L.A.'s Chinatown may not bear the same pedigree as its massive counterparts in New York and San Francisco, but there's still plenty for your tastebuds to discover here. The neighborhood is packed with treasures for any pedestrian eager to explore off-the-beaten-path discoveries—from pho shops to old-school Chinese classics, from dive bars to a spot from one of the world's most famous chefs. Rediscover your love of old-school dim sum houses and explore present glories with our guide to Chinatown's best restaurants and bars.
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Best Chinatown restaurants and bars
LASA began as a pop-up inside incubator Unit 120, and my, how it's grown. Through the years Filipino-American brothers Chad and Chase Valencia crafted a fantastic, nationally lauded restaurant with elevated dishes from their childhood, such as pancit, lumpia sariwa and crispy duck arroz caldo. During the daytime, drop by for familiar favorites—like the addictive coconut adobo chicken—and at night, the menu flips to inventive, off-the-charts-creative composed plates, such as a Filipino take on surf and turf with octopus a la plancha, house-made longanisa, charred yu choy, tomatoes and calamansi. Don't skip the hand pies, always order a side of lumpia.
In business since 1908, Philippe the Original claims to have invented the French dip sandwich. Whether or not you believe them (Cole's will certainly contest this fact, claiming their own French dip version as the first), there's no denying the eatery has an exemplary sandwich. Savvy customers make their way across the sawdust-covered floor to select a lamb, roast beef, pastrami or turkey filling, then ask their server to double-dip the bread in the meaty juice; add some of the sinus-clearing atomic mustard and you're golden. A bevy of sides includes coleslaw, macaroni and potato salad, hard-boiled eggs and pickles—all to be eaten in the midst of friendly strangers you'll inevitably wind up talking to.
Holy hot chicken! The chef behind Howlin' Ray's, Johnny Zone, may have spent time in the kitchen with some of the world's best chefs, but he's really found his calling bringing Nashville hot chicken to Los Angeles. Head to his brick and mortar in Far East Plaza—just a few doors down from LASA—for a plate of chicken (white or dark) or a sandwich in whatever level of heat you can handle, from "Country" to "Howlin'." You're supposed to be sweating. You're supposed to get messy. You're supposed to be eating some of the best fried chicken in town. Of course, the fact that it's some of the best is no secret—Angelenos and tourists alike wait in lines that can take up to three hours long and snake their way through the plaza. Our tip? Keep your eyes on this spot's social media for line updates.
David Chang’s first flag planted in L.A. is inspired by the city’s diversity, by Korean comfort food, by Chinese classics, by American sensibilities—so it’s unsurprising that the menu can feel overwhelming. The best bet is to bring a crew to tackle the large-format dishes (such as the Momofuku chef's famous ssäm) and mix and match the farmers' market-fresh vegetable small plates, the sausage-stuffed peppers, the noodles and of course the bing, a now-signature chickpea flatbread with a bevy of toppings available. Chang's West Coast foray is sleek, modern and always a lot of fun, albeit one of the neighborhood's priciest options.
A Chinatown institution, this old-school haunt is almost identical to its 1965 self. There are now 14 restaurants in the Phoenix family, but we'll always be partial to the first: The menu's gotten longer and the décor's been updated slightly, but the Phoenix Inn that started it all is still the same as ever. Families and late-night diners stream in for fried whole fish, deep-fried intestine, Chinese-style omelets, and hog maw with ginger, all found alongside Chinese-American favorites such as beef with broccoli and sweet and sour pork. Whatever you're craving, there's almost definitely a dish to suit you.
A no-frills mom-and pop-restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, Won Kok is a hidden gem that offers round-the-clock dim sum at hard-to-beat prices. Forget the grand banquet halls or extravagant chandeliers—Won Kok is the quintessential hole in the wall for dim sum. Nosh on the glossy, soft and not-too-sweet baked char siu bao, and sip the complimentary pu-erh tea. While the dumplings are hit or miss, the addictive sesame ball with a smooth red bean center is a signature. Opt for baked goods—we love the baked coconut bun, rice cake, buttery almond cookies and delicate egg custards, which sell out daily.
Oriel is a must-visit for lovers of French wine and stylish places to perch. Follow the glow of soft pink neon to this cozy, comfortable wine bar that’s as dotted with plants as it is solo imbibers, families and trendy denizens on dates. Tucked away from the neighborhood’s main drags, this spot’s almost hidden beneath the Chinatown Metro stop but manages to whisk you away to France with roughly 20 wines by the glass. The petite spot keeps a French focus not only on its vino, but its food: French onion soup, roasted bone marrow, escargots and gnocchi à la Parisienne all round out the menu of Paris-comfort classics.
David Wang's 25-seat spot in Far East Plaza is an ode to Taiwanese street food with a few Western influences thrown in, making this Chinatown menu eclectic and one of a kind. You'll find Taiwan's national dish, a traditional beef ban mian—flat noodles coated in a rich marrow sauce and topped with five-spice beef shank, Taiwanese napa cabbage and pickled veggies—but the specials are always worth ordering, especially the poutine, a Taiwanese-Canadian mashup that tops French fries with pork belly, gravy and scallions. Wash it all down with Taiwanese sodas, earl grey milk teas and ube iced coffees, and you'll be all set.
General Lee’s has all the makings of a mysterious speakeasy—except this bar isn't entirely secret, nor are its cocktails the standard selection of old-fashioneds and gin rickeys you might find in a password-protected bar. The split-level space houses a DJ booth on the first floor, while live jazz is a top-floor staple. It's a solid spot for catching up with friends and trying inventive cocktails that employ at least one surprising ingredient. Try the Heaven, a gin and tonic with green tea syrup. If you're feeling peckish you can bring in food, like an order of spring rolls from Blossom next door.
This tsukemen-style ramen shop makes its own noodles in-house daily, a rarity not only in all of Los Angeles, but especially in Chinatown where ramen restaurants are nearly nonexistant. Sure, these guys offer traditional bowls of ramen, where the noodles and the broth arrive together, but the tsukemen is where it's at: Dunk the noodles into a rich three-day pork broth—or even their vegan broth—and add toppings such as house-pickled veggies, chasu pork, chasu ribs and soft-boiled eggs. If all that broth has you sweating, cool down with the selection of all-natural sodas and iced matcha teas.
Kim Chuy is known for its noodles—its egg noodles, its rice noodles, its thin and short and flat noodles, its fried noodles topped with vegetables and chicken or its noodles floating in hearty bowls of soup—but that doesn't mean you should skip its other goods. The pan-fried leek dumplings are some of the best in the city, and Chinese doughnuts are some of the fluffiest. Can't decide? Order a combo—all available under $10—to receive a bowl of noodle soup or an entrée with iced tea and dessert. This family-owned restaurant has been around since 1982 and remains a staple in Far East Plaza, and it's not hard to see why.
Sweet relief for thirsty craft-beer geeks can be found here, a lantern-lit bar with the neighborhood's best draft selection. Karaoke takes a backseat to great brews in a tight room of lacquered walls, glowing red paper lanterns and display tables stuffed with the cans of fallen beer brands. Catch labels such as Chimay, Angel City, Hangar 24 and Eagle Rock Brewery on the chalkboard tap list, while the cocktails take their inspiration from the neighborhood with ingredients such as five-spice syrup and a Tien Tsin pepper-infused gin.
Take care of any late-night cravings at this Chinatown staple that's open until 1am—and as late as 3am on weekends. The spot started out in 1993 with only eight tables, but had to move to a larger location to accomodate the loyal diners won by its classic Chinese cooking and Hong Kong-style barbecue. Order the budget-friendly lobster with noodles (a sockingly-priced $9.99) or the spicy orange chicken—traditional with a kick. During the day, steam tables toward the front of the restaurant fill with dim sum, chow fun, beef with broccoli and other mainstays for delicious and inexpensive lunch combos, while whole roast ducks hang out behind the case too.
Many shopkeepers will point you to Foo Chow—its claim to fame is a close-up in Rush Hour—the food at Full Moon across the street makes for a better attraction. It's in this classy banquet hall that you'll find everything you probably came to Chinatown for in the first place: steamed pork buns, chili-oil wontons, Peking duck (half or whole), lacquered vegetables, hot pot seafood and fried pork, all prepared at a level of execution that surpasses much of its surrounding competition—and with large portions, to boot.
Chinatown has an abundance of dependable Vietnamese food, and despite this spot's Italian-sounding signage, the no-frills café excels in an excellent rare-steak pho that nails all the clean flavors of the beef broth and its fresh, fragrant accessories. Whether you're looking for pho, broken rice or vermicelli, Gigo's offers a popular lunch for less than $10, all of which goes great with a glass of icy, sweet café sua da aka Vietnamese iced coffee.
With loads of natural light and an industrial-chic feel, Highland Park Brewery's Chinatown warehouse offers larger and more airy digs than that of its Hermosillo taproom in Highland Park (though we've got a place in our hearts for that one, too). The Northeast L.A. brewery’s first full tasting room lives up to the anticipation, offering a full kitchen with killer bar bites, plus double the tanks, allowing the team to crank out more experimental, funky and collaborative new beers. Enjoy on that patio, for best results.
Fred and Max Guerrero grew up obsessed with burgers—they are, after all, the kids of the founder of the Oinkster. They turned that obsession into a Tumblr called Burgerlords, which eventually inspired this IRL eatery with a menu almost as simple as In-N-Out's, but updated and upgraded. Burgers here feature a custom tri-blend grass-fed beef—or a housemade vegan patty alternative with classic toppings. In fact, there are vegan options aplenty, including tofu nuggets, a dairy-free take on "Animal-style" fries and "milk" shakes. It's a walkup window with a little something for everyone, right in the heart of Central Plaza.
Kogi creator Roy Choi added what might be the world's greatest drunk/stoner food to Chinatown's Far East Plaza. The chef's big, bibimbap-based bowls of rice are tweaked and seasoned in his signature L.A. street style, with mish-mash toppings such as gochujang-glazed pork belly, sour cream sambal chicken and the addictive marriage of kimchi and Spam. Even if the doors are closing, you may be able to plead with the kitchen for one more serving of Choi's beer-battered and pickled garlic and chile–topped Ooey Gooey cheese fries. Don't forget to treat your sweet tooth to a night cap with a crispy, spicy Sriracha chocolate bar for dessert.
This bustling restaurant is the last stop at the edge of Chinatown before North Broadway turns lonely and desolate, and while prices have recently gone up a few dollars, the pho here still hits it out of the park. The pale, almost clear broth delivers a deep, round beefy taste that coats the tongue and delivers pops of ginger, garlic and an unexpected hint of carrot. The sliced onion holds onto a touch of its crunch, the fatty brisket strikes a hearty note and jagged chunks of tendon keep the game interesting. And if you time your meal just right, you might get to sit near L.A. Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, a regular Pho 87 fan.
This apothecary-themed bar is the sibling to New York City's, which racked up acclaim through detail-driven, botanical-tinged drinks in a dimly-lit setting. Here in Chinatown, the vibe, atmosphere and menu are all similar, with a few unique drinks for good measure. Don't miss out on the side patio—one of the cutest in the city—nor the live programming, which can include bands, DJ sets, burlesque and even private cocktail classes.
This city-wide favorite is favored for flame-kissed steak and small-batch salsas, along with high-quality ingredients delivered across the border from Baja's capital city. Clever and captivating regional recipes include the gluttonous, triple-meat and cheese Zuperman, crunchy cachetada tostadas drizzled in gooey cheese and creamy, piquant chipotle aioli, clay-pot broiled, wine-infused queso fundido and garlic-lashed Vampiro quesadilla stuffed with with hand-chopped carne asada.
Old World wines get all the shine, and while there’s good reason for it, our own coast is often sadly neglected in the process. Enter LA WINE, a charming, minimalist wine bar in the heart of Chinatown’s Blossom Plaza. Brought to us by David DeLuca—he of Ham & Eggs Tavern fame—this spot serves a seasonal menu of exclusively California wines at affordable prices, with a small selection of snacks and beers, to boot. Taste something you love? Bring a bottle home for $10 off the listed cost. Stop by during happy hour for fun specials, such as the Miller High Life and shot-of-sherry boilermaker combo, and don’t neglect that patio, either.
Eddie Huang's NYC-borne Baohaus made its way to Far East Plaza, offering baos, bowls and taro fries to hungry Chinatown visitors—or those who want a momentary respite from the nearby line at Howlin' Ray's. The menu here is fairly simple and changes rarely, but it's always packed with flavor. Try the Birdhaus Bao, a standout made with fried chicken, crushed peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar and cilantro, or the Chairman Bao with pork belly. The taro fries are an unusual take on classic French fries, made with hand-cut taro and "Haus" spices.
Health-slanted, garden-fresh Mexican food stands as one of the proud pillars of Father Gregory Boyle's nonprofit empire. While he helps to transform repentant L.A. gang members into skilled bakers, cooks and product-makers through Homeboy Industries, your hungry crew will benefit from delicious dishes such as grilled pineapple guacamole, grilled salmon tacos with jalapeño pesto, salads scattered with roasted corn, avocado, and jicama and chile relleno grilled cheese sandwiches served on Homeboy Bakery's own house-baked bread.