Greater Los Angeles is home to the second largest Chinese American community in the United States. While New York a larger total number, Los Angeles' Chinese American community is a actually higher percentage of the total population.
The historic heart of L.A. Chinese American community is Chinatown, located on the northern edge of Downtown Los Angeles.
I was back in the area this time last year. First stop, Philippe's Original French Dip, located on the edge of Chinatown.
Philippe's claim to fame is the original creation of the French Dip sandwich. The restaurant itself is a 100+ year old institution.
Coffee was only 46 cents. And there's free parking, never a given in Los Angeles, around back.
Worth a visit. Here's a post with some thoughts from a previous visit.
While there was free parking at Philippe's - you can't just leave your park there (they check).
I parked my car about an mile away, just north of Chinatown. If you're willing to walk a few blocks, there's actually plenty of cheap street parking on North Broadway. This is the edge of Downtown Los Angeles, and it felt - like much of Los Angeles - very suburban.
Ficus trees, and in the distance, some of the first buildings of Chinatown.
Chinatown is a mix of the old and the new. Far East National Bank, on the left, next to some traditional looking buildings.
In the past, this area was referred to as "New Chinatown." Los Angeles' original Chinatown was located where Union Station is now. When Union Station was built in the late 1930's, Chinatown was forced to relocate a mile or so north to it's current location.
The Central Plaza, featuring distinctive Chinese architecture, was designed to attract tourists and visitors. Apparently, they took a cue from nearby Olvera Street, which opened in 1930.
Over the years, it's really worked. Growing up in Los Angeles, I enjoyed taking a field trip here when I was in elementary school (do kids still get to take field trips?).
"New" Chinatown has been around for 80 years. I guess it's hard to refer to it as "new" anymore. If anything, "new" Chinatown is Monterey Park. More on that later.
Long before there was Epcot, Chinatown was packing in crowds of locals and tourists. It was fairly quiet the Saturday I visited the Central Plaza area.
LOVE the charm of this part of downtown, but wonder what it would take to really breath new life here, in the same way that, say, Grand Central Market has. Is it possible to stay true to the original vision - while connecting to the next generation?
Hop Louie, with it's historic five story pagoda facade, was closed when I visited in November 2017. According this article in Los Angeles Magazine, plans are to reopen it sometime in the near future. I hope so. It's a pretty remarkable building. No idea where they're at in the process.
I like the look and feel of this building, which looks a bit like the Forbidden City in Beijing.
But I wasn't really looking for Chinese tchotchkes. Is the market for Chinese-Americans? Or non Chinese visitors like myself?
Another view of the Central Plaza.
Thinking about that question of "staying true to the original vision - while connecting to the next generation," as a Christian I'm constantly asking this question. Is it possible to stay true to the central message of Jesus Christ? AND connecting it to the next generation? Or, am I staying true to the central message of Jesus Christ, and am I connecting it to the next generation - including my own kids?
With all due respect, those who have opted to change the central message aren't getting it right. Nor is refusing to make the effort to connect it to the next generation.
Meanwhile, I had some time to explore a bit more of Chinatown. More next time.
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