The spelling of this dish ranges from kimbap, to gimbap, to kimbob, but the taste of this traditional Korean street food remains the same no matter how it's written: excellent. For those who have never tried this dish, kimbap looks somewhat similar to sushi (specifically maki) at first glance. The basics are the same — a thin seaweed sheet, rice, and fillings, but there are also quite a few significant differences.
First of all, the rice layer, flavored with sesame oil, is thinner than in most maki rolls. This allows much more room for a combination of flavorful fillings. Second, meat-and-veggie fillings are generally more common in kimbap rolls than in sushi rolls. Most importantly, the roll itself is significantly larger than a regular maki roll. If you're going to dine on kimbap, make sure you start with a big appetite.
You might be wondering where to find these delicious seaweed rice rolls in Los Angeles. Thanks partly to the large Korean diaspora, there are lots of wonderful restaurants and stands serving kimbap in the city. Since this dish is considered street food, most of the establishments listed below are no-frills places, with no dressing up, or sometimes even sitting down, required. Though quite a few of these eateries are in Koreatown, you can also find great kimbap places in other neighborhoods as well, particularly outside of central Los Angeles. The kimbap eateries named in this article were sourced via online reviews, social media, and, most importantly, personal experience.
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When you're on the lookout for a great kimbap spot, a restaurant named The Kimbap will seem like a no-brainer. According to several sources, including a glowing review by the LA Times, it's certainly worth a stop. As to be expected, the restaurant's menu focuses on kimbap rolls, of which you can choose several kinds when it's time to order.
The menu offers vegetarian kimbap like kimchi, sesame, avocado, and mushroom selections. Those unfamiliar with the dish should go for the Spam kimbap option. This classic staple of Korean street food may seem a bit strange to those who didn't grow up with this cuisine, but it's a tasty treat that's definitely worth a try. As Jenny Jin, who did grow up eating Korean cuisine, wrote about the dish in the LAist, "as soon as the first bite of rice and SPAM hit my mouth, I knew I had found what I was looking for".
400 S Western Ave #102, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Awoolim is one of the most beloved kimbap spots in the city, thanks not only to its delicious food, but also the friendly and fast service. Not to be confused with Awoolim Kimbap Factory, this Korean street food restaurant is located in Koreatown Plaza.
In a sea of amazing Korean restaurants serving street food, Awoolim manages to rise above the rest. As one Reddit reviewer said, "Awoolim makes some of the better kimbaps in all of LA". Best of all, you won't get overwhelmed by the menu here, as Awoolim serves only six different types of kimbap. However, what this restaurant does, it does very well. The portions are also quite generous, especially when it comes to the fillings.
This restaurant isn't exactly a date night spot, but for diners looking for a quick, casual, yet tasty bite, it's perfect. Walk up to the counter to order, then wait nearby with a buzzer in hand until it goes off, signaling that it's time to pick up your generously filled and perfectly rolled kimbaps.
928 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006
What happens if you love kimbap so much you want to serve it at a party, a casual get-together, or even just for a game night at home? You can call up Kimbap Paradise and order a whole tray full of it, as this eatery offers catering services with massive rolls of kimbap you can enjoy in your own house.
Local vlogger Stephen Jeung strongly recommends this particular spot, and loves the generous portions of fillings. That's because Kimbap Paradise certainly doesn't skimp on ingredients; you may find that the rice layer in this store's variation of kimbap is one of the thinnest you encounter on this list, allowing it to fit in loads of veggies, meat, and other rice roll staples.
Jeung is far from the only person to share glowing reviews of this restaurant online; TikTok is filled with Kimbap Paradise devotees. You can also order other Korean specialties like bulgogi and several kimchi-based meals at this establishment. However, with all the delicious kimbap available, including marinated beef, mayonnaise tuna and sausage varieties, it may be hard to fit anything else in your stomach.
401 Vermont Ave #1&2, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Open Wednesday to Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m, Perilla LA is a great Korean brunch and lunch spot in the city. Chef Jihee Kim brands her establishment as a neighborhood banchan spot. Banchan is a traditional side dish served with many Korean meals, and Kim has decided to make them the main event of her restaurant instead of serving them as accompaniments.
In addition to the banchan, there are some great kimbap selections on the menu. Kim only added these because of popular demand, as she told the LA Times: "I really didn't want to do it at the beginning because gimbap is a lot of work ... But people really like it. I wanted to make it more Californian so I added avocado and mushroom."
Drop by this pop-up shop turned restaurant to grab an order of kimbap and dosirak, one of the best healthy meals in the city, as picked by the LA Times. A dosirak is almost like a Korean lunch box, and this is a great way to sample a few of the best creations Kim has made that day.
1027 Alpine St Bldg E, Los Angeles, CA 90012
When you walk through Galleria Market in Koreatown, you will come across Baro Gimbap, a particularly great place for take-out kimbap in Los Angeles. You can actually order from one of four different party boxes, depending on your group's tastes, and take an absolutely massive amount of kimbap home with you.
This is one of my favorite places to pick up kimbap in the city, despite occasional negative reviews for customer service. I have never had an issue here, and it's possible some of the bad feedback is the result of a language barrier rather than a lack of friendliness. A lot of the kimbap served here is premade, so at Baro Gimbap you will usually get your order in your hand very fast, and at a pretty decent price considering the quality and flavor of the food.
3250 W Olympic Blvd #106, Los Angeles, CA 90006
If you want to try something different, check out Sinjeon in Koreatown to get your hands on some spicy kimbap. Choose between the regular spicy kimbap roll and the spicy cheese kimbap roll. Both have Sinjeon sauce, but the spicy cheese kimbap roll also has a mozzarella filling. If you have to pick one of the two, go with the cheese roll. Not only does it have a 100% rating on DoorDash, but it seems to be a favorite for local Koreatown TikTokkers.
Sinjeon sauce is a special creation and highlight of the Sinjeon brand, a restaurant chain focused on Korean street food, which now has over 776 locations in Canada, the U.S., the Philippines, Australia, and of course, South Korea. In addition to kimbap, you can also check out the different types of topokki, a kind of spicy rice cake also referred to as tteokbokki, in addition to the fish cakes on the menu.
450 S Western Ave Suit 314, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Drive a little bit north of Los Angeles proper to get to the suburb of Northridge, where you will find an amazing and somewhat off-the-radar restaurant known as K-Stop. The absolute top dish here has to be the bulgogi kimbap, which, per Yelp, has racked up some of the most positive reviews of the entire menu.
This cozy, small establishment located in a strip mall may seem ordinary and unassuming on the outside, but once you enter, expect some of the best Korean flavors in the entire Los Angeles metro area to grace your taste buds. Better yet, K-Stop has delicious options for omnivores and vegetarians alike. As one Google reviewer said, the "veggie kimbap is the most delicious thing I've ever eaten in my whole life". Keep in mind that K-Stop is open from Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., so don't venture up north to visit late at night or on a Sunday.
19480 Rinaldi St, Northridge, CA 91326
People who have spent time in South Korea likely already know about Jaws Topokki, a famous national ─ and now international ─ brand focused on Korean street food. Thankfully, this chain has spread to Southern California, with locations in Buena Park, Koreatown, and most recently, in San Diego. If you have trouble finding the Koreatown location, note that this Jaws Topokki is within Serrano Market Place, so it can be hard to spot between the numerous other stores.
There are 12 varieties of kimbap to choose from, including a health-conscious, L.A.-friendly keto kimbap tailored to a low-carb diet. Other options include bulgogi katsu, cream cheese, tuna, or fried shrimp. The bulgogi katsu, made with delicious Korean BBQ beef, has a whole slew of stellar reviews on Yelp, with some raving about the crunchy texture and generous portions. If you only have room for one kimbap roll, this should probably be the one you pick.
3807 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Yet another grab-and-go kimbap place in Koreatown, Gaju Gimbap has a reputation for tasty yet affordable kimbap served fast. The fact that most kimbap rolls here are premade certainly helps matters, as does the restaurant's location in busy California Market. However, premade doesn't mean inferior or unhealthy in this case, as, like most kimbap, the food at Gaju Gimbap is a decently healthy choice for diners on the go.
This fast dining establishment also has its own fans on social media, one of whom highly recommends the tuna kimbap; a wonderful choice rich in flavor, without having too much of an overpowering "fishy" taste, based on experience. Gaju Gimbap is all the way at the back of California Market, so if you haven't dropped by this shopping area before, it might take a minute to locate. Even though customers order at the counter, there is seating nearby if you would like to take your time and savor your kimbap meal.
450 S Western Ave Suite 105, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Ggor Ghap Kimbob
Sit at the counter or grab one of the simple, wooden tables in the no-fuss interior of Ggor Ghap Kimbob to try some of the city's best kimbap. Or, as it's spelled in the restaurant's name, kimbob. Like we said, this dish has many possible name variations, so don't get confused and think you're ordering something else.
Though it is a personal favorite of mine, and a frequent stop on Wilshire, it seems other local foodies also prefer Ggor Ghap Kimbob for all their kimbap needs. One Los Angeles foodie and content creator named Curtis talks incredibly highly of the menu here, saying it, "offers an array of mouthwatering Korean comfort food, with the Kimbob being a particular highlight." Try the special rainbow kimbob, with egg, spinach, carrots, fish cake, gobo, yellow radish, imitation crab meat, and ham, for something different than the usual offerings. However, know that the kimbap served here is very, very big, so it's best to order just one roll in the beginning to get an idea of portion size before ordering more.
3959 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
For Angelenos who don't mind driving a bit, head southeast towards Anaheim and Disneyland to get to Oh Mama, one of the most acclaimed kimbap spots in southern California. Even though Oh Mama functions as a take-out spot, and not a sit down restaurant, it is one of the most highly rated Korean eateries in the entire area, with a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on popular delivery app DoorDash.
In addition to classics like the steak bulgogi kimbap, by far the most popular item to order, Oh Mama is one of a handful of spots that serves an excellent vegan kimbap as well. "This place is the epitome of the Korean food aesthetic, and we usually get their sushi, their Bulgogi Kimbap roll," one experienced local guide reviewer states on Google. Perhaps one of the reason the bulgogi kimbap roll is so beloved is because the kitchen here uses actual shredded beef to make it, instead of ground beef.
Since we have been there quite a few times, one great tip is to order in person if you're not in a hurry; there are almost always more options to sift through compared to Oh Mama's online delivery menus. This small takeout spot is closed on Sundays, so keep that in mind if you want to swing through on the weekend.
14822 Beach Blvd La Mirada, CA 90638
Read the original article on Tasting Table.