Food & Drink

Where the hell to go in LA's Chinatown

Published On 12/16/2014 Published On 12/16/2014
Phoenix Bakery
Starry Kitchen
Mae Ting's Coconut Cakes
Chego!
Phillippe The Original
Flickr/Kent MacElwee
Eastside Market Italian Deli
Chimney Coffee House
Ooga Booga
Charles Lin
Yang Chow 
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1. Won Kok 210 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Not only is the name super fun to say aloud (ha ha ha), but you'd think more places would follow the example of this Chinatown pioneer, which keeps a ready-to-go steamer full of sticky rice, shu mai, and har gow, even after last call: they're open 'til 3am nightly, which means that sweet, savory salvation's just stumbling distance away.

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2. Phoenix Bakery 969 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

This old-school bakery is one of Chinatown's best spots for inexpensive Chinese delicacies like steamed pork buns, flaky egg tarts, and almond cookies. But the move is to special order one of their spongy, lightweight cakes. Trust us.

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3. Zen Mei Bistro 800 Yale St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

There’s hole-in-the-wall, and then there’s super-super-hole-in-the-wall. This place is the latter, and they’ve got ridiculously easy-on-the-wallet Chinese food, including lobster that falls right off the shell and spicy-salty pork chops.

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4. Starry Kitchen 943 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Originally a guerrilla cookery in the Valley, this Asian Fusion joint's now a legitified nook, serving up always-changing deliciousness like crispy tofu balls, roast pork belly XO fried rice, and Singaporean chili crab.

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5. Mae Ting's Coconut Cakes 1100 N Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Run by a Thai woman, Mae Ting's whips up amazing street-style nosh like skewers, papaya salad, and their famous coconut cakes -- which are crisp on the outside and pudding-like on the inside.

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6. Tin Bo 841 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

If, for some reason, you ever needed shark cartilage or fish oil, this little market is the place to go. It’s also packed with traditional Chinese medicines, herbs, and teas, and a load of other cool/exotic-sounding/hard-to-find/you-have-no-idea-what-that-is-but-it-looks-amazing-type stuff.

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7. Chego! 727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Roy Choi’s Chego! is named after a variation on the Korean term meaning “excellent, great, delicious.” Once located in the Palms, Chego! now lives in Chinatown behind Ocean Seafood. Choi’s rice bowl concept lives up to the meaning behind the name, serving up Korean street food with Mexican influence and fine dining technique, tricking out even the basest of foundations (like… rice, for example), and turning them into cravable, affordable, approachable dishes for the LA masses. The Chubby Pork Belly (pork belly rice bowl with a fried egg, and other stuff, but pork belly and a fried egg should be enough to convince you) is one of Choi’s favorites… I’m not saying you have to get it, I’m just saying you should. That, and a side of Ooey Gooey Fries.

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8. Philippe the Original 1001 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Open since 1908, Philippe the Original is an iconic deli in LA that claims to have invented the French dip sandwich. That said, it's not your typical sandwich shop where you wait for your ticket number to be called. Here's how things go down at Philippe's: if you're getting a sandwich, get in the specified line and watch as one of the "Carvers" works his magic, then order any sides (like a bowl of chili). If you decide post-French dip bliss that you want a slice of cheesecake, line up at the non-sandwich counter instead.

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9. Melody Lounge 939 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

This cash-only bar is probably the only place in the city where you can geek out about craft brews under a ceiling strung with glowing Chinese lanterns.

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10. Eastside Market Italian Deli 1013 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

A true and authentic Italian deli, Eastside is a landmark eatery for their outstanding sammies (both hot and cold), pasta dishes, and salads.

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11. Chimney Coffee House 1100 N Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Thai tea lattes and snacks like green tea brick toast (basically a giant carb vessel smothered in matcha ice cream and syrup) are the go-tos in this out-of-the-way crazy cafe.

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12. LAX-C 1100 N Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

Despite its name, this supersized Asian emporium has nothing to do with LA's airport and everything to do with selling mostly Thai spices, bulk produce, and snacks -- including Lay’s potato chips in flavors you won’t see at Trader Joe’s.

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13. General Lee's 475 Gin Ling Way, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

This two-story "Modern Tiki" concept is serving up an unexpected lineup of Asian-inflected concoctions with twists like wasabi-infused vermouth and black sesame syrup. The friendly team behind the bar is also happy to go off-menu to ensure you get just what you're craving. As the night wears on and the DJ takes over, the place tends to get a bit packed, so if you’re looking for a peaceful sip, get there early.

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14. Yang Chow 819 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown)

It's hard to miss this Chinatown legend with its distinctive roof and bright yellow exterior. The menu is filled with Mandarin, Sichuan, and Americanized (ahem, chicken and broccoli) plates, but what you really want to order is the Slippery Shrimp. You'll find plenty of copycat dishes at other Chinese restaurants, but there's only one place to get the real thing -- that is, a platter of sweet and salty shrimp that's golden and crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. Yang Chow's round tables, set with white tablecloths and lazy Susans, are perfect for groups.

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