Establishment neighborhood
970 N Broadway., Chinatown
Los Angeles’s Chinatown is (no surprise) made up of Hunan, Jiangsu, Cantonese, and Szechuan restaurants. And then there’s Lately. A smallish restaurant tucked in an innocuous strip mall off the main row of restaurants, Lately is a casual California café that serves the best fried green tomato sandwich—of all time. We'd make a traffic-riddled drive across LA for this sandwich. We’re inclined to stop there, but it’s worth noting a few other things about this delightful and unexpected spot: It serves a limited but well-rounded menu of lighter breakfast and lunch fare (a few egg dishes and sandwiches, oat milk lattes, fresh pastries), the prices are crazy good, and Reams and her staff are warm, kind, and incredibly welcoming.
1725 Naud St., Chinatown
The mild pandemonium around David Chang’s first West Coast restaurant is entirely warranted. The food is difficult to describe, not definable by any one region or culture. It’s a mishmash of foreign flavors that many will find unexpected and familiar at the same time. Definitely not a repeat of Chang’s greatest hits—there’s no ramen here. Instead, this is an entirely new menu of shareable dishes that are often prepared tableside. The grilled bings (a type of Chinese flatbread), topped with everything from cultured butter to uni, are something we’ve never seen before. Sausage-stuffed peppers with buttermilk and the short ribs with all their many fixings are reason enough to book a table. Call a few weeks ahead for a table, or if you’re just two, go early and try for a walk-in (then get a cocktail at nearby Apoteke while you wait).
1746 N. Spring St., Chinatown
Apotheke is nearly impossible to find—though not for long, given that David Chang’s Majordomo is next door. It’s on a slip of Spring Street that’s…not quite Chinatown…not quite DTLA. The interior of the bar, with its low rosy lighting, blush banquettes, leather armchairs, and pretty tile, is reminiscent of a French boudoir; that is to say that while so many bars feel inherently masculine, this one skews feminine. The outdoor patio is just as comfortable, with Turkish rugs scattered over the deck, big sofas to sink into, and plenty of space heaters. The beauty of the off-the-grid location is its size: You can sit outside and stargaze, never experiencing the claustrophobia so prevalent in other LA bars. The drinks are more like elixirs spiked with alcohol and divided into “aphrodisiacs,” “health & beauty,” and “painkillers.”
Homegirl Café
130 Bruno St., Chinatown
Over the last few decades, Homeboy Industries has built a small empire in Los Angeles founded on a beautiful ethos and impactful mission: to improve the health and safety of the community through jobs and education, instead of incarceration. At Homegirl Café, a Homeboy enterprise (that also sells baked goods from Homeboy Bakery), young women enter an 18-month training certificate program where they learn about the restaurant industry and urban farming while working with a case manager to address other needs, including GED prep, substance abuse, domestic violence, tattoo removal, and legal services. The restaurant they run is as amazing as the program itself; the farm-to-table breakfast and lunch spot serves up soups, salads, and vegan and gluten-free-friendly iterations of classic Latin American dishes. Their tacos are not to be missed–make sure to try their vegan offering prepared with sautéed hibiscus flower, caramelized onions, avocado, cucumber, serrano peppers, and cilantro. There’s convenient parking behind the café, which is perched on the corner of Alameda and Bruno in Chinatown just north of Union Station. In addition to a full catering business, they also have booths at local farmer’s markets throughout the…
Far East Plaza, 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown
Eddie Huang, star of the Viceland show Huang’s World, just opened his second location of Baohaus (the original is in NYC’s East Village) in the old Pok Pok Phat Thai spot in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza. The menu is a bit more streamlined than its New York counterpart, featuring a selection of steamed buns, taro fries, and sweet bao fries. What sets Baohaus apart from the Taiwanese steamed bun crowd is Huang’s unique flavor combos and the fact that all of the meats are antibiotic and hormone-free, which makes them that much easier to enjoy. Standouts include the Birdhaus bao—a steamed bun filled with tender fried chicken and citrus aioli, and the classic taro fries, which are just perfect and a great break from all of the complex flavors on the menu. Still in their soft opening phase, Baohaus is open from 11am to 4pm, but look for extended hours coming soon.
East/West Vintage
727 N. Broadway, Chinatown
Conveniently set up inside the same Chinatown strip mall as Roy Choi’s Chego, this teeny but beautifully curated vintage store is arguably one of the best in L.A. It’s also the place you want to be when hunting down the perfect pair of vintage Levi’s—the selection here isn’t necessarily vast, but each piece is lovingly chosen, washed, and repaired by the owners themselves to look its best. There are also band t-shirts, army jackets, and a few racks of dresses—all in excellent shape. If pins and patches are your thing, the semi-annual pin-and-patch parties are a totally gold mine.
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