Parked near the entrance to Koreatown’s California Market sits a silver trailer with a yellow awning and the words KOO’S GRILL in colorful block letters. Koo’s sells only one item, the sweet Korean rice pancake known as hotteok.
The glutinous, chewy, sweet pancake is filled with a pocket of scalding syrup made from chopped peanuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. They’re about five inches across, get caramelized on the griddle, and taste absolutely delicious. Hotteok are stacked on wax paper and slapped on flimsy paper plates if you want to eat standing up, or crammed in Styrofoam containers if you take them to go. There are no seats, unless you count a coin-operated airplane ride near the market’s entrance. Koo’s hotteok has to rank as one of the best snacks/desserts in Los Angeles. And they’re only a buck apiece!
Koo is the last name of the Korean couple that owns the trailer. Their sandy-haired daughter has also been known to work the grill. She said the pancakes are everywhere in Korea, but rare in the California. Her parents went back to Korea to learn how to make them. They opened their first location at the California Market in Garden Grove, then expanded to Koreatown in 2001. It took awhile for Koo’s to catch on, but it’s now a Koreatown destination.
NOTE #1: The Koreatown location is open from 10 AM – 10 AM daily, but they’ve been known to sell out of pancakes early.
NOTE #2: In spring 2011, Koo’s Grill moved to a newer branch of California Market at 4317 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90004, and subsequently closed.