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Phoenix Inn
Inside Phoenix Inn in LA’s Chinatown
Elizabeth Daniels

15 Essential Restaurants in Los Angeles’s Chinatown

Chinatown’s bounty includes Cantonese classics, tacos, Hainan chicken, and more

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Inside Phoenix Inn in LA’s Chinatown
| Elizabeth Daniels

COVID-19 was harsh for Los Angeles restaurants, but was especially cruel to Chinatown. LA’s Chinatown was the first area to experience a rapid slowdown in the early days of the pandemic, where diners avoided the neighborhood in droves, despite evidence that the infection wasn’t centered there.

But by the time this falsehood was debunked, the damage was already done. For a good part of 2020, Chinatown became a ghost town, with longtime tenants like New Dragon Seafood and Michelin starred Okiburu closing permanently.

Chinatown is feeling quite festive these days, with more pedestrians and indoor dining for legendary spots like Phoenix Inn and Won Kok, a new street food Indian restaurant, and a new food stand inside of Los Angeles State Historic Park. Here now are 16 essential spots to try in Los Angeles’s Chinatown.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Phở 87

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Phở 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. Bring cash.

Nick's Cafe

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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.

Cargo Snack Shack

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Most state parks aren’t known for their food, but Cargo Snack Shack defies the stereotype with a pulled pork burger, fried chicken sandwiches, milkshakes with a boozy upgrade, and even cocktails.

Mexicali Taco & Co.

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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

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It’ll be a welcome sight when one of Chinatown’s oldest Cantonese restaurants reopens its dining room. Until then, take Zen Mei’s classic dishes to-go whether the fried tofu noodles, chow mein, or beef with broccoli.

Yang Chow Restaurant

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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.

Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow
Yang Chow
Cathy Chaplin

Howlin' Ray's

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Los Angeles still marvels at Howlin’ Ray’s wild success. In before times, the lengthy line snakes through Far East Plaza, showing simply that chef/owner Johnny Ray Zone’s recipe commands loyalty. They’re sticking with delivery-only for now, which means you’ll have to enjoy Zone’s classic chicken elsewhere.

Howlin’ Rays
Howlin’ Ray’s
Cathy Chaplin

Kati Roll

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The Kapoor family maintain familiar roots in Los Angeles Akbar in Marina del Rey. But the owners decided to jump into street food at Kati Roll Company with bowls and roti-like kati rolls filled with chicken tikka, crispy fish, or cauliflower and chickpea.

Katsu Sando

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Daniel Son’s Japanese convenience store-inspired sandwich shop Katsu Sando opened last summer. The milk bread is made in-house, which is a fantastic start for the fried pork cutlet, egg salad, or onigiri rice balls.

Katsu sando on a yellow background.
Katsu sando
[Official Photo]

Beef aficionados have a new burger spot to appreciate from 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’s also takeaway primal cuts of beef for anyone who needs more cow(bell) at home.

DH burger at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers in Chinatown.
Amboy
Farley Elliott

Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine - Los Angeles

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Phoenix Inn opened in 1965 with a menu and interior that hasn’t changed much over time. The family-run business subscribes to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule, with a massive menu that includes shrimp rolls, black pepper basil fish, and deep fried pork chop.

Phoenix Inn, Chinatown
Phoenix Inn, Chinatown
Elizabeth Daniels

My Dung Sandwich Shop

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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.

Philippe The Original

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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) in the no-frills space for that famous French dip, plus cheap beers and other goodies offered from early morning until night. Don’t forget about the AM doughnuts, either.

Philippe’s, a French dip restaurant, with red tables and a hand dipping a sandwich into jus.
Phillipe the Original
Wonho Frank Lee

Maxwell Chicken Rice

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Hainan chicken is a staple in Singapore, even more so at the country’s famous street stands. While it still identifies as a pop-up, it keeps long hours to serve Singaporean fried chicken, or the poached then flash-fried Cornish hen.

Pearl River Deli

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This family-operated restaurant, which moved a few blocks over to a new location and is mostly doing pop-ups instead of officially opening, specializes in Cantonese comfort food. Check menus on their Instagram to get regular updates.

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Phở 87

Phở 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. Bring cash.

Nick's Cafe

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.

Cargo Snack Shack

Most state parks aren’t known for their food, but Cargo Snack Shack defies the stereotype with a pulled pork burger, fried chicken sandwiches, milkshakes with a boozy upgrade, and even cocktails.

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

It’ll be a welcome sight when one of Chinatown’s oldest Cantonese restaurants reopens its dining room. Until then, take Zen Mei’s classic dishes to-go whether the fried tofu noodles, chow mein, or beef with broccoli.

Yang Chow Restaurant

Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow
Yang Chow
Cathy Chaplin

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.

Slippery shrimp at Yang Chow
Yang Chow
Cathy Chaplin

Howlin' Ray's

Howlin’ Rays
Howlin’ Ray’s
Cathy Chaplin

Los Angeles still marvels at Howlin’ Ray’s wild success. In before times, the lengthy line snakes through Far East Plaza, showing simply that chef/owner Johnny Ray Zone’s recipe commands loyalty. They’re sticking with delivery-only for now, which means you’ll have to enjoy Zone’s classic chicken elsewhere.

Howlin’ Rays
Howlin’ Ray’s
Cathy Chaplin

Kati Roll

The Kapoor family maintain familiar roots in Los Angeles Akbar in Marina del Rey. But the owners decided to jump into street food at Kati Roll Company with bowls and roti-like kati rolls filled with chicken tikka, crispy fish, or cauliflower and chickpea.

Katsu Sando

Katsu sando on a yellow background.
Katsu sando
[Official Photo]

Daniel Son’s Japanese convenience store-inspired sandwich shop Katsu Sando opened last summer. The milk bread is made in-house, which is a fantastic start for the fried pork cutlet, egg salad, or onigiri rice balls.

Katsu sando on a yellow background.
Katsu sando
[Official Photo]

Amboy

DH burger at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers in Chinatown.
Amboy
Farley Elliott

Beef aficionados have a new burger spot to appreciate from 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’s also takeaway primal cuts of beef for anyone who needs more cow(bell) at home.

DH burger at Amboy Quality Meats and Delicious Burgers in Chinatown.
Amboy
Farley Elliott

Phoenix Inn Chinese Cuisine - Los Angeles

Phoenix Inn, Chinatown
Phoenix Inn, Chinatown
Elizabeth Daniels

Phoenix Inn opened in 1965 with a menu and interior that hasn’t changed much over time. The family-run business subscribes to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule, with a massive menu that includes shrimp rolls, black pepper basil fish, and deep fried pork chop.

Phoenix Inn, Chinatown
Phoenix Inn, Chinatown
Elizabeth Daniels

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.

Philippe The Original

Philippe’s, a French dip restaurant, with red tables and a hand dipping a sandwich into jus.
Phillipe the Original
Wonho Frank Lee

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) in the no-frills space for that famous French dip, plus cheap beers and other goodies offered from early morning until night. Don’t forget about the AM doughnuts, either.

Philippe’s, a French dip restaurant, with red tables and a hand dipping a sandwich into jus.
Phillipe the Original
Wonho Frank Lee

Maxwell Chicken Rice

Hainan chicken is a staple in Singapore, even more so at the country’s famous street stands. While it still identifies as a pop-up, it keeps long hours to serve Singaporean fried chicken, or the poached then flash-fried Cornish hen.

Pearl River Deli

This family-operated restaurant, which moved a few blocks over to a new location and is mostly doing pop-ups instead of officially opening, specializes in Cantonese comfort food. Check menus on their Instagram to get regular updates.

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