Some of my Favorite Los Angeles AAPI-Owned Businesses

About a month ago I stared working on a blog post called “A Perfect Day in Chinatown,” filled with recommendations of things to do, eat, drink and buy in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Los Angeles. This post was in reaction to the way the pandemic had affected this vibrant community, but in light of the larger conversation about AAPI racism in our country, I’m expanding this beyond just Chinatown. I’ve been reading more about what we can do as AAPI allies, and something that keeps coming up is support small businesses, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.

I grew up in a city extremely lacking in diversity (other than the wonderful Mexican community I had the privilege to grow up around,) and when I moved to Los Angeles my mind was blown by the extreme and wonderful melting pot that it is. There is SO much culture here – and when I say culture I don’t mean museums and fancy restaurants, I mean the manifestation of so many communities from so many different places. I don’t have enough words today to express how much my lens of the world has expanded just from being in my own city, but for today I would like to share some of my favorite Asian-Owned businesses, Chinatown and beyond.

I’d also like to note that my original post featured businesses in Chinatown that were not Chinese owned, and while I love Wax Paper and Howlin’ Rays, it is not lost on me that supporting these white-owned businesses in an Asian neighborhood is it’s own form of subconscious racism and white gentrification that I have contributed to, and something that I am working to be more conscious of. So for my first post of Los Angeles Recommendations, here are some of my favorite AAPI owned businesses in town, and resources to find more.

Chinatown Small Businesses

Before I give you my recommendations, the CCED (Chinatown Community for Equitable Development) has already made some incredible resources of small businesses I’d like to share:

Both of these are incredibly helpful and filled with GEMS.

EAT

Some of my favorite Asian-owned Los Angeles Restaurants

  • Woon Kitchen (Historic Filipinotown)
    • The ultimate Chinese comfort food, Woon started as a pop-up to share the owner’s mother’s recipes. The brick and mortar is adorable, the food hits the spot every time, and they have a really fun wine and dessert selection too.
  • Mason’s Dumpling Shop (Highland Park)
    • This Chinese dumpling spot is owned by a husband and wife duo who named the place after their son. The dumplings are all handmade from scratch and honor their Mandarin heritage. Delicious for takeout.
  • Pa Ord (Thai Town)
    • My favorite pad see ew and drunken noodles, this place is the perfect Thai takeout.
  • China Cafe at Grand Central Market (Downtown)
    • Known for their Won Ton soup and one of the few remaining OG spots (since 1959!) in the highly gentrified Grand Central Market, Ben introduced me to this charming countertop years ago. Grab a beer and a bowl of soup and enjoy.
  • Kura Sushi (Little Tokyo)
    • Make this revolving sushi bar one of your first stops as soon as indoor dining returns, because the experience is a delight. The sushi is delicious and low-priced, and having tiny little plates brought to you on a revolving conveyor belt and toys shooting out to your spot is not to be missed.
  • The Pine & Crane Restaurant Fam
    • This trio of Taiwanese restaurants founded by female duo Moonlynn Tsai and Vivian Ku are some of my most go-to meals in the city. Their scallion pancakes, dan dan noodles and mapu tofu are a constant presence on our table, and we actually just tried their delicious new breakfast pop-up last month!
  • Night + Market Song (Silverlake)
    • This hot pink, elbow to elbow gem focuses on “Thai Drinking Food,” and is pretty generally considered one of the best spots in town with good reason. My go-to order is the crispy rice salad, garlic green beans, pad see ew Gai and a bottle of natural bubbles (great wine menu!)
  • Jitlada (Thai Town/East Hollywood)
    • A Los Angeles institution, this strip mall Thai spot is notorious for being a favorite from celebrities to spicy food connoisseurs. Currently open for takeout, but when things return, the walls cluttered with twinkle lights and original Matt Groening doodles on placemats creates a specifically fun ambiance.
  • Dumplings from Myung In or Myoung Dong (Koreatown)
    • If you’re looking for authentic Korean dumplings and dumpling soup, look no further than these two hole-in-the-walls in K-Town.
  • Pailin Thai (Thai Town)
    • Right up the street from one of our apartments, this small Thai restaurant has my favorite Khao Soi soup!
  • Konbi (Echo Park)
    • It’s easy to miss this tiny window service spot on Sunset in Echo Park but not easy to forget their Japanese style sandwiches, small plates and pastries. (*Note – ownership is joint with AAPI and white Chefs)
  • Silverlake Ramen (Silverlake)
    • If you live in LA, I have to assume you’ve already heard about or eaten at Silverlake ramen, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include this, one of my favorite restaurants of all time.
  • Korean BBQ
    • Another dining experience I can’t wait for post-Covid is cramming into a crowded booth with a bunch of friends and pints of Sapporo, shouting at each other over the grill as we barbecue brisket is Korean BBQ. Here are a few of my favorite spots:
  • California Donuts (K-Town/Rampart Village)
    • Owned and operated by a Cambodian refugee, this shop has the most fun and, dare I say it – instagrammable donuts in town. Confectionary creations abound – purple frosted donuts topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, tiny custard filled pandas with Oreo ears, jelly donuts turned into unicorns. This is the perfect place to snag a birthday box.

SHOP

  • Kinokuniya (Little Tokyo)
    • I have an obsession with paper goods, pens, and stationary, and Kinokuniya is one of my favorite places in the entire city. Along with an incredible selection of art supplies, the store specializes in Japanese books and magazines, manga, cookbooks and more. This is one of the best places to shop for gifts
  • Wing Hop Fung (Monterey Park)
    • A quick trip over to Monterey Park can feel like transporting you to an entirely different city. The language on the buildings and billboards transitions from English to Chinese, and here you can find incredible restaurants and stores, one of my favorites being Wing Hop Fung, an “Asian Specialty Store.” I usually go to stock up on teas and sheet masks, but here you can find any number of amazing items.
  • Bunkado (Little Tokyo)
    • Since 1945 (!) this Gift Shop has had curated goods from Japan. Accessories, cookbooks, paper goods, and don’t even get me started on the home goods! (First person to buy me this mischievous cat coin bank wins all my love.)
  • Paper Please (Chinatown)
    • Another stop for stationary is adorable female-owned shop tucked in Chinatown with all thee cutest things for paper lovers.
      • While you’re there, get a boost courtesy of Thank You Coffee is a pop-up coffee shop within Paper Please that started during the pandemic to get good coffee to frontline workers and now sells out of the shop to have a shared brick-and-mortar
  • Fugetsu-Do (Little Tokyo)
    • This Japanese family-owned sweet shop has been in Little Tokyo since 1903! They specialize in mochi and manju, and have a wide selection of the prettiest confections – perfect for treating yourself or as gifts!
  • A Good Used Book (Online/Pickup in Koreatown)
  • Chunky Paper (Chinatown)
    • Specializing in Red Envelopes, this shop even makes custom ones!
  • Kinn Jewelry (Online)
    • Kinn Jewelry is Female-owned by Korean immigrant Jennnie Yoo. The brand focuses on “modern heirlooms,” putting it in a higher price range, but if you’re looking to treat yourself to a piece you’ll have forever (I’m eyeing their lockets) check them out.
  • Now Serving (Chinatown)
    • This cookbook and culinary shop is a dream for foodies and home chefs.

There are so many incredible AAPI owned businesses in Los Angeles, and this list barely scratches the surface, but these are some of my favorite meals and shops in town. Please support this community with your actions and your dollars, and feel free to send me your favorites that I should try!

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