LAGuide

The Best Restaurants In LA’s Chinatown

Dim sum, French dips, and slippery shrimp—consider this your bucket list to it all.

This historic neighborhood has had more ups and downs than the plot of an '80s slasher film, but Chinatown today is a crossroads of new, old, and revived businesses. There are community institutions that have been here since the 1930s, rising superstars, and specialty minimarts. It's an exciting time in LA's Chinatown—consider this your bucket list to it all.

17 Classic Chinese Restaurants In LA's Chinatown guide image

LA Guide

17 Classic Chinese Restaurants In LA's Chinatown


THE SPOTS

The Prince of Poultry is back, and not to be cliche, better than ever. After a short break, Pearl River Deli has returned to Chinatown with a brand new space and expanded menu. While the excellent Chinese/Cantonese restaurant used to only do to-go orders, the new PRD comes with a cozy little dining room and dine-in service, which means dishes are served the way they were meant to be eaten—hot and fresh. Glossy char siu is cut thick and placed over a bed of egg noodles. Hainan chicken comes with a ramekin of different sauces, plus yellow rice that’s been fluffed with chicken fat. There are some upgraded old favorites, like the Macau pork chop bun that arrives on a sugar-encrusted pineapple bun that's now made in house, as well as exciting new additions, like the tenshindon, a runny crab omelet served over rice and smothered in gravy. Grab a seat at one of the worn, wooden tables—the energy in here reminds us of a Hong Kong café, where you’ll eat next to friends catching up over dumplings and families trying everything on the menu.

photo credit: Isabelle N.

Jade Wok review image
7.9

Jade Wok

Perfect For:Cheap EatsLunch

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.

photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto

Zen Mei Bistro imageoverride image
7.8

Zen Mei Bistro

$$$$(213) 626-7113
Hours:SUNDAY10:00AM to 9:30PM
Perfect For:Dining SoloLunch

This cozy Cantonese restaurant 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.

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Nick’s Cafe imageoverride image

Nick's Cafe

$$$$(323) 222-1450
Hours:SUNDAY6:30AM to 4:00PM
Perfect For:Breakfast

Nick’s is a flat-out institution, a decades-old diner on the edge of Chinatown that’s the kind of greasy spoon you want on any lazy afternoon. Take a seat at their U-shaped counter (or at one of the tables set up in the parking lot), eat some ham and eggs, and listen to the two guys next to you talk about their issues with Nixon. You head to Nick’s completely for the experience but walk out thinking the food was pretty d*mn good too. No surprise: cash only.

​​Located on a quiet stretch of northern Chinatown, this expansive Korean restaurant (from the people behind NYC’s Momofuku) is a flat-out blockbuster. The whole experience feels like a well-oiled machine, and the food is different from anything else you can get in LA. Reservations are extremely difficult to come by, but once you get your chance, we recommend bringing as many people as you can. The best things on the menu (like the spicy pork shoulder) are Majordomo’s large plates, which feed four to six people.

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. But pay attention to their rotating specials as well, like crab and hamachi tostadas, halibut ceviche, and more. Order at the window, then grab a seat in their very pretty courtyard.

When Hop Woo opened back in 1993, there were only eight tables in the entire restaurant. Since then, the Cantonese spot has expanded big time, 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 wonton soup.

Next to Mandarin Plaza and across from the brightly lit Royal Pagoda Hotel (which we could stare at forever) is Chinese Friends, a wonderful mom-and-pop restaurant that’s been open since 1973. On any given night, you might wander in and catch one of the owners chatting with a regular, and if you happen to place a pick-up order and arrive way later than intended, it’s likely they'll make the food again. There’s a lot happening on the menu (like a mushu pork burrito), but we’ll make things easy: get the house special shrimp. This is non-negotiable. There are plenty of fantastic fried shrimp dishes in the neighborhood, but almost none compare to the one served here. It’s made with teeny tiny pieces, like popcorn shrimp, and is served in a sticky, sweet and sour sauce. Pair this with their sizzling rice soup or any noodle dish.

This legendary bakery has been around since “New Chinatown’s” revival in the 1930s, a family-run business that’s 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.

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.

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Philippe The Original imageoverride image
7.8

Philippe The Original

$$$$(213) 617-3781
Hours:SUNDAY6:00AM to 10:00PM

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.

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).

photo credit: Holly Liss

Howlin' Ray's imageoverride image
8.3

Howlin' Ray's

$$$$(213) 935-8399
Hours:SUNDAY11:00AM to 4:00PM
Perfect For:Dining SoloLunch

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?

With its all-white interiors and monochrome furniture, this tea shop in the Mandarin Plaza looks like it could double as a Muji showroom. Plus, Steep serves fantastic Chinese/Taiwanese comfort dishes—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 tea selection, which they are happy to help you make sense of if you, like us, have only bought bags from Costco.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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?

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.

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.

Chase Sapphire Card Ad

Suggested Reading

.
The Chinatown Takeout & Delivery Guide guide image
Guide
The Chinatown Takeout & Delivery Guide

35 great spots for takeout and delivery in Chinatown.

The Best Patios On The Eastside & Downtown LA guide image
Guide
The Best Patios On The Eastside & Downtown LA

Converted bungalows, sun-drenched rooftops, former “Rush Hour” set pieces, and more.

The Patio Power Rankings: Where To Eat & Drink Outside guide image
Guide
The Patio Power Rankings: Where To Eat & Drink Outside

The 25 best patios in Los Angeles, ranked.

17 Classic Chinese Restaurants In LA's Chinatown guide image
Guide
17 Classic Chinese Restaurants In LA's Chinatown

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