downtown los angeles, little tokyo

Little Tokyo’s Woori Market: A “Hidden Gem” in Downtown LA

Woori Market in Little Tokyo is often overlooked by downtown residents, but should be considered one of Downtown LA’s main grocery options in addition to Ralphs in South Park

When most people think of grocery options in Downtown LA, the most popular one that comes to mind is Ralphs Fresh Fare in South Park. The central location near the Financial District and the prominent name recognition of Ralphs have made it the go-to place for most downtown residents. As a result of that concentrated shopping from downtowners, the Ralphs in Downtown LA is one of the highest grossing stores in the entire chain. Even so, it is inaccurate to say that Ralphs is the only large grocery store in Downtown LA. Little Tokyo’s Woori Market, a Korean market that replaced Mitsuwa Market in 2009, is a full-scale grocery store that downtown residents should take more advantage of, even when other options come to Downtown LA soon including City Target and Smart & Final Extra.

Anyone who ventures inside Woori Market for the first time is usually pleasantly surprised how large and well stocked it is with high quality food. There is a large produce section in the front of the store as well as a great seafood section in the back stocking a unique variety of seafood (that you can’t find at Ralphs the last time I checked) such as cholesterol-lowering sea cucumbers and yummy sea urchins. In fact, Woori Market goes a step further by giving its customers a “tuna cutting performance” (as LA Weekly calls it) on every Saturday at 2pm. Yes, an entire giant yellowfin tuna is carved and packaged up right before your very eyes!

In addition to seafood and meats (beef, lamb, chicken, etc.) available, there is obviously a large selection of Asian food items such as kimchi and tofu, a million different ramen varieties, frozen packaged food such as dumplings, and just about every kind of soy sauce imaginable.

And after you’re done grocery shopping, don’t forget to stop by the small food court located inside by the check-out counters. Sakura Noodle is one of my favorite “cheap eats” in Downtown LA where you can get a giant bowl of hot yummy pork belly ramen for less than $6. Why wait in line at Daikokuya?

Unfortunately, part of the reason why fewer downtown residents shop at Woori Market is because of its location in a more car-oriented section of Little Tokyo at Alameda and 3rd Street. The market is also “hidden” inside a 1980’s dated shopping center, called Little Tokyo Shopping Center, with anti-pedestrian blank walls (zero store frontage) that prevent any sort of human interaction along the sidewalks. Sadly, you could be directly across the street and not know there’s anything going on inside the shopping center. This will hopefully be addressed someday by its new Korean-American owners who plan to eventually remodel the facade of the shopping center, making it a tad-bit more inviting.

Large produce section in the front of the store

Large selection of produce

Large fresh seafood section

Sashimi

High quality meats

Great place to get kimchi and tofu

Large selection of frozen foods

Of course you have eggs and dairy

A million different ramen varieties

Every soy sauce imaginable

The store is fun, bright, and clean

“2 hours free parking” (sign on column)

Bliss Bakery is located inside the market as well

A small food court is located next to the check-out

My favorite ramen on the menu is the Pork Belly Ramen for $5.95

A hot yummy bowl of Pork Belly Ramen conveniently there after you shop

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15 Comments

  1. Lawrence says

    I really like Woori Market and Sakura Noodle feels like one of the best kept secrets in the area. I hope the new owners of the Galleria work on updating both the exterior and interior of the structure soon. There are some great businesses inside (Woori, Honda Ya, Manna etc.) but they’re lost in the current bunker like structure. Given the insular nature of the Little Tokyo Villas across the street, its really important that the galleria find some way to engage the street and inject some life to this portion of 3rd street.

  2. Licia says

    So sorry that I have lived in this side of town for almost fourteen months without knowing about this gem. I usually go to Fresh & Easy on Central and Adams because I despise the Ralph’s on 9th. Moving out this weekend unfortunately, but I’ll make the best of the last few days!

  3. That shopping center is also home to an awesome Japanese vegan restaurant, Shojin. And the private karaoke rooms are a lot of fun (and BYOB).

  4. I agree. I feel like a lot of people forget that the plaza exists there. There’s actually a few decent restaurants inside and also sweets for those who have a sweet tooth (like me).

  5. Alec says

    Woori is fantastic; it’s great that you’re promoting it. I’ve never really understood why people in the Arts District and Historic Core trek over to that mediocre South Park Ralph’s with Woori just around the corner.

  6. Brent says

    I was living near the Arts District for years before discovering this place. I knew there was a market there, but had no idea how big and nice it was. Now I go a couple times a week. Besides the bakery and the ramen bar, they also have a nice selection of sushi and pre-cooked food to go. A really great place.

  7. Lauren says

    I’ve been going to Woori back when it was Mitsuwa, although when it was Mitsuwa, the produce prices were cheaper. Wish they had organic produce! The packaged sushi-grade salmon is amazing and is the primary reason I shop there. I also wish Little Tokyo wasn’t being bought up by Koreans. Soon, there will be no Little Tokyo. It will be Little Korea. Feels a little predatory and inauthentic. Even my favorite spa, Tokyo Day Spa, is now Korean owned. I love going to Koreatown but I don’t expect the restaurants and shops there to be Japanese owned.

    Little Tokyo Shopping Center

  8. Yupa says

    Don’t forget the huge beer (Hite!) wine, sake and soju selection – lots of great choices. I like this market a lot and it’s very convenient to the Arts District where I live. My only complaint is that sometimes the smell of their fish dept. permeates the whole store. When that happens, I have to get in and out.

  9. Mr Whitman says

    I go to the Little Tokyo Mall for Papa Beard’s cream puffs, Cherry on Top yogurt, and those fancy macaroon french trendy cookies. Woori market is definately a seafood and kimchi destination. Strong smells.

  10. lc says

    @Lauren Many Japanese no longer live in Little Tokyo, and what remains are the older generations who are elderly and cannot/do not invest in the area. Therefore its not predatory nor inauthentic, for the area to be reinvested in or ‘bought’ up by other ethnic groups rather than left to die off…

  11. Len Fink says

    Woori Market has many. many elderly customers.

    In an amazingly insensitive and cold disregard for their customers, Woori has eliminated more than a dozen, ground floor parking spaces with signs that say: Reserved for MANAGEMENT! Violators will be towed away. And, there are many more of these signs than Handicapped Spots!

    If MANAGEMENT does not care about “The Customer is First” marketing, what about the elderly and infirmed that need these easy access parking spots?

    BTW: “Contact Us” does not include an eMail address.Hence this post.

    • downtown resident says

      you shouldn’t be driving to this place. its in a city. so walk or take the train

      • That is the most selfish, self-centered, militant pedestrian way of thinking. So you think the elderly should be walking here? You think that I should tell my mom, who is in her 80’s, that she should be taking the train, which stops nowhere near there, and then walk the rest of the way to the market, with her cane, and then carry her groceries back, walking, and onto the train? Screw you.

  12. HIPSTERLANDIA says

    LOvee it… good bakery/sushi . . . drinks

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