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  • Lyric Woo

Yangban Society: Combining Cultures

Harnessing the cuisine and the flavors from different cultures, Yangban Society makes an effort to bring people together over a shared love for culture and food. Owners and chefs, Katianna and John Hong, created a second home – both for them and for the community – in the heart of the Arts District in Los Angeles.

Katianna was adopted at a young age to an Irish-Catholic mother and a Jewish father and grew up in a predominantly white area. For her, culture, heritage, and identity were a struggle, and she felt as if she “didn’t have much Korean influence” growing up. On the other hand, John was raised in a more “traditional Korean setting” where they spoke Korean and ate Korean food. When the couple met, they took a trip to Korea, and it was there that inspiration struck. That trip sparked a joint interest in reconnecting to their Korean American culture and working to understand what that truly meant.

Having been adopted, Katianna didn’t feel connected to her heritage. Even as she grew older, she still felt separated from her cultural roots, but found solace through food. In meeting John, she found a “good way to connect that [she] felt comfortable with.”

As both John and Katianna come from backgrounds in fine dining, the exploration of serving casual, cultural, food was about experimentation. As their lives and family grew and evolved, they wanted to shift the focus of Yangban to fit their lifestyle while still highlighting Korean American cuisine. Stepping away from fine dining, they settled on a deli-concept; “something that was more for the neighborhood. Something that was approachable for everyone and not necessarily just a fine dining destination.”

John and Katianna loved the culture of the deli – it brought people together. “Delis are a way for minorities in specific to share their food, their culture, and their traditions with the community.” Through Yangban, Katianna was able to share both her Jewish and Korean heritage with Los Angeles.

The style of their food is interesting and unlike most modern Korean restaurants you visit nowadays. Rather than striving for authenticity, the food at Yangban is representative of the identities of the owners. John and Katianna both see themselves “a little bit more American than Korean,” and their cooking is based on that Korean-American distinction. With unique dishes such as their popular Biscuits and “Kare” Gravy, with American biscuits and a Korean curry gravy, and their Black Bean “Jajang” Bolo Rice, cooked with red wine, the chefs at Yangban combine flavors from cultures on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Yangban Society is facing the steadily increasing prices of delivery, quality ingredients, etc., while still being responsible for providing enough income for the entire staff that comes with fantastic healthcare benefits. The misconception of overpriced food doesn’t consider all the financial burdens a restaurant has – there are so many things that take place behind the scenes. Especially at a deli, customers may not leave gratuity, and that can harm the restaurant. To support Yangban, we suggest leaving tips, and not spreading that food is unnecessarily overpriced – they subject the prices very logically to support their workers and use the highest quality ingredients.

Yangban brings people together in an intimate, hip, setting, over a shared love for food. Katianna and John’s mission is to display culture and tradition through unique cuisine, and they do this because, more than anything else, they “love serving the community.”

Visit Yangban Society!

Address: 712 S Santa Fe Ave Los Angeles, CA 90021

Phone: (213) 866 - 1987

Website (order pick up/delivery):

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