San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Clara make up the trifecta of Koreatowns in the Bay Area.
Find out why they’re special!
Whether San Francisco has a Koreatown is a subject of much debate. With an H-Mart, Korean BBQ joints, and a noraebang or two, I say why not?
If that’s not enough, there’s KONO in Oakland and El Camino Real in South Bay for good measure.
What to know
- San Francisco was the first place Koreans came to on mainland USA in 1903
- There are 3 Koreatowns in the bay area, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Oakland
- San Jose has Korean businesses sprinkled throughout the city.
- If you can read hangul, check out SFKorean.com to get some inside info on jobs, rent, restaurants, and activities.
Read on for the best ways to enjoy Koreatowns in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Where to stay
San Francisco hotels can be overpriced. Here are the ones that offer the best value.
Green Tortoise Hostel San Francisco
If you’re on a budget and just want an enclosed structure to sleep in at night, you could do worse than Green Tortoise Hostel San Francisco.
It’s a fun place to meet people you can check out the city with.
494 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States
The Inn at Union Square San Francisco
The Inn at Union Square San Francisco is a charming and pleasant place to stay for a decent price. The interior is modern but full of vintage style.
440 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94102, United States
What to do
Organized by Korean Center in SF, the Chuseok Festival is a celebration of cultural diversity that showcases Korean traditions, music, arts, cuisine, and community.
It takes place in late September or early October depending on the lunar calendar.
Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129, United States
Korean cultural organizations
Their mission is to create a space for people to explore culture and heritage while bridging communities and generations. They address the needs of the Korean American community in the Bay Area.
Korean Center runs the ultra fun Chuseok Festival so I’d say they’re doing a pretty good job.
1362 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94109
Located in South Bay, KACS was founded by 3 social workers to aid with social and economic challenges that Korean Americans face.
They now focus on serving the needs of recent immigrants and first-generation Korean American seniors.
KACS serves lunch to over 60 seniors daily and more than 35,000 people annually.
136 Burton Ave, San Jose CA 95112
A Korean War Memorial built in 2016 to commemorate the sacrifices made by those who fought in the so-called “Forgotten War”. It’s located in a tranquil area adorned with planters containing Korean red pines and battle stones.
Lincoln Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94129, United States
Raymond Kimbell Playground is a small but well-managed park right on Geary Blvd. It’s been going strong for at least 50 years with a clubhouse, play area, baseball fields with bleacher seating, and grassy picnic spots.
1901 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94115, United States
Who could forget the world famous Golden Gate Park? While not technically in the Koreatown, it’s close enough to get to after you’ve had your fill of Korean food. With 1,017 acres filled with idyllic lakes and meadows, it’s well worth the trip.
KONO Community Benefit District is a really fun area in Oakland that has a variety of arts, activities, and food from numerous cultures.
66 Franklin St Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94607, United States
Asian Art Museum
A beautiful museum with collections from Japan, Korea, and China. It has the first gallery in the USA solely dedicated to Korean art with a collection of more than 750 pieces spanning millennia of Korean culture in a variety of mediums.
Best of all, admission is free on first Sundays every month!
200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, United States
Adroit College is a great place to learn Korean language, history, and culture. They have both online and in-person classes conducted by friendly instructors.
San Francisco Korean American History Museum
While not quite finished, SFKAHM aims to collect and house items related to the Korean immigrant experience in and around San Francisco and the Bay Area.
PO Box #2333 PLEASANT HILL CA 94523
Korean Hair & Makeup by Lee says what it does and who does it right there in the name. The owner is detail-oriented and makes you feel comfortable while you get fabulous.
1590 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116, United States
There are two main Korean spas in San Francisco, a fancy one and a real one.
Pearl Spa and Sauna is an upscale and tastefully-designed (no vegas style sphinxes or Greek statues here) Korean spa with modern takes on traditional jjimjilbang. Purists need not worry, they have all the classics including hot, cold, and salt baths.
1656 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115, United States
Imperial Spa keeps it real. It feels like a place you’d find in a local neighborhood in Seoul. If you want an authentic jjimjilbang experience, this is the place to have it.
1875 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94115, United States
Learn martial arts
A lot of them!
Korean Martial Arts Center has a variety of classes including Taekwondo and Hapkido for learners of all levels.
1414 Ocean Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112, United States
What to eat
Most of the Korean BBQ restaurants in San Francisco wouldn’t exist in Korea. They serve pretty much every dish including LA Galbi and Dalkgui, which are nigh impossible to find in the motherland.
BBQ joints in Korea will specialize in one type of meat (pork, beef, etc.).
That being said, you can’t go wrong with:
In addition to BBQ, their fish is pretty good too.
401 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States
Go Go 7
Affordable and delicious.
1300 Ocean Ave, San Francisco, CA 94112, United States
A solid choice when you want to try all the favorites including Galbi and Samgyeopsal under one roof.
1220 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122, United States
Menus at Korean restaurants in the states read like encyclopedia entries on Korean cuisine.
If you’re unsure of what to order, the best bet is to get what’s included in the restaurant name. For example, if “tofu” is on the signboard, order the sundubu.
Daeho Kalbijim & Beef Soup
Galbijim is a braised beef dish that’s just special and tough to find in the US. This is a great place to try it in all its hearty and flavorful glory.
1620 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115, United States
Located in Santa Clara, they offer classic pojangmacha fare with some extras.
2340 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050, United States
Yummy Tofu and BBQ
Located in San Jose, this place has sundubu and other Korean comfort food.
1310 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129, United States
Fresh and tasty banchan is tough to find outside of Korea. This newly opened side dish store in La Mancha Plaza offers a variety of small plate dishes as well as kimbap and some fusion items.
4013 Telegraph Ave F, Oakland, CA 94609, United States
Food allergies aren’t a thing in Korea, so make sure to tell your server if you have any.
10 Butchers Korean BBQ
One of the nicer homestyle farm-to-table Korean BBQs in the area. It has a patio too!
595 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, United States
What to buy
2050 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116, United States
There are tons to choose from in the Bay Area including a few H-Marts and Hankook Supermarket, but the following stand out in the crowd.
Woori Food Market is a small but dense store full of all the essentials in San Francisco.
1528 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115, United States
MEGA MART is a spacious and well-maintained store on El Camino with ready-made Korean dishes and everything under the sun when it comes to groceries.
760 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, United States
Where is Koreatown in San Francisco, California?
San Francisco Koreatown is in the Richmond District along Geary Blvd beginning at 25th street and stretching to Chinatown.
It may or not be a Koreatown depending on your definition, but it has a lot of Korean businesses in addition to cuisine from all around the world.
Where is Koreatown in Santa Clara, California?
Santa Clara Koreatown is along El Camino Real from Flora Vista Ave to Calabazas Blvd. It’s an official K-town.
Where is Koreatown in Oakland, California?
Oakland Koreatown is on Telegraph between 43rd and 50th, overlapping the commercial district of Temescal. There are Korean restaurants outside this area including KONO (Koreatown Northgate) which has a bit of everything!
Do I need to tip here?
While tipping isn’t done in South Korea, you should follow local tipping customs at Koreatown in San Francisco.
What are some cool things I can do in Koreatown?
Did we miss anything?
Let us know your thoughts about Koreatown in San Francisco and Bay Area!