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Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow
Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow
Cathy Chaplin

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11 Delicious Things to Eat in LA’s Chinatown

Forget unfounded Coronavirus fears; it’s time to support some of LA’s best restaurants

Chinatowns across the United States are suffering from a dramatic decline in business due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19), which has caused unfounded fears from locals of increased risk of contracting the illness. Going to Chinatown does not increase our risk of contracting the coronavirus — that’s according to health officials, city officials, and common sense. It’s important to support LA’s deeply historic Chinatown (and the greater San Gabriel Valley) during this time, from its many varied restaurants to its street vendors and other small businesses. From an iconic American Chinese dish to the original French dip sandwich, here now are some of Eater editors’ favorite things to eat in the neighborhood.


Banh mi at Banh My Dung

Banh mi at Banh My Dung.
Banh mi at Banh My Dung
Cathy Chaplin

My Dung (pronounced me yoong), a teeny tiny market slash sandwich shop on Ord Street, doesn’t offer much in the way of ambiance, but that matters little with one bite of its fantastic banh mi. Every sandwich is made fresh to order on a baguette that’s airy yet substantial and toasted to a warm and inviting crisp. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the stuffings, from simple pate to shredded chicken to the house special with cold cuts and head cheese. The next time you’re in the neighborhood and hunger pangs hit, head to the back of My Dung’s cramped quarters, fork over four dollars, and be prepared for one of the greatest sandwiches in town. 314 Ord Street, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Strawberry cake at Phoenix Bakery

Strawberry cake at Phoenix Bakery.
Strawberry cake at Phoenix Bakery
Cathy Chaplin

There are few more iconic sweets in Los Angeles than the strawberry cake from Phoenix Bakery in Chinatown. The timeless bakery dates to the mid-1930’s, and has for generations been known for its decadent cakes. The process is beguilingly simple: Two spongy round yellow cake layers, fitted between with an airy whipped cream and handfuls of strawberries, then frosted and finished on the outside. The cakes are just as delicious now as they’ve ever been, especially when used — as they have been for decades — to celebrate a local birthday or family event. Phoenix Bakery is just that kind of local place. 969 N Broadway, Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott

Fried noodle special at Chinese Friends Restaurant

Fried noodle special at Chinese Friends Restaurant.
Fried noodle special at Chinese Friends Restaurant
Lisa Deutsche

When a classic Sichuan menu and unfussy dining room maintains staying power in Mandarin Plaza for nearly 50 years, that space is essential for Chinatown dining. Established in 1972, Chinese Friends Restaurant still touts its longtime slogan, the “Original One & Only.” When perusing the Chinese Friends menu and a dish speaks to you, just order it. The prices are incredibly reasonable, so take the extras home for late-night reheats, or snack directly from the to-go container. Especially the sizzling rice with shrimp, comforting moo shu chicken, or fiery kung pao chicken. What stood out on the menu was the Chinese Friends fried noodle special that is so saucy and satisfying. The house special is full of bok choy, beef, chicken, shrimp, and stacked on top of lo mein noodles. They close between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. before dinner and the last dish is served at 9: 15 p.m., so plan wisely. 984 N. Broadway, Chinatown. —Mona Holmes

Wonton noodle soup at New Dragon Seafood Restaurant

Wonton noodle soup at New Dragon Chinese Restaurant
Wonton noodle soup at New Dragon Chinese Restaurant
Cathy Chaplin

New Dragon Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown, which has been quietly gaining followers since opening in 2007, serves wonton noodle soup is dished up from morning until night. This homey and dimly-lit restaurant isn’t much to look at, but the food is the point of the place. The Guangzhou chef jazzes up a solid bowl of wonton noodle soup with Chinese broccoli, scallions, and beef brisket and tendon upon request. From the bounce of the noodles to the spring of the wontons, it’s clear that there is an expert behind the stoves. 934 N Hill St., Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Beef ban mien at Lao Tao

Beef Ban Mien at Lao Tao
Beef Ban Mien at Lao Tao
Farley Elliott

Lao Tao may not draw the same crowds as Howlin’ Ray’s downstairs, but this second-level Far East Plaza player has its own dedicated fan following for its Taiwanese-style street snacks. The popcorn chicken is a particular hit, but the best bite on the menu may well be the beef ban mien, served as a soup with wide housemade wheat noodles and tender beef shank and greens. Spice it up with some chile oil and enjoy all year round, but particularly on any chilly LA night. 727 N Broadway #207, Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott

Banana pudding at Little Jewel

Banana pudding at Little Jewel
Banana pudding at Little Jewel
Farley Elliott

Chef Marcus Christiana-Beniger and wife Eunah Kang have been slinging everything from from po’ boys to muffulettas, jambalaya, and a banging crawfish mac and cheese since opening their Chinatown spot in 2014. Portion sizes at the Little Jewel of New Orleans can be overwhelming, which might explain why some overlook the desserts, but make room for the banana pudding. Beniger uses plenty of bananas, quality vanilla, and Nilla Wafers that always stay crispy. The small dish is an exercise in textures — a smooth and flavorful custard with cookie crunch and a delightful sweetness. 207 Ord St., Chinatown. —Mona Holmes

Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow

Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow
Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow
Cathy Chaplin

The Yang family opened Yang Chow upon arriving in Los Angeles from Hong Kong in 1976. Even though there are well over 100 items on the menu, every customer that comes through the doors orders the same thing: slippery shrimp. An ocean-dwelling cousin of General Tso, slippery shrimp is lightly coated in cornstarch and wok’d to perfection before being doused in a sticky sauce made of ginger, garlic, chilies, and plenty of the refined white stuff. It’s sweet as all hell, but also superbly crunchy. 819 North Broadway, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

French dip at Philippe’s The Original

Philippe
French Dip at Philippe’s The Original
Wonho Frank Lee

It’s impossible to just highlight one fantastic sandwich in Chinatown, but the French dip from Philippe’s probably comes the closest to being a consensus pick. Served simply with one’s choice of meat — and, crucially, degree of dipped-ness — the century-old sandwich is the kind of inexpensive, satisfying, and wholly unique meal that reminds eaters with every bite that Los Angeles has been doing this whole “great food” thing for a very, very long time. 1001 North Alameda, Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott

Tsukemen at Okiboru

tsukemen at Okiboru
Tsukemen at Okiboru
Matthew Kang

Okiboru opened a few years ago in Chinatown under the direction of Sean Park, who wanted to make it a point that there’s a difference with noodles made on the premises. The tsukemen at Okiboru is the first place to start, with thick, but still elegantly pulled alkaline noodles that can stand up to the best of Sun Noodle. The hefty noodles do a fine job of soaking up Okiboru’s gravy-like tsukemen broth. Okiboru isn’t afraid to go beyond the basic tsukemen though, with a chicken-based paitan tsukemen, with one even splashing in pork and yuzu for a dip-noodle take on Tokyo’s beloved Afuri ramen shop. It’s easy to pass by Okiboru, with its plain storefront nestled into a larger mutli-use development in Chinatown, but nab a parking spot and make it a point to try one of LA’s finest bowls of ramen. 635 N. Broadway, Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

The Sando at Howlin’ Rays

Howlin rays sandwich on paper
Howlin’ Ray’s
Jakob Layman

It’s impossible to mention Howlin’ Rays without first acknowledging the line. Yes, it snakes across Far East Plaza. And yes, it can take more than an hour to get through it. Enduring any sort of wait for food is a deeply personal issue that won’t be addressed here, but what can be assessed is what to order once you’ve summited. Whether it’s your first or fifth visit to this temple of Nashville hot chicken, the thing to get is The Sando. Smothered between toasted and buttered buns is a sizable slab of crisped and craggly breast meat with dressed slaw, Comeback sauce, and pickles. The hot chicken, the star of this multi-layered, multi-textured, and multi-flavored creation, finds balance and interest amidst the frills. Settle in, open wide, and take a bite — you’ve earned it. 727 N. Broadway #128, Los Angeles. —Cathy Chaplin

Stuffed peppers at Majordomo

Stuffed peppers at Majordomo
Stuffed peppers at Majordomo
Matthew Kang

The menu at David Chang’s northern Chinatown restaurant changes with the seasons, but one thing that’s stayed on the bill of fare is the stuffed peppers. The dish comes with half a dozen shishito peppers, stuffed with Benton’s sack sausage, and fried tempura-style for a highly advanced version of what every Korean mother makes for an after school snack. The crisp tempura batter does a fine job of soaking up the buttermilk ranch served on the side. Are Majordomo’s stuffed peppers the best sports snack ever? If they could figure out how to sell frozen versions to Trader Joe’s they might sell by the millions. Or maybe they could just sell them by the bucket at Dodger Stadium. 1725 Naud St., Los Angeles. —Matthew Kang

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