An exciting mix of both the old and the new, LA’s Chinatown is one of the densest neighborhoods to grab a meal in right now. You’ve got spots that have been in the community for decades (or sometimes, spanning centuries, in the case of Philippe’s) alongside brand-new ones like the poultry prolific Pearl River Deli and Sesame, a mini mart on Hill Street specializing in Asian home goods. There’s a lot to get through, so consider this your bucket list to it all: The 20 Best Restaurants in LA’s Chinatown.
We’ve dubbed the chef from this tiny takeout window in the Far East Plaza the Prince of Poultry, due to his immense skill when it comes to all things cooked birds (hello there, Hainan chicken), but to limit him to just that would be a mistake. Although much of the menu skews Cantonese - half pounds of glazed char siu, wonton noodle soup, etc. - where PRD really shines is their rotating list of specials. You’ll find tomato egg stir fry, black bean pork loin clay pot, and roasted pork served in a clay pot - a unique mix of dishes that easily flits between traditional and modern, Chinese and other cuisines, plus much, much more. They’ve just started doing a limited dine-in dinner service, so check their Instagram for all the latest updates.
There’s some pretty legendary beef (insert sunglasses emoji here) surrounding the invention of the French dip sandwich, filled with long oral histories, municipal workers, and enough feuding to fill a Ryan Murphy mini-series. But all of that’s quite immaterial to us, because Philippe’s is our favorite in the city. Located in an old-school deli on Alameda St., this 107-year institution never disappoints, slinging big, meaty subs filled with melt-in-your-mouth beef served on a bun that’s been double-dipped in au jus. The French dip is perfect for a quick, midweek lunch, a dinner before a Dodger game, or whenever you think “Hey, maybe I should learn something about LA history today” and are, like, really hungry.
It’s randomly quite hard to find a proper, well-priced bánh mì in Los Angeles proper (of course, it’s no issue in Westminster), which is why My Dung is so treasured. They’re located in a tiny market stall on Ord Street, where you’ll be greeted by a vibrant array of produce, a huge, hand-painted menu, and one of the warmest shop owners in town. There are eight versions of the Vietnamese sandwich on the menu, ranging from grilled pork to pâté, but if you really can’t decide which one you want, opt for a few – they’re only $3.50 each.
Howlin’ Rays hardly needs an introduction at this point, but we’ll give you one anyway. This tiny Nashville hot chicken spot started as a simple, order-at-the-counter café in the Far East Plaza but has grown to become one of the most popular places in the city to grab a meal, as well as test the spice tolerance of the human mouth. During quarantine, they’ve transitioned to a delivery-only model, but don’t think for a second that means the lines are any shorter: be prepared to wait. If you need something to keep you occupied, may we suggest one of the thousands of Youtube videos filmed here of people almost burning their mouths?
They’ve only been open since 2020, but Amboy has already made a name for itself as one of the heaviest hitters in Los Angeles’ burger game. Run by Filipino-American chef Alvin Cailan (who’s behind the brunch domination machine known as Eggslut), this tiny restaurant/butcher shop in the Far East Plaza serves everything from juicy, near-perfect smashburgers to hard-to-find cuts of raw meat to the best fries in the entire city. Yes, you heard that right. Golden and crispy, skinny (but not too skinny), they’re served piping hot and taste like they were touched by Midas. Amboy doesn’t have any official tables, but there are a few seats scattered around the Far East Plaza, if you’re able to snag them.
Not all restaurants can say they served as a set piece in Rush Hour (nor feel the need to paint that fact onto the side of their building). But then again, not every restaurant is Foo Chow. In 2020, the traditional Chinese restaurant added a beautiful lantern-lit patio to their courtyard, where you can enjoy comfort dishes like sweet and sour pork, wonton soup, and orange chicken in the shadow of their large, jade-green building. It’s an ideal place to bring a book and mysteriously flip through the pages (whether you read it or not is up to you).
Half-torta, half-sandwich, the star of the menu at Angry Egret can’t be defined by a straightforward label. Run by Wes Avila, the former chef and brain behind Guerilla Tacos, the sandwiches here are similar to Mexican tortas – big, fluffy bun, a nice slather of mayo, etc. – but with a twist. Baja shrimp po boys are doused in salsa negra, and come with the option of adding fatty duck egg or shaved black truffles. Pork shoulders are rolled in a deboned pig’s foot then covered in habanero mustard – a perfect meal filled with saltiness, a gamey-like texture, and a whole lot of tenderness. Order at the window, then grab a seat in their spacious courtyard outside.
The very popular Frogtown sandwich shop has a second location! Named after NPR personalities, the subs at Wax Paper marry the distinct worlds of “stuff between sliced bread” and “listener-supported public radio” in ways you never thought possible. Although there is some overlap with their other outpost’s menu, what we like most about Wax Paper Chinatown are their exclusive sandwiches, like the vegan Hettie Lynne Huertes, which comes with baby bok choy, seasonal greens, and a tangy olive and pepitas tapenade. The Ophira Eisenberg is also great, a sweet-and-salty combo made with Black Forest ham, shaved green onions, and a honey-walnut aioli so delicious, we need an entire season of Serial to investigate it.
This legendary Chinese bakery has everything you need for a sweets-heavy feast, including strawberry cream cakes and freshly steamed buns. Crackly, deep-fried butterfly cookies go perfectly with a cup of tea and their almond pastries glow like the sun and come stuffed with red bean paste. It’s a great pick-up spot for any lazy brunch or afternoon, but an absolute lifesaver on traditional holidays like Lunar New Year or Dragon Boat Festival when they break out their coveted mooncakes. Packed in deluxe boxes and covered in elegant decorations, these things sell faster than Weekend 1 Coachella passes.
Oriel is one of those places where you walk in and ask yourself, “Did I just fall into a noir film from the ’50s?” It’s a hyper-specific question, but as anyone who’s ever been to the Chinatown wine bar can attest, there’s a gritty, and definitely palpable sexual energy here. Maybe that’s because the menu is filled with aphrodisiac-esque foods, like French onion soup, escargot, and charcuterie boards. Maybe it’s because it’s located right under the Gold Line metro tracks, and every time the building shudders from the train racing overhead, so do your heartstrings. Or perhaps it’s because the floor-to-ceiling windows are dyed deep pink, so everything around you looks ripped from an If Beale Street Could Talk scene. Cue the Nicholas Britell.
Part-Cajun deli, part-full-blown market, nothing soothes the soul quite like a trip to Little Jewel of New Orleans. Their menu is packed to the brim with fantastic NoLa specialties, like beignets covered in a mound of powdered sugar, blackened shrimp salad, and a super spicy Creole jambalaya. If you’re not sure where to start, get the catfish and oyster po’boy. This monster of a sandwich comes on a perfect, crusty loaf of French bread and has enough seafood to fill an enthusiast’s fish tank.
People tend to forget about Mexicali when thinking about LA’s vast taco landscape. But that’s a mistake. Located in a sleepy part of Chinatown (right next to the 110 Freeway), the Baja-Mexican restaurant serves a vampiro taco that’s among the best in the city. Wrapped in a thin, crunchy tortilla and filled with their signature garlic sauce, it’s the taco of our dreams and an indispensable weapon when dealing with actual vampires.
This tiny sandwich shop in Chinatown pays homage to Japanese convenience store culture with a menu full of grab-and-go onigiri rice balls, katsu curry plates, and a variety of excellent sandwiches served on milk bread. While the pork katsu, egg salad, and honey walnut shrimp are all worth ordering, our current favorite is the menchi katsu. A deep-fried wagyu beef patty topped with frisee, mustard miso ginger slaw, and katsu sauce, it’s a perfectly balanced sandwich, hefty enough for a complete lunch.
Located in a bright red and yellow storefront in the Far East Plaza (you truly can’t miss it), Kim Chuy is a Chinatown staple, serving the neighborhood since 1982. Their specialty is noodles made in the style of Chiu Chow, or Chaozhou, a city in the eastern part of Guangdong province. Signature soups are made with fried wontons to pork offal, and come with your choice of eggs, crispy rice, or vermicelli. Self-restraint, not included.
With its sleek, all-white interiors and monochrome furniture, this tea shop in the Mandarin Plaza looks like it could double as a Muji showroom – and also serves some of the best Chinese/Taiwanese comfort dishes around. They have a rotating menu of soups and rice bowls, including garlic beef tongue served with microgreens, vegan bean curd noodles, and a silky noodle soup covered in three types of pork. And as a teahouse, they also offer a prolific selection of teas, which they are happy to help you make sense of if you, like us, have only bought bags en masse from Costco.
Thank You Coffee
What was once the cutest coffee pop-up in the world has moved into a new brick-and-mortar location on Hill Street. You’ll find them in Paper Please, a charming stationary store with similarly great manners, where they serve a variety of specialty drinks. There’s a five-spice latte flavored with MSG and our favorite, the You’re Welcome latte, which is a sweet-and-smoky flavor combo made with chicory pecan bitters, espresso, oat milk, and lapsang souchong, an aromatic black tea from China’s Fujian province.
Right next to Thank You Coffee, you’ll find Sesame, a super-cute mini mart specializing in Asian home goods. Everything you could possibly need for a well-stocked kitchen is here, including fresh vegetables, bouquets of flowers, pantry staples like Sriracha and hoisin sauce, and various sauces for as far as the eye can see. But what sets them apart is their keen knack for curation, bringing together up-and-coming specialty brands and items, like at-home Vietnamese starter kits from Omsom and lavender latte pour-over sets.
In a neighborhood with no shortage of phở options, this unassuming spot on Broadway Ave. still serves some our favorite dặc biệt, fried spring rolls, and ice-cold glasses of Vietnamese coffee around. The frill factor is pretty low here, the building Pho 87’s located in as barebones as it gets, but that just adds to its charm. You’ll feel welcome here, whether you’ve just rolled out of bed or came straight from a party in the Hollywood Hills, to find comfort in their giant bowls overflowing with noodles, brisket, meatballs, and herbs so fresh, they might have been picked just that morning. Rumor has it, their elixir-like broth can cure even the worst of [hangovers], but don’t take our word for it. Cash only.
Is LAX-C a “restaurant?” Technically, no. But we love this gigantic Thai grocery store so much, it felt almost criminal to not include it in a Best Of Chinatown list. Located in a nearly six-acre space on the edge of Mission Junction, many refer to LAX-C as the “Thai Costco.” Equal parts grocery store, wholesale market, and restaurant supply emporium, name almost anything in the world, and LAX-C likely carries it. Fresh produce? Rows upon rows of everything from Thai basil to heirloom tomatoes. Full mackerel filets, with a fishmonger on-site? Yup. What about Asian beauty products, coconut milk by the gallon, or a $8,000 religious statue? Yes, yes, and if you can believe it, yes. There aren’t many grocery stores we’d break our lease for, but if we could move into LAX-C tomorrow, we would in a heartbeat.
Open since 1977, Yang Chow is an absolute Chinatown classic. They’re known for their wide-ranging mix of Mandarin and Szechuan cuisine, with dishes like garlic eggplant, cold sesame noodles, and sizzling rice, but their specialty lies with slippery shrimp. They put the shellfish dish on the map, where it’s covered in a magical sauce containing ginger, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and ketchup.