Koreatown, centered on the block of West 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, is a small, but packed spot in Midtown, Manhattan where visitors can find Korean food, shopping, and entertainment. The blink and you’ll miss it “town” is a great place to see traditional Korean spots for tourists, foodies, and the roughly 100,000 Koreans living in NYC looking for a piece of home.
1. Korean Infused European Bakeries
Korean’s are fascinated with European culture, and this rings true with their taste in breads and pastries. Dessert spots that can be found in Koreatown, like Tous Les Jours and Paris Baguette are both chain bakery’s that are extremely popular in Korea (There’s over 3000 Paris Baguette’s in South Korea).
The bakeries sell all kinds of breads and pastries, including some unique options like a Frank Roll Donut (sausage rolled in a sweet crispy donut), and a Curry Croquette Donut. The breads and sweets range in prices, but are usually under $5.
6 West 32nd Street
Tous les Jours
31 West 32nd Street
2. Korean Karaoke
Karaoke in K-Town is an entirely different experience from the scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Cameron Diaz completely wrecks Nicky Hollands rendition of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”. Unlike how American’s generally view karaoke (usually performed by someone who’s considerably drunk and not at all worried about murdering a few songs off the Top 100), Korean karaoke is much more private than drunkenly singing(?) in front of a crowd of strangers.
To continue with my film comparison, Korean karaoke is actually extremely similar to the scene in Lost in Translation when Bill Murray sings Roxy Music’s “More Than This” (but that makes sense because the film was set in Tokyo and Tokyo’s karaoke is similar to Korea’s).
Korean karaoke works something like this…you rent a room with a few friends (usually starting at $30/hr), and it comes with comfy couches, a flat screen TV, a microphone, and a songbook.
Gagopa Karaoke is a great option on a budget (or for parties) since they offer BYOB- all you have to pay for is the room.
28 West 32nd Street
3. Food Gallery 32
If you like options, you’re going to love Food Gallery 32. The three level food court has everything from noodles, Korean BBQ, sushi, pork buns, and self serve frozen yogurt form Red Mango. Food Gallery 32 is made up of dozens of stalls offering Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese dishes and desserts.
My advice would be to wander around the place for awhile and check out all the menus at the different stalls before compulsively ordering (I know it’s tempting, but there’s a lot to choose from). Most dishes at Food Gallery 32 are under $10.
11 West 32nd Street
4. Koryo Books
Koryo Bookstore is a pretty popular spot in Koreatown for Korean books, magazines, music, toys, and other Korean novelties. Along with popular Korean books, they also carry best selling American books, like Harry Potter, translated into Korean. It’s a fun spot to wander around in and see the popular items you can typically only find in Korea. Also, take a peek at the second floor where there’s a traditional Korean tea room.
35 West 32nd Street
5. Korean Skincare
If you’re a beauty junkie, or just want to give your skin a little TLC, head over to The Face Shop. The Face Shop is a popular place to get traditional Korean skincare essentials like cloth face masks soaked in “essences” that are targeted to promote skin renewal for aging, acne prone, dry, or any skin concern. I fell in love with these a few years ago and they’ve become a weekly ritual. They’re amazing for your skin and The Face Shop has great deals on them if you buy in bulk. They also carry Korean makeup, nail polishes, and more.
35 W 32nd Street (a few feet away from Koreatown)
6. Kyochon Chicken
Kyochon’s slogan is “Chicken Like You’ve Never Had Before”, and they’re not kidding. They offer a number of different flavored chicken wings at their super modern, almost futuristic restaurant (complete with flat screen TV’s with Korean pop videos on loop). Their chicken is insanely good. I crave this stuff all the time. It’s not the cheapest lunch around, but it’s worth the visit. You’ll spend around $15 for a meal here.
319 5th Avenue
7. Pho 32 & Shabu
Although it’s technically Vietnamese, not Korean, Pho 32 & Shabu is worth checking out. Their pho is incredible, but they also have other options like Vermicelli Bowls and Pan Fried Tofu. Most meals are under $10 (and huge). Like many of the other restaurants in K-Town, they’re also open 24/7.
2 W 32nd Street
Even though Koreatown is only a block long, you can spend hours discovering all the hidden gems living within this small community. What are your favorite spots in K-Town?