The Best Restaurants In Alhambra guide image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

LAGuide

The Best Restaurants In Alhambra

The most exciting places to eat in the San Gabriel Valley suburb.

At first glance, Alhambra feels similar to other suburbs: quiet, family-oriented, and filled with a lot of chains. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll realize the restaurants here are anything but boring. There are decades-old dumpling shops, Hawaiian pancake houses, Filipino skewer specialists, and some of the most famous Sichuan restaurants in the country. You’ll find Indonesian and Malaysian food, banh mi counters, and high-end sushi bars. Eating in this unofficial gateway to the San Gabriel Valley can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve narrowed it down to the best of the best.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Lunasia Chinese Cuisine imageoverride image
8.6

Lunasia Chinese Cuisine

$$$$

500 W Main St, Alhambra
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There is no shortage of great dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley, but Lunasia is our absolute favorite place to get it. This sprawling institution has excellent food across the board, but it’s best to concentrate on their jumbo pork siu-mai, spinach shrimp dumplings, and green beans with pork. Lunasia is also great because it’s one of the few spots that serves dim sum all day through dinner. That way you can sleep in and head over without worrying about a mid-afternoon closing time.

The Shanghainese-leaning menu at this tiny noodle shop is filled with dishes you can find at other restaurants in the area, but the reason to make a bee-line to this little cafe is for their house special braised beef noodles. This is the kind of dish you eat on a Monday, dream about all week, and then have again on Friday, because your body can’t go any longer without it. The dark, cloudy broth is rich and spicy, and thin, chewy noodles soak up the intense flavors as you eat. Thick chunks of braised beef tie it all together—they're so moist and succulent that chewing is an optional activity. 

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Despite all the fantastic restaurants within Alhambra’s city limits, the city’s downtown area skews fairly generic—complete with an Applebee’s and plenty of fro-yo. Yang’s is a respite from all of that. The bright, casual Taiwanese spot feels like a cafe you’d find on the top floor of a high-end bookstore. Everyone is sipping coffee and eating breakfast plates or “set meals” with soup, rice, and pickled vegetables. We prefer the a la carte section though, where you’ll find standout dishes like fluffy mochi pancakes, cold sesame noodles, and an inch-thick salmon hash topped with crème fraiche and salmon roe. They’ve also recently begun dinner service with a new menu and the lively energy of a Sawtelle izakaya.

Though Sichuan Impression now has locations from Tustin to West LA, a visit to its original Alhambra space is a required pilgrimage. The warm, homey dining room has big tables and long wooden benches—making it a great spot for a communal dinner with family—and the Sichuan food is still among the best in the city. We love the meaty, succulent tea-smoked ribs, sinus-clearing mapo tofu, and cumin-laced toothpick lamb—a great dish for said communal dining. Also, don’t overlook the kung pao chicken: it’s sweet, not too salty, and will vanish within seconds of hitting the table. 

Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine, an Indonesian/Singaporean restaurant right in downtown, is where you’ll find us any time life becomes unbearable and we need a quiet pick-me-up. The expansive menu is filled with tremendous dishes like flaky prata with a warm curry dipping sauce, meaty chicken satay, and chewy hakka-style noodles with BBQ pork. But when you’re in a true time of personal need, try the noodle soups. The coconut curry-based laksa mee is pure soul-curing indulgence, and if some of your friends require similar medicine, the large dining room is great for a big group meal.

Located in a little shack right at the end of the 710, the menu at this homey Hawaiian spot is filled with hearty, affordable dishes that hit particularly well after a long night out. The kalua pork is moist and smoky, and the Hawaiian Breakfast (served all day) comes with three eggs and a protein (we like it with Portuguese sausage). But what you should be focusing on here are the macadamia nut pancakes. Although we have no idea what exactly is in the sweet, fluffy, ambrosia-level cream they top them with (the menu simply reads “secret cream sauce”), we do know it floods our brain with so much serotonin it might biologically be a problem.

Dolan’s is an exceptional Halal restaurant specializing in cuisine from the Uyghur region in China’s Xinjiang province. Our favorite dishes include goshnaan—a Uyghur-style naan filled with ground beef, lamb, and black pepper sauce—and the Big Plate Chicken, a self-explanatory dish filled with juicy hunks of stir-fried chicken mixed with potatoes, peppers, leeks, and hand-pulled flat noodles. And as great as the food is, a meal at Dolan’s delves deeper than what’s on the table. The owners wear shirts that read “Google Uyghurs,” and up at the counter, links are provided to offer more information on the ongoing genocide being inflicted on the Uyghur people by the Chinese government. 

Despite its name, this legendary spot on Valley Blvd. is not an actual food court. It’s a cafeteria-style restaurant with a massive menu and the best shenjianbao in LA, a heftier, pan-fried cousin of the xiao long bao. Kang Kang also has ample open seating and is open until 9pm every night, making it good for a free-flowing group dinner in the SGV where people might show up at different times and arrive with varying levels of hunger. If you aren’t in the mood for dumplings, we recommend ordering anything else that’s calling your name from the steam bar. Cash only.

Chengdu Taste isn’t just an Alhambra staple, it’s a restaurant every Angeleno needs to visit at least once. The menu consists mostly of staples from China’s Sichuan province, which means you should be prepared for lots of spice and lots of flavor. Mix in spicier dishes (mung bean jelly noodles, boiled fish) with the less spicy ones (dan dan noodles, couple’s beef) for the most balanced experience. They also run a swift takeout service—ideal for family meals at home or when lunch keeps getting interrupted by your boss asking you to “come back ASAP.” 

We’re going to be blunt here: This is the best banh mi north of Orange County. Even though some days the bread can be a little tough, the crunchy fresh vegetables, generous mayo and paté, and meaty fillings never let us down. Our go-to is the #2 special (all the cold cuts, grilled pork, and pate) with an added fried egg on top. It’s the ideal sandwich to eat in your car alone on lunch hour—the tiny, order-at-the-counter space doesn’t have much in the way of seating. 

As its name suggests, a meal at Noodles 101 Express isn’t a long affair. Despite being full service, you can easily get in and out of this strip mall spot in under 30 minutes. Your order here should be the beef roll, which is essentially a fried pancake wrapped burrito-style around slices of beef, cilantro, and a salty bean paste. And if this sounds like a little thing that won’t fill you up, know that two people might struggle to take this down. Cash only.

You’ll find everything from creamy mushroom pasta to shrimp pizza to escargot on the menu at this classic spot on Valley Blvd., but what they’re known for is their Hainan chicken. So much so, in fact, it’s painted along the side of the parking garage: “Famous Hainan Chicken since 1982.” The dish itself is pretty simple. You won’t find any accouterments or bone broths here, but instead a simple presentation of moist poached chicken, rice, and three sauces. The ginger garlic spread here is particularly garlicky—ask for extras.

It can be a tough gig opening up a Sichuan restaurant in the same neighborhood as Chengdu Taste and Sichuan Impression, but Xiang La Hui has proven it’s possible. While the menu has plenty of overlap with its famous brethren, XLH stands out for its high-quality ingredients and balanced use of spice. Take the Chongqing-style fried chicken, which arrives as a mountain of thick boneless chicken chunks cooked in fragrant spices and doused in red chiles, or the boiled fish soup, which comes with juicy, hand-sized filets of tilapia floating in a briney, pickled vegetable broth. The dining room is also fairly upscale, making it a good option to take your parents when they visit.

If you’re roaming around Alhambra for lunch, you can generally expect to walk in anywhere and get a table—except at Ipoh Kopitiam. This Malaysian spot is one of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood, and come lunch or dinner rush, you’ll almost certainly get put on a waitlist. But stick it out, because the food here is good and different from what you can find elsewhere in the area. Everyone here is eating Hainan chicken, and while it’s definitely good, our go-to order is a side of flaky roti canai with chicken curry and the char kway teow. This massive plate of flat, stir-fried noodles is filled with crispy, crunchy vegetables and plump shrimp that pop in your mouth with each bite.

New dumpling shops in the San Gabriel Valley tend to face an uphill battle—there’s just so much competition—but that’s not the case for You Kitchen. Open since 2019, this tiny strip mall shop has 13 different kinds of dumplings and a steady line of hungry customers. We recommend concentrating on the “house dumplings” with chives and fish—order them pan-fried with nicely charred edges—as well as the sweet and savory chicken, shrimp, and corn dumplings. Definitely snag a “Big Mouth” pocket too, a delicious pork-filled open-faced pastry that has nothing to do with the hormone monster. 

If you come to Saigon Eden, a large Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Alhambra, and order some pho or a banh mi, you’ll have a perfectly fine meal. But to have a great meal, go for the bún riêu, a rich, tomato-based vermicelli soup that you don’t often find outside of Orange County’s Little Saigon. It comes stocked with ground shrimp and crab meat, giving it a sweet, yet musky flavor, along with big chunks of fried tofu. Definitely snag an order of the cha gio as well, which are crunchy, deep-fried imperial rolls filled with a sweet, fragrant pork and vegetable mix. 

Kogane is a high-end omakase bar that’s exactly what the SGV needs. Located in a strip mall next to a Jamba Juice and Wingstop, the tiny, sleek establishment only serves two meals: a $120 lunch omakase and a $250 dinner omakase. It’s run by two seasoned sushi chefs, who you’ll see cheerfully chatting with customers as they slice dry aged bluefin, red snapper, mackerel, and more into silky, uniform pieces. We prefer to come at lunch—it’s an easy, breezy hour-long meal that begins with prawn miso soup and ends with an ahi hand roll. Or a Jamba Juice, if you’re anything like us.

Located inside a 99 Ranch Market, Tony’s BBQ is an order-at-the-counter Filipino stall and one of our favorite quick lunch spots in Alhambra—it’s also a convenient snack spot if you’ve committed the cardinal sin of showing up to the grocery store hungry. Despite being a small operation, the menu is quite large, with dozens of different barbecued meat, rice bowls, and combination platters. We love the pork and chicken skewers, which come perfectly grilled and coated in a sweet marinade, with sides of java rice, pickled papaya, and soup. And don’t leave without a box of their bibingkinitan, miniature baked rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves and filled with everything from ube to macapuno. 

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