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, not surprising - an 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, a 100+ year old restaurant located on the edge of Chinatown.
Ever had a French Dip sandwich? If so, you can thank Philippe's in Los Angeles, which lays claim it's creation.
Cash only. 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 car there all day (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. Very different than, say, San Francisco or New York's Chinatowns.
Los Angeles' 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, built and financed by Chinese American investors, was designed to attract tourists and visitors. Apparently, they took a cue from nearby Olvera Street, which opened in 1930. Here's' a link of Chinatown from a previous visit a few years back.
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. Here's a post on a visit to Monterey Park in Los Angeles County's San Gabriel Valley.
Long before there was Epcot at Disney World, 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 or Farmer's Market in the Fairfax District has experienced?
Is it possible to stay true to the original vision - while connecting to the next generation? Of both Chinese-Americans and non-Chinese?
As a Christian, I've often thought about that question of "staying true to the original vision - while connecting to the next generation" - in terms of religious faith, and specifically Christianity.
I believe it is possible to stay true to the central message of Jesus Christ and to connect it to the next generation. For me, this was pretty easy when my kids were younger. A bit more of a challenge now that they're in High School and off to college.
For those who would identify as followers of Christ, staying true to the original vision - while connecting to the next generation is a ongoing challenge. To remain true to the historical message, and live it out it in a clear and compelling way to those inside and outside of Christianity.
I love walking around Chinatown's Central Plaza. But to survive, these stores need more than people like me walking around. They aren't museums. They need to remain viable to the next generation. Perhaps they are. Awesome. I'd add, I've only been here during the day, I have no idea what this area is like in the evenings.
I appreciate what Rick Warren, the pastor and author who was invited to be pray at President Obama's 2008 inauguration, once shared: "as Christians, it's not our job to try and make Christianity relevant. Instead, we need to simply show how relevant it already is."
Still in Chinatown, I stopped by Hop Louie, with it's historic five story pagoda facade. It 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 of reopening - and connecting it to the next generation.
A final view of the Central Plaza. I wonder what this might look like with, say, outdoor seating and dining. The weather is one of the best things Los Angeles has going for it. Why not take advantage of it?
Meanwhile, I had some time to explore a bit more of Chinatown along North Broadway. More next time.