Chinese New Year in Los Angeles
A day of fun in Chinatown, Los Angeles. We've made the trek for the last 3 years for a restaurant lunch, the dragon parade, and some shopping.
Early Bird Gets Parking Space
Getting there early pays off. We don't even bother looking for street parking on parade day, but we try to arrive at Chinatown before 11am. After that the police start blocking off the streets in preparation for the parade (which usually starts at 2 pm), forcing people to park much farther away. The lots fill up, and prices also seem to get more expensive the later it gets. Arriving earlier allows us to park at a nice outdoor lot on New High Street, adjacent to our lunch spot and the Far East supermarket. Since I stock up on groceries which are quite heavy (bags of rice, etc.), nearby parking means we can drop stuff off in the car and continue without lugging it around.
Our preferred spot to watch the parade is on the east side of Broadway, somewhere between Alpine and Ord Streets. The kids have always been able to find a spot up in the front here.
Photolog - Chinese New Year in LA
Lunch at Won Kok Restaurant
Won Kok is kind of a dive, where you have to overlook the melamine dishes, sticky vinyl seats, and tacky-bad decor that hasn't changed since who knows when. I think the place has only two waiters, in all the years I've been going there, those are the only two guys I've ever seen. So service is not exactly guaranteed if it's really crowded, and that is often.
The reason to go there is enormous amounts of food for unbelievable prices! I've been expecting price increases (all the other restaurants have done it) over the last two years as the economy has tanked, but no way - the chow mein is still only $5.25! Beef chow fun, still only $5.75, how do they stay in business with deals like that! And they haven't cut back on their portions or the amount or quality of meat in the dishes. Our doggy bag containers of leftovers were still enough for 2-3 more servings for each dish. It puts Panda Express 3-item combo to shame!
Won Kok also has a dim sum counter, where bao, har gow and various sweet buns and pastries can be ordered. This place has the best hom sui gok ever, as good as my mom used to make. Even Ocean Seafood which has a tonier reputation doesn't have hom sui gok like this.
Won Kok Restaurant and Carry out: 210 Alpine St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Other favorite shopping spots:
Wing Hop Fung at 727 N Broadway: A grocery/tea/herb shop combo. Right near the Ocean Seafood Plaza, they make you check your bags before entry. Go upstairs for lots of treats, cookies, biscuits, candies, tea supplies and tea sets; downstairs for dried products, herbs. Good for gift sets for New Years and other times. This is the place to get Bird Pick Teas. I got a bunch of moon cakes here as gifts during Moon Festival time. Key buys: Hello Panda cookies in large pack, fortune cookies.
Sam Woo BBQ at 803 N Broadway: For Chinese-style BBQ and roast meats. There are several locations throughout the area. Key buys: char-siu (BBQ pork), roast duck.
Far East Supermarket at 758 New High St: Next to Won Kok, all-around grocery store for produce, canned goods, sauces, rice, noodles, fresh fish and meat. Kids enjoy watching the tanks of live fish and crustaceans. Great prices on most items, better than you find out in the 'burbs or even Ranch 99**. Key buys: fresh fish, soy and chili sauces, Asian vegetables, sweet rice and rice flour, Asian spices and ingredients.
Wing Wa Hing at 811 N Broadway: Chinese gift shop with decorative items, feng-shui items, crystals, good luck charms, bamboo plants, and other knick knacks. Fun for the kids to browse here, but stuff is breakable, so careful. Key buys: red envelopes, curly bamboo plants.
Saigon Plaza, Chinatown Plaza and Dynasty Center at 800 N Broadway: Try to imagine this as an indoor swap meet where you can find some of the cheapest import items. The outdoor section reminds me of the narrow alleys in Hong Kong with all the stands. Bring cash and bargain with the sales people for cheap toys, clothing, pirated CDs and DVDs, handbags, etc.
**Ranch 99 = Asian/Chinese chain supermarket in the San Fernando Valley and other locations.
Link to My Other Chinese New Year Hubs
Getting out of Chinatown and downtown L.A. is a challenge on the best of days. Getting out on Chinese New Year is an exercise in waiting. Which is why we eat and shop, shop, shop, giving everyone else time to clear out. I bring a big cooler in the car with ice to store the perishables: fresh fish, roast duck, dim sum, and restaurant doggy bags so we can take our time even on a hot day. The long slow trip home in traffic will be less painful when we've got yummy snacks to munch on. Until next year...
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