For years now, Angelenos have been pointing hungry diners interested in Chinese cuisine to the San Gabriel Valley rather than Chinatown which, in recent memory, has often been dismissed as a tourist attraction with uninspired cuisine. That perception, however, is changing. As with all things real estate, the boom and bust cycle is coming back around to a boom, and cheap rent coupled with an influx of art galleries has brought the restaurant industry back to the area. Chinatown already has a fascinating history. It appears that it will soon have a wealth of incredible restaurants, as well.
While present-day Chinatown was dedicated by California’s governor and other state and city officials in 1938, Los Angeles has long had a vibrant Chinese population. While the first Chinese Angeleno appears in the historical record in 1852, it was the growth of the railroad industry in the 1860s that brought a large population of Chinese residents to L.A. The city’s first dedicated Chinatown appeared in 1880, but local pressure led to its collapse in the 1910s, and residents strove to relocate, eventually situating themselves in the present-day location in the 1930s.
Today, Chinatown is being revitalized once again. Roy Choi, the famed food-truck restaurateur, has moved Chego to the Far East Plaza, joining a branch of Scoops and Champ Ramen, while other restaurant industry movers and shakers have begun looking into the charming, often fascinating locations available in the area. Restaurants like Pok Pok, The Little Jewel of New Orleans, and Empress Pavilion are bringing diversity and class, while old standbys like Wonder Bakery, Via Cafe, and Thong Lo are bringing in new customers as the area expands. There are even an increasing number of restaurants selling non-Asian cuisine. Mexicali Taco & Co., for example, offers some of the best Baja cuisine in the city. Truly, there’s increasingly no reason to take the trek to San Gabriel Valley. Chinatown is once again coming into its own.