LAGuide

Where To Eat & Drink In LA's Chinatown

Dumplings, pancit, hot chicken, rum cocktails—the best Chinatown restaurants and bars in LA serve all that and much more.
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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 of where to eat and drink.


RESTAURANTS

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Chinese

Chinatown

$$$$Perfect For:Dining SoloLunchQuiet MealsCheap EatsQuick EatsOutdoor/Patio Situation
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Pearl River Deli makes the best Hainan chicken in Los Angeles, period. Fragrant, juicy, and served over garlic rice that's been cooked in chicken stock, this dish is on par with the genius of Beethoven or The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. In addition to the poached chicken, Pearl River Deli’s limited menu includes char siu and glossy gailan—both of which are available Friday to Sunday from 11-3pm (or whenever they sell out). You can pre-order on their website or head straight to the counter inside their dining room, right next to Thank You Coffee and Sesame. Although most people take their poultry to go, there are plenty of wooden tables here for a great, informal lunch.

photo credit: Isabelle N.

$$$$Perfect For:Cheap EatsLunch

Blink and you might miss Jade Wok’s awning on College Street (it looks nearly identical to the beauty supply shop and clinical lab next to it). Once inside, you’ll find yourself in a beautiful red and green dining room ordering the exact thing as everyone else: the house special tofu. It’s listed 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 tea-smoked duck or Shanghai spare ribs, which come in bite-size pieces and glazed in a sweet and sour sauce.

Lasita doesn’t take reservations and doesn’t do formal table service. A meal at this Filipino rotisserie/wine bar in Far East Plaza is marked by a respect for the art of hanging out as long as you want. Want to drink an entire bottle of orange wine from Puglia and then order some calamansi cream pie? Go right ahead. Maybe you’re with four friends and haven’t eaten since breakfast. Head right to the host stand/wine counter and order all the garlicky chicken, pork belly lechon, dips, and sauces your table can fit. At Lasita, the only rule is there are no rules—like all the best dinner parties.

Nick’s is a decades-old diner on the edge of Chinatown that’s the kind of greasy spoon institution that our soul craves on a bleary-eyed morning. Take a seat at their U-shaped counter, eat some ham and eggs, and listen to the two construction guys next to you complain about the price of sheetrock. You head to Nick’s completely for the experience, but you'll walk out thinking the food was pretty damn good, too. No surprise: Cash only.

​​Located on a quiet industrial 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 blends traditional Korean dishes with some fun twists (like sausage-stuffed peppers with ranch dip). It's also a good idea to bring a crowd: The best things on the menu (like the spicy pork shoulder) are Majordomo’s large plates, which feed four to six.

If you’re in the mood to eat something pan-fried, cheese-filled, or just extremely satisfying for breakfast or lunch, Angry Egret has you covered. This order-at-the-window Mexican spot inside Mandarin Plaza serves brunch-y comfort foods that are just a bit too much, in all the right ways. Run by the former chef of Guerilla Tacos, Angry Egret's all-day menu includes one LA's best breakfast burritos, a two-fisted breakfast torta, some fluffy waffles, and a solid plate of chilaquiles you can eat beneath a foliage-shaded canopy.

This reliable, family-run Cantonese spot has cemented itself as a neighborhood institution with huge portions and a broad audience: the menu is translated into Chinese, English, and Spanish, and includes plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes, too. Stick to Chinese American classics—we like the chicken egg foo young, a tender omelet that comes with bean sprouts and a thick mushroom gravy, and the combination wonton soup.

There’s some pretty legendary beef (insert sunglasses emoji) surrounding the invention of the French dip sandwich. But all of that’s quite immaterial, because Philippe’s makes our favorite in the city. Located in an old-school lunch counter on Alameda, this 107-year landmark never disappoints, especially when you get your sandwich double-dipped and dab on some extra hot mustard. Our go-to here is the classic beef dip with swiss—perfect for a quick lunch, dinner before a Dodger game, or whenever you think “Heh, maybe I should learn something about LA history today” and are really hungry.

Though it's only been open since 2020, Amboy has already made a name for itself as one of the heaviest hitters in the LA burger game. Run by the chef who founded Eggslut, this tiny restaurant/butcher shop in the Far East Plaza serves juicy, near-perfect smashburgers, thick bar-style burgers, and the best fries in the 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 plaza, if you’re able to snag them.

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. The lines here can get intense, so 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?

Open since 1982, Kim Chuy is a Chinatown staple and one of the best places in LA to find Chiu Chow-style noodle soups. The house special here 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 on the menu, 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 a friend.

Part-Creole deli, part-full-blown market, Little Jewel of New Orleans is a slice of Crescent City smack in the middle of Chinatown. 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 Cajun 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 a 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), this Baja taqueria serves a great vampiro taco loaded with smoky grilled asada. 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, 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 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 that's hefty enough for a complete lunch.

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 the original location in Frogtown, 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 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're launching a podcast to investigate it.

It’s hard to find a great bánh mì in Los Angeles proper (of course, it’s no issue in Westminster), which is why My Dung is so treasured. This place is 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.

BARS

Located on the outskirts of Chinatown, this is the LA location of a fancy NYC cocktail bar where bartenders wear vintage white pharmaceutical coats. Are the costumes necessary? Probably not, but the medicinal-themed cocktails made from a bunch of tinctures are fantastic, like the “Bounceback” with Earl Grey-infused gin and red bell pepper for extra bite. Unlike its predecessor, this Apotheke isn’t a speakeasy at all. There's a massive back patio where you can people-watch and listen to the DJ playing disco tracks.

Oriel is one of those places where you walk in and ask yourself, “Is it just me or is everyone hot?” As anyone who’s ever been to this Chinatown wine bar under the Gold Line metro tracks can attest, there’s a palpable film noir energy in here. People snack on escargot and charcuterie boards, and the building shudders every time the train races by overhead. Come for wine and a not-insignificant level of sexy energy.

Cafe Triste is a cool wine bar at Mandarin Plaza from the team behind Silver Lake’s Psychic Wines. On weekends, it’s a packed, see-and-be-seen scenario where unemployed creative directors stand around with glasses of gamay. But you can also head inside their dining room for a proper meal. They serve a rotating list of bar snacks like fresh cheese, country terrine, and cured hams. Wines by the glass span from French pét-nats to juicy Australian reds, and the friendly staff will help you find the exact kind of bottle to pair with your food

Highland Park Brewing has been one of LA’s best craft breweries for a while, but the original location is pretty small. So if you’re looking for a good pregame spot before a Dodger game, try the Chinatown location. Right across the street from LA State Historic Park, the brewery’s warehouse space has a huge dog-friendly patio. You can usually roll in with a bunch of pals and their four-legged friends, order a couple of pitchers of beer, and share bar snacks like cheese fries or tater tots.

Homage, a microbrewery and restaurant in the middle of industrial Chinatown, is for people who actually want to dance. There’s a pleasant patio out front where you might spot a couple of toddlers with their tattooed parents. But the real scene is inside the garage, which has a long bar counter, a disco ball, and a DJ spinning vinyl records behind a booth. During the day, people come here to drink housemade IPAs. But on Friday and Saturday nights, the dance floor stays packed until 1am.

Nights at General Lee’s are almost guaranteed to be fun. There are two floors—one jade green, the other a sultry dark red. Drinks are made quickly and strong, and DJs play classic hip hop, R&B, moody pop, and Sade all night long. Everything, from the wooden tables upstairs to the plush velvet couches to the vintage DJ booth has that old-school Chinatown look. On any given night, you might see college kids dancing their faces off or 30-year-olds nursing tiki cocktails in the corner. 

During the day, Steep brews herbal teas in a quiet, barebones space that smells like a Muji showroom. But at night, the shop dims the lights and pours some booze into your oolong. These tea-infused cocktails are unlike anything else in LA, like the light and briney dirty martini that mixes chrysanthemum tea with housemade pickle juice and a bourbon cocktail that’s extra caramel-y when combined with black tea. Although Steep’s nighttime drinks pack a heavier punch than its morning teas, this spot is still very mellow, so use it as a relaxing place to wind down the night.

Depending on the DJ, this Chinatown bar works for quiet dates and rowdy nights out. The scene feels somewhere in between a dive bar and a cocktail spot, with people drinking mezcal and rum cocktails, paper lanterns bathing the room in a red glow, and DJs playing whatever mix of tropical house, Latin trap, future beats, soul, or funk they feel like that night. It’s laidback and fun in an effortless way, the way everyone wishes they could be.

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