16 Classic Chinese Restaurants In LA's Chinatown guide image

LAGuide

16 Classic Chinese Restaurants In LA's Chinatown

Iconic bakeries, mom-and-pop shops, and lots of dim sum.

Chances are, LA's Chinatown is kind of like your nose. It's prominent, and it's there, but you probably don’t think about it much. And once you notice it, you really notice it. Here you’ll find brightly colored buildings, streets named “Bamboo Lane” and “Chung King Road,” and red lanterns that sway overhead. But this Eastside neighborhood is more than just a kitschy photo op—it’s fully embedded in the city’s history.

After the original Chinatown was demolished in the 1930s to make way for Union Station, a new Chinatown was built, becoming the first neighborhood in the United States to actually be owned by Chinese residents. A call sheet went out, and the best set designers of the day got to work transforming this small patch of land into an Americanized Shanghai. Jade green awnings and neon signs went up, and soon, imperial roof structures topped every building. Since then, this New Chinatown has starred in big Hollywood movies like Rush Hour, I Love You Man, and Beverly Hills Ninja, among many others.

As Chinatown continues to grow, incorporating new and exciting restaurants from around the community, it’s also imperative to celebrate the places that have been here since the start. On this guide, you’ll find iconic bakeries, mom-and-pop shops, and of course, lots of dim sum.

The Best Restaurants In LA’s Chinatown guide image

LA Guide

The Best Restaurants In LA’s Chinatown


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto

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7.8

Zen Mei Bistro

$$$$

800 Yale St, Los Angeles
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We’re not fans of romanticizing the past but Zen Mei Bistro is more than just a throwback. This cozy Cantonese restaurant, located on the corner of Yale and Alpine, is a reminder that life can—and perhaps should—be slower, more peaceful. Things here are as old-school as it gets: Wonton soups are served in porcelain bowls, hot tea arrives by the kettle, and the people running the restaurant will usher you in as if you’re family. And everyone gets a complimentary soup. Will you eat the best Chinese food of your life here? No. But a meal at Zen Mei offers something just as valuable: a calm, comfortable space where emails, to-do lists, Twitter feeds, and the name "Crypto.com Arena" feel meaningless. It's a welcomed escape. Cash only.

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This legendary bakery has been around since “New Chinatown’s” revival in the 1930s, a family-run business that’s now been passed down through generations. Its current location on N. Broadway—housed in a colorful building that reads “Sweets for the sweet” on its side—opened in 1977 and has been serving strawberry cakes, freshly steamed buns, and on special occasions, their highly coveted mooncakes, ever since. Get a box of their crackly, deep-fried butterfly cookies or almond pastries stuffed with red bean paste before a long car ride, picnic, or day spent in bed watching one of Netflix’s random suggestions.

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Won Kok understands an ancient, essential truth: there’s never a bad time for dim sum. Open from 9am-9pm daily, this fast-paced Cantonese restaurant provides all the steamed buns, sesame balls, and gorgeous yellow custards you need, whenever you need them. Either order at the window and take a box to go, or snag a seat in their casual dining room.

Most restaurants can’t say they had a cameo in Rush Hour, nor feel the need to paint that fact onto the side of their building. But then again, most restaurants aren’t Foo Chow. This family-owned restaurant has been around since 1977, serving up standard comfort dishes like wonton soup, sweet and sour pork, fried pork chops, and orange chicken to both Jackie Chan and people who aren’t Jackie Chan. Since 2020, they’ve added an idyllic courtyard patio, where you can enjoy your food under swaying paper lanterns and twinkling satellites in the sky.  

Blink and you might miss Jade Wok’s awning on College St. (we wouldn’t blame you, it looks nearly identical to the beauty supply shop and clinical lab right next to it). But once inside, you’ll find yourself in a beautiful red and green dining room where nearly everyone orders the exact same thing: the house special tofu. It’s listed simply on the menu as “homemade bean curd (best tofu in town)” and it’s hard to disagree—slabs of tofu are fried for a few seconds then dunked into a luxuriously rich, dark red sauce made from mushrooms and pork. Balance your meal out with a few sides, like the tea-smoked duck or Shanghai spare ribs which come in bite-size pieces and glazed in a wonderful sweet and sour sauce. The dining room is known to fill up around lunchtime, so make sure to plan ahead.

When Hop Woo opened back in 1993, there were only eight tables in the entire restaurant. Since then, the Cantonese restaurant has obviously expanded, first into a larger space in the building, then to its current location across the street. Run by husband-and-wife duo, Lupe and Judy Liang, Hop Woo has cemented itself as a neighborhood institution, a place where the menu is translated into Chinese, English, and Spanish, and chefs push themselves to include plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Focus on the chicken egg foo young, a Guangdong-style omelet that comes with bean sprouts and a thick mushroom gravy, or combination wor wonton soup.

With Hong Kong BBQ’s window full of roasted ducks, you might be tempted to just grab your food and run (and perhaps eat it right there on the sidewalk). But that’d be a mistake. We don’t know the exact science behind it, but this food is best enjoyed at the restaurant. That way, all your meats—from char siu to Peking duck to siu yuk, or crackling Chinese pork belly—will be at its juiciest, most tender, and succulent-est. Is that last one a word?

After leaving Hong Kong in 1977, five brothers (the Yuns) opened Yang Chow, a Mandarin and Sichuan-style restaurant named after their hometown. At the time, it existed below the Bing Wong Hotel, and was a casual, communal place where families could gather over lazy susans loaded with shrimp toast, egg drop soup, and pan-fried noodles. Over the next 40 years, Yang Chow expanded to two other locations (Pasadena and Long Beach) and has become renowned for their slippery shrimp. It’s a deep-fried concoction made with garlic, ginger, cayenne, and yes, ketchup. How else would they get that perfect, deep orange color?

Open since 1982, Kim Chuy is a Chinatown staple and one of the best places in Los Angeles to find Chiu Chow-style noodle soups. The classic Chaoshan dish (developed in the eastern part of China’s Guangdong province) includes a base of egg noodles and thin rice noodles, a delicate broth, and various meats, seafood, and Chinese vegetables. You’ll find nearly 30 variations of the dish here, including ones made with fried wontons, pork offal, and salted duck. Things here are quite casual—they have a cute old-fashioned dining room where you can watch people passing through Far East Plaza—so come here for a nice, quiet lunch with your best friend. 

In a white building stamped with curly, italic blue letters that look almost identical to the Three’s Company font you’ll find ABC Seafood, an extravagant Hong Kong-style restaurant serving dim sum, barbecued meats, and of course, seafood. There’s a grab-and-go hot counter at the front which leads to an elegant dining room, where you can order traditional favorites like shrimp har gow, baked BBQ pork buns, or shumai in bright yellow wrappers, as well as a few harder-to-find dishes. West Lake-style beef soup (named after the freshwater river in Hangzhou, not the Los Angeles neighborhood) comes packed with egg white and fish filets, and chicken feet are served in black bean sauce. You might even see a live lobster pass the table. Come here whenever you want to impress wide-eyed out-of-towners or your mom on a Sunday morning (which is even harder). 

Hop Li is a total Chinatown classic, a place where families, big groups, and big groups of families have been coming for over 30 years. As the name suggests, you’ll want to stick with the seafood dishes, particularly the flounder served either steamed and deep-fried (we prefer steamed), shrimp and sea cucumber that sits in a bird’s nest, and kung pao squid with peanuts for a little kick. For those aforementioned big groups/families, Hop Li also offers a prolific banquet menu, a special prix-fixe assortment perfect for special occasions or single people in need of an easy meal-prepping solution.

From the moment you arrive at Golden Dragon, you know it’s going to be an experience. This old-school Chinese restaurant is as opulent as it gets: the dining room is filled with crystal chandeliers, ornately carved wood furniture, and tiny fu dogs at the entrance warding away any negative energy. The focus here is on Cantonese food, specifically dim sum, with dishes like juicy xiao long bao, steamed cheung fun noodles, and coconut purple rice cake for dessert. Dress up or don’t bother coming.  

Sure, you’ll find better dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley, but unless you live in the vicinity, getting there can be a trek (and have you seen the state of gas prices?) And if you’re craving pan-fried turnip cakes, chive and pork dumplings, or BBQ pork rolls, Tian’s will most certainly do the trick. Plus, they serve a bunch of other foods too: pad see ew, kimchi chow mein, Indonesian fried rice, and Luóhàn zhāi, also known as Buddha’s Feast. It’s a traditional, highly auspicious vegetarian dish filled with bamboo shoots, carrots, snow peas, and more. There aren’t any of the famous dim sum carts here, just order with the waiter and let the bricks of lo mai take you away.

There are two ways to experience Fortune Gourmet Kitchen. During the day, the Cantonese restaurant (located on the second floor of Far East Plaza, right next to the knock-off Spongebob machine) is a fantastic lunch spot, serving deep-fried sole, steamed cod filets bathed in a fragrant ginger scallion broth, and beef stew with bean curds. Then at night, like a food-Cinderella, Fortune Gourmet Kitchen transforms and a secret V.I.P. room opens up. It’s a rentable space filled with karaoke machines, lazy susans, and all the pan-fried noodles your heart could ever desire.

When the legendary Golden City closed about a decade ago, Full Moon House took over its space on N. Hill Street and thankfully, didn’t change much. Besides the hanging LED icicles and brand-new orange napkins, the dining room looks nearly identical to its past self. Paper dragons fly over the space and there are red lanterns wherever you look, making it one of the more festive places in the neighborhood to grab a meal. There are over 200 menu items, but focus on the seafood dishes, like Hong Kong-style clams, sliced abalone on the half-shell, and lobster served in a rich black bean sauce.

We don’t know why so many Chinese restaurants are named after American television networks (although to be fair, we also don’t fully understand how zippers work, so maybe that’s on us). But that’s the last thing on our mind whenever we’re at CBS Seafood, a Chinatown institution that, despite the name, specializes in BBQ meats and dim sum. There’s a window full of delicious, roasted Peking duck at the front, followed by a busy to-go counter, followed by one of the most opulent dining rooms in town. It seats close to 200 people, complete with gleaming brass columns, art deco turquoise chairs, and red tapestries on the wall. Come here on a Sunday morning, or any morning really, for a fantastic brunch—load up your table with shiny metal tins filled with fresh sticky rice, scallion dumplings, and braised bean curd.

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