Koreatown in Los Angeles is the largest Korean community outside of the Korean Peninsula. The list of available local specialties available at the many restaurants is more complete than most any ethnic neighborhood in the United States. From tabletop barbecue to stews specific to small Korean towns, you can find it in Koreatown. For drinking food, a genre that Koreans take very seriously, you’ll want to come to OB Bear. There are many great places to eat in Koreatown, but even when there is a long wait, don’t think twice. OB Bear is an irreplaceable L.A. icon.
It is a classic Korean pub with all the requisite fixtures. There are semi-private booths with buttons to summon your server when you want another drink. There are TVs playing baseball at every vantage. Most important, fried chicken is a specialty, so that patrons may participate in the time-honored ritual of chimaek, which is a portmanteau that combines Korean terms for chicken and beer. OB Bear is named for the Doosan Bears and the brewery that sponsored them (Oriental Brewers) back in 1988 when the restaurant opened. Since then it’s become one of L.A.’s truest, bluest Dodgers bars.
OB Bear offers classic “golden” fried chicken, but it is famous for spicy wings. These come with a thicker, crunchier breading and are dressed in a sticky sauce that deftly balances sweet, spicy, salty, and sour. The wings come out in a generous pile, glistening from a blend of fryer oil and that nose-tingling glaze. Next to them is a slaw of wispy cabbage drenched with Thousand Islands dressing. On the side is a ramekin of sweet-tart pickled daikon radish. An order of these wings is a challenge for fewer than three hungry people, but they must be ordered no matter what. The effect lessens once they cool off or after being refrigerated at home, but they are so delectable that even if they were dropped on the lawn and stomped on they would still taste pretty good.
For an accompaniment to the must-order wings, savory pancakes are a great place to start. If you don’t mind imitation krab, the seafood pancake is superb. You’ll get a portion sufficient for a side dish for about six people. The portions are generally enormous here, and you might end up drinking most of your calories, so do your best to order with some restraint.
For the more adventurous, several bottles of soju (Korean for watered-down vodka), and some stir-fried chicken gizzards or blood sausage can practically transport you across the Pacific.