The Best New Restaurants in Chinatown

Explore 17 picks from a new generation of eateries

Tonkotsu ramen at Ramen Champ

 |  Photo:  Joshua Lurie

The Chinese American community in Los Angeles dates to the 1850s, but it wasn’t until 1938 that the Downtown L.A. neighborhood that once held Little Italy officially became known as Chinatown. Now, eight decades later, Chinatown is experiencing a revival. Restaurants like Eastside Market Italian Deli, Nick’s Café, Philippe the Original, Phoenix Inn and Sam Woo are still going strong. Discover 17 top picks from an increasingly diverse crop.

Baohaus Baos

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Baohaus Far East Plaza



Outspoken New York City chef Eddie Huang of “Huang’s World” and “Fresh Off The Boat” fame partnered with fellow sneaker connoisseur Steven Lau on Baohaus. They started serving modern Taiwanese comfort food in Manhattan in 2009 and expanded to Chinatown’s Far East Plaza in 2017. The tiny space features stainless steel counters, custom shoe collaborations in plastic boxes on a high shelf, and access to the plaza’s communal seating. Baohaus is best known for clamshell-shaped steamed buns. Chairman Bao® stars tender braised Berkshire pork belly, Taiwanese red sugar, punchy Haus relish, crushed peanuts, and cilantro. Spiceland Bao™ teams juicy fried chicken breast that’s brined for 24 hours and served with a similar accompaniments, plus lemon-garlic aioli and Szechuan chili oil. Go fishing with flaky whitefish, Haus tartar sauce, tangy lemon cabbage slaw, and fried garlic, plus more peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar, and cilantro.

Breakfast sandwich at Chimney Coffee House

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Chimney Coffee House



Amnaj Bholsangngam and brother Amorn arrived in Chinatown in 2011 with their specialty coffeehouse outside LAX-C, a bustling Thai supermarket. Reclaimed wood, brick and corrugated metal help frame a rewarding daytime experience. They roast their own coffee beans for use in espresso drinks, cold brew, and Bangkok iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Local chef Royce Burke helped take Chimney’s breakfast sandwich to another level. For example, The Bieber honors the pop star with spiced chicken sausage, scrambled egg, puffy Thai fried egg, a cheddar crisp, and Sriracha-yuzu mayo. Lunch showcases tantalizing Thai-influenced options like the larb burger, a Thai-spiced pork patty with mint lime salad, fried shallots, toasted rice, and cilantro-garlic mayo on a toasted milk bun. As always, they serve brick toast with matcha butter, matcha ice cream, and whipped cream.

Seasonal Veggies with charred zucchini at Chego

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Chego



Chego! was Kogi BBQ chef Roy Choi’s first step toward portfolio diversification. He debuted the bowl-centric concept in Palms in 2010 and transitioned to Chinatown’s Far East Plaza in 2013. Pass by colorful picnic table seating and you’ll see an Erik B. & Rakim LP by the entrance, while dance music like Stacey Q's “Two of Hearts” might be playing on the sound system. The food is pure comfort, including “big kid meals” of kung pao noodles, kimchi spam, and the signature chubby pork belly. Beer-battered Ooey Gooey Fries - topped with sour cream sambal, a parade of cheeses, chiles and pickled garlic - will satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. Believe it or not, they do carry seasonal vegetables, such as charred zucchini strips bombed with salsa verde, salsa azul, Parmesan, fried shallots, lemon and toasted sesame. Chego’s signature dessert is undoubtedly their Sriracha bar with chocolate and crisped rice base, caramel, spicy ganache, spiced candied peanuts and dark chocolate.

Coffee Hall in Chinatown

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Coffee Hall



Mandarin Plaza has been quiet since Pok Pok LA left in 2017, but Cognoscenti Coffee founder Yeekai Lim and Mooon coffee app creator Aldo Lihiang breathed new life into the courtyard with Coffee Hall. The glass-fronted café with a ping-pong table, white tables, yellow chairs, and art-lined walls has become a coffee community hub. The duo rotates local roasters and coffee shops to showcase the best coffee L.A. has to offer. Companies like Commodity Coffee, Kindness & Mischief, and Take Flight Coffee plug and play different staffers and beans. A white two-group Sanremo espresso machine stays put. During our visit, a barista was pulling shots of Cognoscenti’s fully-washed Colombia beans. Coffee Hall also offers workshops, training, and tastings to pros and neophytes.

Broken rice with pork chop, meatball and fried egg at Gigo's Cafe & Deli

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Gigo’s Café & Deli



This tiny Vietnamese cafe features a glass front, yellow and red walls, Formica tables and an LCD screen that displays the boba and smoothie menu. Sweet fruit and tea drinks aren’t the primary focus at Gigo’s. Instead, that would be Vietnamese comfort food, including steaming bowls of pho loaded with ingredients like rare steak, brisket, beef balls, tripe and tendon. We’re also believers in their broken rice, which sports options like charbroiled meatballs, juicy pork chops and puffy fried eggs. No matter the combo, each plate comes with pickled carrots and a soothing bowl of scallion-scattered beef broth.

Rice noodle combo at Golden Lake Eatery

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Golden Lake Eatery



Golden Lake is a Cambodian restaurant tucked away in a plaza. The space features a red awning, prominent photos of dishes on the walls, mismatched tables, and plastic-wrapped, grab-and-go food on a tan and green counter. The proprietor, Lyly, serves the comfort food of her homeland, including Banh He Hap, pan-fried (or steamed) leak cakes, which arrive bursting with bright green stalks. Rice noodles are especially popular, including Hu Tieu Trieu Chau Kho, which features assorted pork parts and preparations, plus some other fun bits, which come with crunchy bean sprouts and beef bone soup on the side. Banh Loc Xao Do Bien is another fun dish, featuring seafood fried short rice noodles with fish cakes, fish balls, surimi, scallions, and bean sprouts.

Highland Park Brewery in Chinatown l Photo by Joshua Lurie

Highland Park Brewery



Bob Kunz, wife Tiffany, and business partner Ross Stephenson expanded Highland Park Brewery from behind The Hermosillo in their namesake neighborhood to an even larger Chinatown location across the street from Los Angeles State Historic Park. A light-strung patio gives way to an L-shaped wood bar with red tile base, communal tables, and exposed rafters. They offer full and half pours of most beers. Some of the most notable brews we sampled included Athletic Susan, a beautifully funky, surprisingly bright barrel-fermented saison flavored with prized Masumoto Farms peaches and nectarines. Collective Blend is a tangy blended sour starring cherums (a cherry-plum hybrid) from Sunny Cal Farms. Chef Michael Ruiz oversees a menu of beer-friendly bar bites that includes Tex-Mex queso and crispy cauliflower tacos. Customers can also order crispy Bub & Grandma’s focaccia with beurre de baratte and or a chorizo plate with salsa verde.

Tacos at Homegirl Cafe

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Homegirl Cafe



Father Greg Boyle founded Homeboy Industries in 1988 to keep one-time gang members and incarcerated Angelenos employed and off the streets. Located on the ground floor of a bright orange and yellow building, their home base now features Homegirl Café, which relocated from Boyle Heights to Chinatown and serves hearty, healthy Mexican food. Tacos are especially popular. Fillings for their corn tortillas include salmon with jalapeno pesto, pico de gallo and cilantro. If you’re lucky, they’ll have Jorja’s sautéed hibiscus flowers with caramelized onions, avocado, cucumber, Serrano peppers and cilantro. Salads and grilled cheese are also standbys. Homegirl even has an in-house bakery, which fills a display case and supplies L.A. cafes.

Batter's Box of fried chicken wings at Howlin' Ray's

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Howlin’ Ray’s



Johnny Zone and wife Amanda Chapman championed Nashville style hot chicken from a food truck before opening a fully realized brick and mortar restaurant in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza to start 2016. Décor consists of decorative plywood, an open kitchen, a wall-mounted menu, and two framed paintings of Gram Parsons, another person who wasn’t born in Nashville, but connected with the city. Fried chicken utilizes a proprietary pepper blend that ranges from “country,” which falls short of mild, to “howlin’,” a spice level that’s liable to burn a hole in your cheek. Get a whole bird or pieces of your choice. Howlin’ Ray’s also serves a terrific fried chicken sandwich with juicy breast meat on a buttered bun with cabbage slaw, pickles and spicy “comeback sauce” crafted with chile powder, paprika and more. On weekends, Howlin’ Ray’s serves chicken and waffles.

Tofu Century Egg at Lao Tao

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Lao Tao



David Wang named his Far East Plaza restaurant, Lao Tao, for a mythical creature with a large appetite. His family hails from south of Shanghai and ran a Chinese restaurant, but he grew up with Taiwanese-American friends in Artesia and Cerritos. Years later, the dishes they shared inspired him to switch from a design career to launch Lao Tao. The glass-fronted second floor space features cream and green walls, wooden tables and colorful metal chairs. Lao Tao’s “dry” take on Taiwan’s national dish, niu rou mian, took almost seven years to develop and 20 recipes. Flat wheat noodles are slicked with spicy bone marrow broth, topped with beef shank and tendon, diced tomato, pickled mustard greens, Taiwanese Napa cabbage, and more. Big bowls are rooted in rice and star combos like 5-spice braised pork belly with shallot sauce and sweet Taiwanese sausages with sunny side-up egg. Tantalizing small bites include baby oyster pancake with lettuce and firm tofu with century egg, pork floss, ponzu, and tongue-tingling “ma la sauce.” 

Drunken Pancit at LASA

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

LASA



Chef Chad Valencia and brother Chase ran a modern Filipino fine dining pop-up at night in Far East Plaza’s Unit 120 before fully replacing the Alvin Cailan-led culinary incubator in Chinatown. Their family is from Pampanga, a province two hours north of Manila, with strong Spanish influence that factors into their ever-changing dinner menu. They’ve done away with prix fixe in favor of stylish la carte dishes like charcoal-grilled chicken gizzard skewers, twice-cooked octopus in rhubarb sinigang, and brown rice arroz caldo with duck and green garlic & ginger broth. During the day, LASA offers a more limited menu. They serve two different pancits made with egg noodles: O.G. dressed with calamansi butter and patis-cured egg yolk; and spicy, funky “drunken” pancit showered with chunky bagoong XO, Chinese sausage, and pickled Fresno chiles. Their chicken adobo features vinegar braised chicken leg & thigh, fried garlic, and scallions atop jasmine rice. Fresh lumpia salad shrouds roasted seasonal vegetables, black kale, shaved cabbage, and peanut-soy vin with a delicate brown rice flour crepe.

Crawfish mac and cheese at The Little Jewel of New Orleans

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

The Little Jewel of New Orleans



This market carries all the comforts a homesick New Orleans native would crave, including shelves devoted to house-made sausages, tasso and boudin balls, Zapp’s potato chips, Café du Monde coffee, and a bevy of ingredients and hot sauces. Marcus Christiana-Beniger hails from the French Quarter, so he comes by the food honestly, and he partnered with New Jersey native Eunah Kang. Beyond a green-and-white awning, you’ll find a black-and-white tile floor and a handful of tables. Sandwiches like muffalettas or po’ boys on Leidenheimer loaves, stuffed with roast beef and fried shrimp, are especially popular. The house-made Chaurice may be new to L.A. The Creole pork sausage is flecked with parsley, shallots and scallions. Crawfish mac and cheese is another crowd pleaser, featuring fusilli folded with Mornay, mayo and house-smoked Andouille.

Bing Eggs with Smoked Trout Roe at Majordomo

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

MAJORDŌMO



David Chang leads the charge on Chinatown’s northern frontier near the L.A. River. A light-strung patio with concrete planters and a provocative David Choe mural gives way to a long wood bar, chef’s counter, and larger dining room. The menu changes daily, but certain dishes have already become imperative. Bing is a puffy pancake that provides a canvas for ingredients like caviar, sea urchin, and spiced lamb. We’d suggest the version involving eggs topped with smoked trout roe, onion soubise, fingerling potato chips, and herb salad. Other fun share plates include tempura battered peppers filled with Benton’s sack sausage, served with buttermilk ranch dipping sauce; and fried butterball potatoes tossed with salsa seca, peanuts, and chiles. For bigger groups, Majordōmo serves boneless chuck short rib braised with Asian pear and daikon that feeds up to four people and comes with rice cake, potato, and melted raclette. Whole plate short rib feeds up to six people and stars smoked bone-in ribs in the style of Chang’s friend Adam Perry Lang, served with beef rice, shiso rice paper, ssamjang, and condiments.

Cachetada and vampiro at Mexicali Taco & Co.

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Mexicali Taco & Co.



Esdras Ochoa represents his Baja border town well on Figueroa after building on the success of their short-lived but red-hot stand on nearby Beaudry. Their restaurant has communal wood tables and a trio of meats: carne asada, chicken and chorizo. Shrimp and pastor also get the occasional spotlight. The Mexicali natives drew inspiration from their childhoods in crafting comforting options like the vampiro, a garlic-blasted quasadilla filled with a choice of grilled meat; or the cachetada, a crunchy tostada topped with meat, molten cheese and a drizzle of spicy chipotle aioli. Nachos are also a hit thanks to the waterfall of yellow cheese and punchy salsa de rajas featuring roasted chile poblano, roasted Roma tomatoes, fresh onion and a “killer vinegar mixture.”  Aguas frescas like the barley drink, cebada, or tart tamarind lime, help to tame the heat.

Loup de Mer with Meunière at Oriel

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Oriel



Hospitality addict Dustin Lancaster and his partners opened this French restaurant below the Gold Line station. The name Oriel is an English architectural term for protrusion encased in glass, which they have upon entry. Pink neon rings the space, which includes a patio, the aforementioned foyer, and a dining room with elbow shaped bar, cushioned banquettes, and exposed wood rafters. Chef Evan Algorri previously cooked at Augustine Wine Bar in Sherman Oaks. For Oriel, he created a tight 16-dish menu, savory and sweet, including crisp-skipped loup de mer with Meunière, pommes puree, and crispy capers. Other classics including escargots swimming in garlic parsley butter, French onion soup with gooey 15-month Comté, and a classic almond tart with sweet cream and citrus.

Tonkotsu ramen at Ramen Champ

 |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Ramen Champ



On elaborate wallpaper, designer Mike Houston playfully depicts characters from “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!,” a veritable Noah’s Ark of animals, and even some Ramen Champ employees. Ramen is fairly traditional, with fresh, local noodles and stocks prepared in steaming cauldrons behind a granite counter. Ramen Champ only has 22 oak bar stools at which to enjoy creamy tonkotsu with springy noodles, slices of slow-cooked chashu, shaved scallions, wood ear mushrooms, a slick of pungent black garlic oil, and a gooey farm egg that’s optional, but should be required. Tonkotsu tan tan is a spicier alternative with the same base broth, thicker noodles, and toppings like komatsuna greens, roasted white sesame, garlic, and chile and "hotmeat sauce" seasoned with Sichuan peppercorns. Fried chicken karaage features a pair of free-range drumsticks that are deep-fried and dipped in made-from-scratch sweet and sour sauce "for extra umami."

Storefront at Scoops Chinatown l Photo: @scoopsbic, Instagram

Scoops Chinatown



Chris Gere, who once scooped for ice cream master Tai Kim, now runs this outpost in Far East Plaza. The space features pastel pink walls decorated with hand-painted ice cream cones, stand-up counters on either side of the door, and some of the most original ice cream creations in the nation. Kim now makes ice cream in Highland Park, and Chinatown denizens benefit with flavors like sweet potato burnt sugar, salty avocado honey and goat cheese basil. Flavors change frequently, but you should usually be able to find a riff on of Kim’s signature brown bread, featuring mascarpone ice cream folded with sugared grape nuts and caramel. Barista Jack Benchakul, flying the Cognoscenti Coffee flag, has proven to be a good ally with his cart, helping to fuel collaborative affogatos and milkshakes while pulling espresso shots and shaking Thai iced coffee.