Chinatown has long been going through a transformation as a result of gentrification, changing demographics, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Longstanding restaurants like Plum Tree Inn and New Dragon Seafood have closed their doors, while new ones have taken over. And stalwarts like Yang Chow and Pho 87 have remained with a strong footing. From a modern teahouse to a Chinese-Cambodian noodle shop and po’boy market, here are some of Chinatown’s most essential restaurants to try out.Read More
17 Essential Restaurants in Los Angeles’s Chinatown
Chinatown’s bounty includes Cantonese classics, tacos, Hainan chicken, and more
Pho 87’s unfussy Chinatown spot is truly one of Chinatown’s best. Try the #20 pho with charbroiled pork. In fact, all of their pho maintain a gorgeous broth.
Nick’s is a staple breakfast destination, not just for Chinatown but all of Los Angeles. The restaurant, lovingly nicknamed the Ham House on signage out front, dates to 1948, and continues today to spin out plates of biscuits, omelettes, waffles, apple pie a la mode, and yes, ham and eggs.
Steep has evolved and blossomed since it first opened in 2019. In the daytime, it’s a casual teahouse for grab-and-go Chinese tea drinks or a sit-down kung fu tea ceremony. It later transforms to relaxing nighttime vibes, one with cocktails made with tea-infused spirits, and accompanying small bites — from umami platters with dried shiitake mushrooms and shrimp to braised pork bowl with rice and truffle shavings.
Pearl River Deli
Dubbed “Pearl River Deli 2.0,” this sit-down restaurant is the second iteration of chef-owner Johnny Lee’s ode to modern Cantonese comfort food. Known for his Macau pork chop bun, house-made char siu, and weekend Hainan chicken rice, Lee adds in specials like egg foo young with chicken gravy as little treats. The restaurant’s pastry chef Laura Hoang makes bolo bao and hot dog buns with aplomb.
Also featured in:
When the beloved Plum Tree Inn closed in 2020, a family with roots in Chinatown took over the space and revamped it as Broadway Cuisine last year. The massive 6,000-square-foot restaurant hearkens back to the old-school Chinese dining palaces with a menu that has over 240 items. Find dishes like egg foo young, Peking duck, and moo shu pork on the tables.
Mexicali Taco & Co.
This former street stand turned restaurant by owner Esdras Ochoa is still turning out incredible tortillas, carne asada, vampiros, and more done in the Mexicali style. No hype, just delicious food.
Zen Mei Bistro
Zen Mei is one of Chinatown’s oldest Cantonese restaurants, a mainstay that makes classic dishes like wonton noodle soup, string beans with beef, and honey walnut shrimp with solid results.
Yang Chow Restaurant
Since 1976, the Yang family maintains a 100-item menu in the heart of Chinatown. It can be overwhelming, but Yang Chow’s staff is helpful in maneuvering diners to the right dishes, including the classic slippery shrimp.
Even though Howlin’ Rays recently opened a new location in Pasadena, the original Chinatown outpost is still a special spot because it launched LA’s love for Nashville-style hot chicken. Though it used to be known for perennially long lines and counter dining, it’s now shifted to a takeout and delivery spot still perfect for flame-kissed chicken sandwiches and tenders.
Lasita Rotisserie & Natural Wine
Lasita has gone through a few transformations over the years (first as the more upscale Filipino restaurant Lasa and later as the more casual Lasita). Its most recent iteration focuses on natural wine and rotisserie chicken in a space that’s painted with orange-pink hues inspired by Philippines sunsets. Come for the chicken and stay for the pork belly lechon, inasal prawns, and mushroom sisig.
Daniel Son’s Japanese convenience store-inspired sandwich shop Katsu Sando has been a great addition to Chinatown since it opened its doors two years ago. Going beyond the classic milk-bread sandos like egg salad and pork katsu, the restaurant’s offerings have creative fillings like honey walnut shrimp and mushroom katsu. For something more filling, make room for its katsu curry plates that come with pickled radishes and a scoop of potato salad.
Beef aficionados have a wonderful burger spot to appreciate from First We Feast’s Burger Show host Alvin Cailan. The tight menu features burgers of all stripes, from a double smash burger with gorgeous browned patties, to more substantial chef-like burgers. There are also takeaway primal cuts of beef.
New Kamara Restaurant
This longstanding, no-frills Chinese-Cambodian restaurant has been a staple in the neighborhood for noodle soups, fried leek cakes, and pork blood porridge. Pro-tip: Get there early to snag a Chinese doughnut, which sometimes sells out by lunchtime.
My Dung Sandwich Shop
Amid all the changes in Chinatown over the past half-decade, there is still My Dung, the timeless banh mi shop tucked away on Ord. The walk-up restaurant trades in simple and delicious Vietnamese sandwiches, available daily from early in the morning to evening. There may be no better value in all of Chinatown, still.
Also featured in:
The Little Jewel of New Orleans
Truly a gem in the neighborhood, Little Jewel pays homage to the Big Easy, with beignets, po’boys, crawfish mac and cheese, and muffulettas. The andouille sausage and tasso are made in-house, and Zapp’s Potato Chips and Cafe du Monde coffee can always be found on the shelves.
Philippe The Original
There’s a reason Philippe’s uses “the O.G.” in its social media handles: the iconic restaurant is among LA’s oldest, and still draws in tons of adoring fans. People queue up (especially before Dodger games) on the sawdust-covered floors for that famous French dip, plus cheap beers and other goodies offered from early morning until night. Don’t forget about the morning doughnuts, either.
Golden Tree Restaurant
Even though Golden Tree Restaurant is a relative newcomer to Chinatown, opening just last year, it’s already become a neighborhood favorite. A no-frills spot for classic Chinese dishes done right like honey walnut shrimp and shrimp fried rice, it also boasts surprising offerings like lamb chops, clams in abalone broth, and grilled short ribs.