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Day trip: Fun things to do in Los Angeles’ Chinatown

Chinatown Photo by David Ricks

Chinatown, home to the Gateway monument spanning North Broadway in downtown L.A., is back on locals’ radars, thanks in part to an influx of adventurous chefs opening trendy restaurants in once-sleepy shopping plazas.

Awash in pagoda architecture and blazing neon, so-called New Chinatown opened in 1938 to replace the original “Old Chinatown,” which was razed to make way for the construction of Union Station. Here are 8 foodie and other fun reasons to make tracks to this ever-evolving neighborhood.

Angry Egret Dinette

Photo by David Ricks

1. Dig into a divine breakfast burrito or tender steak-and-egg torta at chef Wes Avila’s Angry Egret Dinette. In 2020, Avila departed his much-loved Arts District restaurant Guerrilla Tacos to experiment with creative burrito and sandwich concoctions at this casual setup in the leafy courtyard of Mandarin Plaza. Try the hefty Hey Porky’s burrito, packed with pillowy scrambled eggs, black beans, and melt-in-your-mouth roasted pork shoulder.

Chinatown Central Plaza

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

2. From Angry Egret, it’s a short walk to the colorful Chinatown Central Plaza, where you’ll find souvenir shops, antique stores, and cafés catering to tourists. At Hong Kong Import Company, which deals in quality vases, tea sets, cloissoné wares, and more, browse merch that’s a cut above souvenir T-shirts and plastic back scratchers. And K.G. Louie Company, crammed with everything from dusty antique ceramics to golden Buddha figurines, feels like entering a time warp.

Foo Chow Restaurant

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

3. The boast that Jackie Chan’s RUSH HOUR WAS SHOT HERE, painted on the side of the Foo Chow Restaurant building, may seem like a tourist-trap lure. But rather than rest on its ’90s-action-movie-location cred, Chung King Court’s casual Foo Chow takes pride in dishing up solid Chinese lunch and dinner classics—from mu shu pork to orange chicken—in an old-school dining room decked out with dragon murals and, naturally, photos of Jackie Chan.

Heaven's Market

Photo by David Ricks

4. At Chung King Court, toss coins into the plaza’s Chinese wishing well, but not too many. You’ll need ’em for Chung King Road, an adjacent pedestrian alleyway lined with contemporary art galleries and shops. Opened in 2021, friendly Heaven’s Market sells bottles of natural wines that make for a sweet nightcap once you return home. (Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.)

Syndicate Los Angeles

Photo by Eric Van Eyke

5. Late 2021 saw the neighborhood welcome its first high-end sneaker boutique, Syndicate Los Angeles. Lack the scratch for a pair of $1,000 limited-edition Air Jordans? The store sells its own line of logo apparel you won’t need LeBron James’ bankroll to afford.

Los Angeles State Historic Park

Photo by David Ricks

6. Escape the city bustle for a spell and hoof it to Los Angeles State Historic Park, a short walk from Chinatown Central Plaza. Strolling the 32 acres of vast lawns and rolling hills, pick your sweet spot, plop down, and soak in views of the downtown L.A. skyline—best enjoyed with an Oreo milkshake from the park’s Cargo Snack Shack.

Howlin Rays

Photo by David Ricks

7. For dinner, head to the Far East Plaza food court mall, the heart of a new downtown dining scene. Best known is Howlin’ Ray’s, serving the spicy chicken sandwich of the gods (pictured) to long lines of devotees since 2015. Steps away, chef Alvin Cailan quietly debuted his part butcher shop, part burger joint Amboy Quality Meats & Delicious Burgers during the 2020 peak of the pandemic. Try the juicy Classic Double (a riff on the In-N-Out Double-Double), or the even better Picanté burger with pickled peppers, spicy mayo, and gooey provolone.

Lasita

Photo by David Ricks

8. For a proper sit-down supper, grab a table at the Far East Plaza’s Lasita, a Filipino rotisserie chicken spot with a modern, mellow, hipster vibe. Succulent chicken inasal headlines the menu, but don’t overlook the phenomenal pork belly lechón. Sure, you’ll pay north of $60 for a bottle of pinot noir, but as the classic film noir quote goes, “Forget about it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

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AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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