was. Then, it was on to my hot dog, which despite my greatest efforts, I could not fully enjoy due to the couple sitting a table away. The man continued to talk louder than anyone in such an intimate space ever should and to make matters worse, he kept yelling to the kitchen staff in an attempt to ask them questions about Mr. Fieri.

Couple this with his wife (or girlfriend?) taking duck-lipped selfies right in front of me and it left me with no other choice, but to sigh my way through an otherwise delectable dog. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the man began to speak to his child about time—again, much louder than anyone should—and he proceeded to cycle through a span of fifteen hours. “Do you know how long that is?” He asked. “One hour… two hours… three hours… four hours… five hours… six hours… seven hours…,” This continued until he reached fifteen. That’s right; he actually went from beginning to end.

By this time, I had started into my fries, which ultimately helped drown out the man’s piercing voice that continued to permeate the room—much to everyone’s dismay. Thankfully, about halfway through, their to-go order was placed on the corner and the couple went on their way. At last! I had nothing but peace, quiet and crema-covered French fries. I took my time savoring each and every piece of golden goodness that sat before me. One-by-one, I slathered the fries in a pristine mixture of toppings and floated higher into the heavens with every bite. And upon reaching my final fry, I smiled one last smile, before concluding my K-town conquest.

From there, I gathered my composure and tossed my well-worn napkins into the garbage, before wishing the Chef a good day and exiting the establishment. For a brief moment, I stood outside, the sun’s warming rays shining down upon me, and I remembered just how much a good meal can change one’s outlook on the day—even if you do have to briefly share it with people that don’t understand the meaning of personal space.