Chinatown At Night
Chinatown At Night
It’s late. (1:45AM) and two days later and I’m still thinking about how stoked I am for the rapid growth of The Chinatown Region of DTLA. I’ve been one of the most frequent visitors of this area hands down for years. It’s Highly Stretched & Almost Worn Through yet still genuine Chinese Roots have always been something truly different; In a city were sometimes everyone & everything tries so hard to be acceptable, palatable, “LA”. Chinatown stood on its own. And most of the time it never offered much outside of Cheap T-shirts, 10,000 Different Lead Laced Traveler Bags, Air-soft Guns, Knives, and Tasers that didn’t work when the shit hit the fan. But now…things are changing. And fast.
Chinatown is rapidly becoming one of the most Authentic and culturally diverse corridors of the city with new additions that are making it a great place to hang when the Sun or Moon is out.
The tour starts with a walk up the North Bound side of Broadway. All the way up to the Mandarin Plaza (About 970 N Broadway). First of all, in all of the years that I have frequented this region, I have NEVER had the urge to so much as glance inside of this plaza. Up until a 1.5 years ago, shopping plazas like this were filled with nothing but run down purse stores, and Jewelers. Well. If it told you that same bit of wisdom today I would be either lying or in possession of outdated information because this place is now ON THE RISE. And I don’t say that lightly. It is home to the studios of BFGF & Building Block , It’s packed with a few other Chic and Hip Offices of organizations currently unknown; And it’s got two solid restaurants on its Roster with more (secretly) in the works.
There are plenty of spaces (5+) that look like the one above with someone or something cool already moved in and still under wraps or some cool restaurant or shop being built out in secret to launch for few to see until it’s discovered in our (or your) next stop there. It’s all very exciting really.
Walking back down Broadway towards Chinatown’s Central Plaza, and Gin Ling Way a strikingly lit Golden Dragon Restaurant pop’s out at you. It looks Old School and it feels like it’s been there for a while, and deservedly so. I’ve never personally tried the place but the Yelp reviews are solid expect a few. It sounds like a place where you need to know what you want and what they have that’s good before you go there. And yes…that is the Beautiful Letter B that you spy in the nighttime window.
You’ve got to know what you want and what’s not a risk or waste with some of the older establishments.
I’ve now made my way into the Main Plaza (Most Popular) in Chinatown. This area began its transformation first due to it beautiful cultural architecture and properly maintained facades and walkways. Business upstarts begin moving in about 2 years ago and it’s slowly but surely making its way to the stage of Downtown Pop Culture & Nightlife with events like Chinatown Summer Nights and The Beat Swap Meet. There is still a lot of work to do. At least 5 spaces in the square are still either being renovated or lie vacant: Just waiting for a creative entrepreneur to add to the new cultural soup of the area.
And there’s even Unique Shopping at Ooga Booga if you get there by 6PM.
There are some “cute”Chinese Gift Shops that stay open late for you and your date to walk through and there’s plenty of space and benches to sit down and chat before the night’s over to ensure that you guys actually get some real face to face time in. Where else could you accomplish all of that in less that 1000sqft in the Heart Of Downtown? Not in the Historic Core. Not in the Arts District. Maybe in Little Tokyo. I think Oriental Cultures understand the importance of savinge at least some space to stop, sit down and have a civilized conversation with someone after your finished filling your belly. Whatever it is. It works.
This Plaza actually reaches across Hill Street and branches out into another very interesting and kind of beautiful row of Now Public and Private Art Galleries, and Studios. These will be explored in my “Chinatown : Daytime” story. Aside from the galleries you have the “World Famous” Foo Chow Restaurant that was featured in the 90’s Blockbuster Rush Hour. I don’t recommend rushing over though. The restaurant isn’t very good and operates as if being featured in a Hollywood Movie allows a business to continue to provide lackluster food and service without any consequences.
In a nut shell, Chinatown is on a rapid rise towards something pleasantly authentic and different. The businesses opening up here are not your Corporate Grand Openings, Big budget European Imports, or Hipster Fueled Grub Hubs that are popping up all over the Historic Core and other central districts. These places are small, unique, and cleverly marketed in a way that makes you feel like they’re the “New Kids On The Block” because they are. Young, Fresh and possessing a style of their own. Even the OG Spots have a flavor that sets them apart. I mean c’mon it’s Chinatown. It takes something different to be a business here.
Stay tuned for “Chinatown: At Night” Part 2 . I’ll be exploring The Far East Plaza.