Global Cities: Los Angeles

Global Cities: Los Angeles

Few cities epitomise multiculturalism better than Los Angeles. The city is home to one of the most diverse array of immigrant populations in the world. From its Spanish roots, the city emerged as a major attraction to various immigrants from across the world in the 20th Century, something which is evident today. The city is filled with neighbourhoods, which reflect the diasporas which inhabit them such as Koreatown, Little Armenia and Thai Town, whilst fostering an inclusive atmosphere.

Koreatown

Los Angeles’ Korean population, at the time of its last census in 2008 numbered at over 120,000. The city boasts the largest Korean diaspora in the world, most of which is entered on the eponymous Central Los Angeles neighbourhood Koreatown. The Korean community of Los Angeles is one of the most significant immigrant populations in the city and has contributed significantly to its cuisine, culture and economy.

History

Korean immigration to the United States began at the end of the 19th Century following the United States-Korea Treaty of 1882. This brought centuries of Korean isolationism to a close and saw waves of Korean immigration to the United States, particularly Hawaii due to its relative proximity. A significant Korean population remains in the state’s capital Honolulu. However, immigration continued into the United States, principally Los Angeles, as one of the major urban hubs on the West Coast. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Korean communities began to pop up around the city, mainly centered in the Downtown neighbourhood of Bunker Hill. These communities developed and grew until the Immigration Act of 1924 put a halt to further immigration by barring “undesirable” immigrant populations from the “Asia-Pacific Triangle”, which included Koreans. While the population remained stagnant over the next few decades due to these immigration restrictions, it nonetheless continued to develop and move around, settling in the Downtown area near the University of Southern California, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Old Koreatown’.

A renewed surge of Korean immigration occurred in the 1950’s following the Korean War. This proved to be significant turning point in the history of the Korean diaspora. Following an ideological conflict, which saw Korea split into two separate nations-one Communist and the other capitalist-the United States established close bonds with the latter, South Korea. Indeed, the United States military played a major role in the conflict. The conflict caused a significant population displacement amongst Koreans. Thousands of refugees were in need of new homes, as were war brides of American servicemen and many orphaned children. The close ties between the US and South Korea facilitated easy immigration to the former country from the latter. Subsequently, Korean immigration to the US increased throughout the decade. Over the course of the 1960’s, the Korean population in the United States tripled from 11,200 to 38,700. These Korean settlers were heavily centred in Los Angeles, in part due to the pre-existing communities there. The population spread out throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs, prompted somewhat by the 1965 Watts Riots. However, a large Korean community began to develop around Olympic Boulevard, in the area which is now known as Koreatown.

This neighbourhood was known for its glamorous history with several prominent Art Deco buildings such as the Ambassador Hotel and the Wiltern Theatre. It boasted a small Korean community, who were shunted into the smaller, low-income parts of the neighbourhood. A major economic downturn at the end of the 1960’s saw the area’s celebrity-associated glamour decline and a vacuum open up. These grandiose, empty buildings’ value declined massively and were quickly bought up by the wealthier Korean entrepreneurs and businessmen. This saw the Koreatown neighbourhood rapidly develop into what it is today. Over the course of the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Korean population grew significantly in this area as Korean-owned businesses expanded and grew increasingly popular. The area assumed a distinctly Korean identity as restaurants, community and media organisations all began to crop up. The burgeoning Korean community quickly cemented itself as the world’s foremost ‘Koreatown’, its first sign commemorating this being installed in 1982. This gave the community a sense of officialness, which allowed it to flourish.

A dark chapter in the history of the Korean community occurred during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, the culmination of rising racial tensions triggered by the Rodney King case. Many Korean businesses were badly hit during this time. One Korean American was killed while 2000 Korean businesses were affected by the destruction. This event prompted a mixed response. There was an effort at solidarity with a number of community and political organisations such as the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance being established to fight racial oppression against the community. Despite this, divisions within the community became clear between the more progressive, liberal Korean Americans who advocated inclusion and an end to oppression and the more conservative wing who emphasised their differences to other minorities. The ultimate result was the dispersion of the Korean community. While a significant base remains in Koreatown, the Korean diaspora has expanded throughout the region. Some have resettled as far as the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California while others have gone closer, mainly in Orange County as well as Inland Empire areas such as Riverside.

The area still retains its distinct Korean identity today even if the population has shrunk. Indeed, the area’s population is comprised of a majority Latino population. The majority of the businesses and restaurants remain Korean. It has fostered a cultural closeness between the two populations within the area, with fusion cuisine emerging in recent years. A number of major Korean companies have their American offices in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, signifying the area’s importance to the Korean American community.

Restaurants

Korean food is a notably distinct type of cuisine, with an emphasis on simple preparation. Major ingredients are meats, rice and the near-ubiquitous pickled vegetable of kimchi. It is a multi-faceted cuisine with a variety of different sub-categories and specialisations. The sheer size of the Korean community in Los Angeles has seen a wealth of amazing Korean eateries open up throughout the city, mainly entered in Koreatown but dotted throughout the urban sprawl. These range from bimbimbap to Korean Barbecue to more experimental fusion restaurants. Here are five of the best to check out.

  1. Jun Won Restaurant

Address: 4191, 414 S Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Opening Hours: 11am-2.45pm, 5.30pm-8.45pm

Having recently reopened in a new location, Jun Won is considered to be the pre-eminent Korean seafood restaurant in Los Angeles. Initially opened in 1994, the restaurant has been one of the area’s culinary cornerstones, known for its hearty portions, fresh ingredients and expert, well-honed cooking.

  1. Mapo Kkak Doo Gee

Address: 3611 W 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Opening Hours: 10.30am-9pm (Closed Sundays)

Los Angeles is well-known for its plethora of unassuming neighbourhood restaurants, which at first glance seem like innocuous places, often blending into backgrounds such as strip malls but in actuality conceal some of the finest food one can find. Mapo Kkak is one of these places. No-frills but as authentically Korean as one can get There are a diverse range of dishes reflecting the rich variety on offer with Korean cuisine.

  1. Park’s Barbecue

Address: 955 S Vermont Avenue

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Sunday-Thursday), 11am-12pm (Friday-Saturday)

Los Angeles, and especially Koreatown, has no shortage of Korean BBQ joints, but if there was one place to visit over anywhere else, it would be Park’s. Known for its immense menu and high-quality meats, Park’s is a cut above the stiff competition. For those looking to experience Korean BBQ for the first time, Park’s is the place to go.

  1. Seong Buk Dong

Address: 3303 W 6th Street 90020

Opening Hours: 9am-12am

Another low-key destination, Seong Buk Dong is one of Koreatown’s finest hidden gems. Known for its top-notch bimbimbap, the restaurant has a varied menu with a focus on more traditonal, tried-and-tested dishes. It is named for a neighbourhood in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul.

  1. Kogi Taqueria

Address: 3500 Overland Avenue #100 90034

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Tuesday-Saturday), 11am-9pm (Sunday), Closed (Monday)

Staunch traditionalists may turn up their noses at celebrity chef Roy Choi’s venture, but perhaps no place is a better reflection of the multiculturalism of Los Angeles than here. Kogi Taqueria is the most iconic Korean-Mexican fusion establishment in town. The casual food is sublime and reflects the closeness between Korean and Latino communities within Los Angeles and the subsequent cultural exchange.

Things To Do
  1. The Wiltern
    Poppy at The Wiltern, Justin Higuchi, Flickr Creative Commons

    Poppy at The Wiltern, Justin Higuchi, Flickr Creative Commons

One of Koreatown’s most iconic sites, The Wiltern Theatre is one of Los Angeles’ most impressive Art Deco buildings (of which there are many. Known for its distinct turquoise exterior, it is a hugely impressive site for architectural aficionados. Dating back to 1931, the building is a relic of the neighbourhood prior to the arrival of Korean settlers. It is also one of the city’s premier cultural institutions, with several famous musicians having played there.

  1. Korean American National Museum

So significant is Los Angeles’ Korean community that the city is home to the Korean American National Museum. Established just prior to the riots in 1991, it is the only museum in the country dedicated to the documentation of the history and culture of the Korean diaspora in the United States.

  1. Chapman Market

A historic building encompassing 50,000 square feet of space. The building dates back to 1928 and is known for its distinct Spanish Revival design, making it a unique oddity within the city. Currently, it plays host to a number of hotels and restaurants.

  1. Shatto 39 Lanes

A cultural institution within Koreatown, Shatto 39 Lanes is a bowling alley, bar and arcade, which locals and visitors flock to in the evenings. Known for its cheap prices and throwback atmosphere, Shatto’s is a place with enormous appeal.

  1. Karaoke

One of the most popular social activities in South Korea is karaoke or ‘noraebang’. A highly popular activity, Karaoke venues consist of sound-proof rooms, an interactive video system and microphones. Koreatown is full of different venues offering this activity, with Pharoah Karaoke and Star Karaoke ranking amongst the best. A quintessentially Korean experience.

Tehrangeles

Los Angeles is home to the largest Iranian diaspora in the world, with estimates varying between 500,000 and 1.5 million. It is the clear hub of the Persian expatriate community with Iranians of all different religions and backgrounds co-existing peacefully. The community

History

Iranian emigration to the United States can be traced back several centuries. The first recorded Iranian immigrant to the United States, a tobacco farmer, arrived in the mid-17th Century. Despite this, Iranian emigration to the United States did not begin in earnest until the 20th Century. Prior to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, several Iranians emigrated to the United States enticed by the opportunities at universities. The Iranian Revolution was a significant turning point in the history of the Iranian diaspora. Many Iranians who lived abroad decided not to return due to the oppressive Islamic regime while many more Iranians fled following its rise to power.

Los Angeles quickly emerged as a major centre for Iranian emigration. There are a number of reasons for this. Political scientist Reza Aslan observed that on a superficial level, the environment, climate and culture reminded immigrants of their homeland. While there are accounts of Iranian immigrants settling in Los Angeles prior to the Revolution of 1979, this proved to be a catalysing event in the rapid increase of Iranian settlers.

The Iranian expatriate community initially settled in the affluent areas of Westwood and Beverly Hills, both of which remain significant population hubs today. Indeed, the population is such a significant part of this region of Los Angeles that the district of ‘Tehrangeles’ has emerged. Otherwise known as Little Persia, the district has been an officially recognised neighbourhood in Los Angeles for just over five years, but its importance to the city’s Iranian community has been evident for decades. There are a wealth of top-tier Persian restaurants, supermarkets and other cultural sites in this area, which is very much the bastion of the Iranian-American community.

Despite the centrality of Tehrangeles to the Iranian population in Southern California, it has since spread throughout the region. Major epicentres include Orange County, Irvine, the San Fernando Valley and Inland Empire counties such as Riverside. The Iranian diaspora is one of the most significant foreign communities in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, playing a vital role in the city’s global community.

The Iranian diaspora in Los Angeles contains a variety of sub-categories. Iranian Armenians are particularly prominent within the city but perhaps the most notable category of Iranian emigres to Los Angeles are Iranian Jews. Due to Iran being taken over by an Islamic Republic after the Revolution, Jewish emigration increased significantly. While the majority of Persian Jews currently live in Israel, a significant amount emigrated to the United States, specifically Los Angeles due to its flourishing Jewish and Iranian communities. Iranian Jews have played a major role in the city’s economic and cultural life. Recently, Iranian Jew Jimmy Delshad was elected the Mayor of Beverly Hills on two separate occasions.

Top Five Restaurants

Persian cuisine shares many of the same principles as nearby Levantine and Turkish cuisines albeit with its own distinct character. Persian dishes are often based around meat dishes with accompaniments of rice and vegetables. It is known for its time-consuming, pain-staking recipes, many of which are often closely-guarded family secrets. Persian desserts are also very well-known. Los Angeles is home to some of the finest Persian restaurants outside of Iran, which reflect the cuisine’s diversity and traditions.

  1. Shaherzad

Address: 1422 Westwood Blvd, 90024

Opening Hours: 11.30am-11pm (Monday-Sunday)

The best gateway Persian restaurant in town for newcomers to the cuisine, Shaherzad has a casual and friendly atmosphere. The restaurant offers a range of authentic Persian dishes including kebab and stews amongst many others. Known for its hearty portions and reasonable prices, there are few better places in town to experience Persian cooking. Another reason to go is the Tochal Market right next door, which is one of the finest places in town to get Persian ingredients and delicacies for home cooking.

  1. Taste of Tehran

Address: 1915 Westwood Blvd, 90025

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm (Monday-Sunday)

Another Tehrangeles institution, Taste of Tehran is a small, no-frills Persian restaurant with what is arguably the best kebab in town. Recently renovated, its modern design contrasts with its utterly delicious traditional food. Known for its very reasonable prices, Taste of Tehran is without a doubt one of the finest Persian restaurants in LA.

  1. Attari Sandwich Shop

Address: 1388 Westwood Blvd, 90024

Opening Hours: 11am-10pm (Tuesday-Friday) 8 am-10pm (Saturday-Sunday)

One of the more unique Persian restaurants in Tehrangeles, Attari Sandwich Shop is, as its name suggests, a premier sandwiching destination in LA. One of the finest sandwich shops in town, Attari Sandwich Shop is a refreshing change from standard Persian dishes. Particularly popular are the mortadella and tongue sandwiches, but it is pretty hard to go wrong here with so many great options.

  1. Flame Persian Cuisine

Address: 1442 Westwood Blvd, 90024

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Monday-Sunday)

One of the finest Persian restaurants in Los Angeles, Flame is known for its refined, traditional atmosphere. The decor, which harkens back to Persia’s illustrious past, is matched by its emphasis on traditional Persian cuisine. The menu includes such staples as kebab and tadig.

  1. Shamshiri
    Persian-Style Rice, Shamshiri, Ron Dolette, Flickr Creative Commons

    Persian-Style Rice, Shamshiri, Ron Dolette, Flickr Creative Commons

    Address: 1712 Westwood Blvd, 90024

One of the most popular Persian restaurants in Tehrangeles, Shamshiri is known for its more sophisticated, high-end atmosphere as well as its extensive and mouth-watering menu. Shamshiri offers a diverse range of Persian dishes made to the highest quality. A perfect place for gatherings and an even better place to experience the finest Persian food in Los Angeles.

 

 

Jewish Los Angeles

Few immigrant populations are as deeply embedded within the social fabric of Los Angeles as those of Jewish descent. The Jewish population of Los Angeles is diverse and vast, numbering at 662,450, the fifth highest of any city in the world. The Jewish population plays a major role in the city’s historical and cultural identity.

History

Jewish emigration to Los Angeles can be traced back to as early as the mid-19th Century. Jacob Frankfort bears the distinction as being the first Jew to arrive in Los Angeles, doing so in 1841. The Jewish population rose slowly and steadily thereafter. Less than a decade later in 1850, Morris L. Goldman was elected as the city’s first Jewish councilman, marking the beginning of a long-time tradition of Jewish politicians in Los Angeles. The first religious service was conducted in 1854. As the population slowly grew, a number of organisations and communities were established.

In the early 20th Century, Joseph Newmark established the Hebrew Benevolent Society, which sought to create a sense of solidarity amongst the burgeoning population. The Jewish population remained fairly stagnant until a major boom in the 1920’s as Los Angeles gradually emerged as a major economic hub on the West Coast of the United States. With businesses in a number of different areas thriving such as the entertainment industry and the oil industry. At this point, the Jewish population had no major centre or district. However, following the massive influx of Jewish immigrants, Boyle Heights emerged as the heart of the city’s Jewish community, containing the largest population west of Chicago. Boyle Heights’ Jewish grew to nearly 80,000 people as schools, synagogues and community centres emerged. This growth was curtailed in 1924 upon the inaction of the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, which saw efforts to curb ‘undesirable’ immigration. This saw the number of Eastern European Jews fall significantly. Despite this, many Jews who had already settled elsewhere in the United States began to migrate towards Los Angeles due to its burgeoning Jewish community.

The Jewish population grew significantly in the aftermath of the Second World War. Following the major population displacement caused by the Holocaust, Jewish immigration to the United States increased massively. Los Angeles, as one of the major Jewish hubs in the country, saw its Jewish population increase by extension. By the end of the 1950’s, 400,000 Jews lived in Los Angeles, encompassing 20% of the city’s total population. As the population grew, it spread out from its roots in East Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights.

Boyle Heights’ Jewish identity began to decline thereafter and it became a major hub of the Latin American communtiy. However, signs of its Jewish past do remain intact and the area is home to two major Jewish cemeteries-Mount Zion and Home of Peace. Several famous Jews are buried there including the eponymous founders of major film studio Warner Bros.

In the latter half of the 20th Century, the Jewish population of Los Angeles continued to grow and flourish, settling throughout the city. The Jewish population of the city is incredibly diverse. Orthodox Jews settled around the affluent neighbourhood of Hancock Park in Central Los Angeles while other major Jewish communities emerged in areas such as Beverly Hills and Westwood, which are home to a large Iranian Jewish population. The San Fernando Valley is another major epicentre of the Jewish community in Los Angeles.

There are around 120 synagogues throughout Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, illustrating the prevalence of the Jewish population. The most notable of these is the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, built in 1928. The temple is among get to the largest in Los Angeles and is known for the many celebrity members of its congregation. The building is known for its Byzantine-Revival architectural design, which gives it an almost regal appearance.

In a cultural sense, the Jewish contribution is evident in Los Angeles in a wealth of different industries. The wealth of restaurants and delicatessens throughout the city are evidence of the Jewish population’s importance to the city’s cultural identity. Jews from Los Angeles have been hugely successful in a number of different fields such as the entertainment industry, local politics and industry. The Jewish LA story is one of the greatest immigration tales in history.

Top Five Restaurants

Jewish cuisine is notably versatile and difficult to define. It varies throughout the world. However, a few common strands between Jewish foods remain. Notably, the Kosher diet is observed by most strict Jews. This forbids foods such as shellfish and pork while animals must be slaughtered in a particular ritualistic fashion. Jewish American food takes inspiration from the dietary traditions of Eastern European Jewish immigrants who arrived in the country at the beginning of the 20th Century. Notable staples include matzah ball soup, challah bread, kishke sausage and most notably corned beef and pastrami sandwiches. The best places to find these are at delicatessens. Los Angeles, with one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, is a premier destination for Jewish American food.

  1. Canter’s Deli

Address: 419 N Fairfax Ave 90036

Opening Hours: 24/7

One of Los Angeles’ most iconic delis, Canter’s has been a staple within the city’s Jewish community since opening in 1931. Established in Boyle Heights, the deli has long since been based in the city’s Fairfax District, a major hub of the Jewish population. Canter’s attracts a number of celebrity visitors, most notably former US President Barack Obama. Specialising in Jewish deli food, it is one of the finest and most historic Jewish restaurants in town.

  1. Langer’s Deli

Address: 704 S Alvarado St, 90057

Opening Hours: 8am-4pm (Closed Sundays)

Another titan of Jewish Deli cuisine, Langer’s has been open since 1947 and is located in the city’s Westlake neighbourhood. Following the Second World War, Jewish immigration to Los Angeles increased significantly, creating a surge in demand for the cuisine. Langer’s signature dish is its ‘Pastrami on Rye’ sandwich, which some consider to be the finest of its kind in the world.

  1. Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory

Address: 8930 Pico Blvd, 90035

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm (Sunday-Thursday), 9.30am-2pm (Friday)

One of Los Angeles’ finest kosher restaurants. Jeff’s, as its name implies, specialises in top-tier Kosher sausages, which come in a number of different varieties. While it offers a number of the standard Jewish American classics, its distinct, home-made sausages make Jeff’s a standout food spot.

  1. Ta-eem Grill

Address: 7422 Melrose Ave, 90046

Opening Hours:  11am-10pm (Sunday-Thursday) 11am-3pm (Friday)

Showcasing another aspect of Jewish cuisine is Ta-eem Grill. A Kosher restaurant specialising in Meditaranean-inspired dishes, Ta-eem Grill is a Hollywood icon. Attracting a wealth of celebrity clientele, Ta-eem Grill is a unique destination for Jewish cuisine in Los Angeles that shows just how multi-faceted it is.

  1. Pico Kosher Deli

Address: 8826 Pico Bldvd, 90035

Opening Hours: 11am-8pm (Sunday-Thursday) 9am-2pm (Friday)

One of the finest Jewish delis in town, Pico Kosher Deli has been a staple of the Pico neighbourhood for over 50 years. Considered by some to be the city’s first Kosher Deli, it is a no-frills establishment and one of the best places to get the staples of Jewish American food.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries

There is a wealth of Jewish cemeteries in Los Angeles given the large Jewish population in the city. Mount Sinai is the largest and most well-known of these. Located in the Hollywood Hills, the cemetery was established in 1953, becoming exclusively Jewish shortly afterwards in 1959. It is the burial ground of several famous Jews, most of whom were associated with the entertainment industry. The cemetery is also well-known for its many artworks, the most famous of which being the Heritage Mosaic.

  1. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Established in 1961 by the Los Angeles branch of Holocaust Survivors, the LAMOTH is the oldest museum of its kind in the country. Located in Pan Pacific Park in the Fairfax District of Central Los Angeles, the museum receives over 250,000 visitors per year. It has a number of state-of-the-art exhibitions, which retell one of the most harrowing experiences of the 20th Century. An emotionally intense yet culturally significant experience.

  1. Breed Street Shul

While little remains of the original Jewish community in East Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighbourhood, the Breed Street Shul provides an insightful window into a bygone era. Built as early as 1915, it was the largest synagogue west of Chicago for nearly 40 years and served as the religious and cultural epicentre of Boyle Heights’ Jewish community. Having fallen into disrepair following the dispersion of the Jewish Community throughout the city, it has since been listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places with proposals being developed to regenerate the synagogue.

  1. Museum of Tolerance

One of the city’s most unique and innovative museums, the Museum of Tolerance was established  by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in 1993 with the intention of educating children and young adults about the issues of racism. While it is not explicitly a Jewish institution, the Museum of Tolerance focuses significantly on the Holocaust, thus making it an important Jewish cultural centre.

  1. The Skirball Cultural Centre
Skirball Cultural Centre, Tracey Hall, Flickr Creative Commons

Skirball Cultural Centre, Tracey Hall, Flickr Creative Commons

Established in 1996, the Skirball Cultural Centre is a celebration of Jewish American culture and combines a variety of different media to educate people on the history of the Jewish people. The museum, named for the philanthropic Skirball family, is known for its distinct architectural design and its appeal to children. Its Noah’s Ark exhibition is highly popular with young people. Indeed, the museum receives over 60,000 schoolchildren visitors per year.

Thai Town

The Thai population in Los Angeles is the highest in any city outside of Asia. The total Thai population of the United States is over 300,000. 80,000 live in Los Angeles or surrounding areas, equating to over a quarter of the total Thai diaspora in the United States. Indeed, so significant is the Thai population of Los Angeles that the city is home to the country’s only ‘Thai Town’. This enclave is located in the East Hollywood neighbourhood of the city and is one of the most vibrant cultural centres in Los Angeles.

History

The history of Thai immigration to Los Angeles is fairly recent despite the large size of the Thai diaspora in Southern California. The first wave of Thai migration arrived in the 1950’s and 1960’s, mainly entailing skilled workers and students. Settlement in the modern-day ‘Thai Town’ began in the 1960’s. The East Hollywood neighbourhood was known for its predominantly Armenian and Latino communities prior to Thai settlement. Indeed, studies suggest that the majority of the neighbourhood is owned by Armenian-Americans.

Over the last 50 years, the neighbourhood has assumed a distinctly Thai character. As the city’s Thai population increased, Thai Town gradually consolidated itself as a vibrant hub of the diaspora. The area, which encompasses around six blocks, is full of authentic restaurants, bookstores and supermarkets.

Thai Town, Frederick Dennstedt, Flickr Creative Commons

Thai Town, Frederick Dennstedt, Flickr Creative Commons

Despite the prevalence of the Thai and Thai-American population in East Hollywood, ‘Thai Town’ itself was not recognised until 2000. This was an economic decision, not dissimilar to what happened in Orange County’s ‘Little Saigon’ neighbourhood. The area is clearly marked by large signs and is officially recognised by the city. The first and only designated ‘Thai Town’ in the United States, it is a crowning achievement of the Thai American community.

While the neighbourhood suffers from poverty and remains one of the more impoverished parts of the city, Thai Town is nonetheless one of the city’s most unique and colourful neighbourhoods. No time of year better reflects this than Songkran-Thai New Year, which sees the neighbourhood transform into a festival-like atmosphere.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Night + Market Song

Address: 3322 Sunset Blvd, 90026

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5-11pm (Monday-Friday), 5pm-11pm (Saturday)

While not exactly a Thai Town staple, Night + Market has quickly cemented itself as one of the city’s premier eating destinations. The brainchild of young Thai American chef Kris Yenbamroong, the restaurant chain (there are three locations) focuses primarily on Northern Thai dishes with a contemporary twist. The massive success of Night + Market reflects the flourishing Thai American community of Los Angeles.

  1. Sapp Coffee Shop

Address: 5183 Hollywood Blvd. 90027

Opening Hours: 8am-7.45pm (Closed Wednesday)

One of the most iconic Thai restaurants in Los Angeles, Sapp Coffee Shop is a Thai Town institution. Revered by the late restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, it is a small, unassuming place that attracts locals and visitors alike. Its signature dish is the Sukhothai noodle soup, but the whole menu is superb.

  1. Ruen Pair

Address: 5257 Hollywood Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 11am-3am

One of Thai Town’s most popular and enduring restaurants, Ruen Pair is an unassuming, strip mall institution at the heart of the neighbourhood. Having recently opened a second location in the City of Industry suburb in East Los Angeles, Ruen Pair is one of the city’s major Thai culinary institutions.

  1. Jitlada Restaurant

Address: 5233 1/2 West Sunset Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-10.30pm (Closed Monday)

Another of Los Angeles’ iconic Thai Town institutions, Jitlada Restaurant showcases Southern Thai cuisine. Recognised by the late Jonathan Gold as one of the city’s 100 finest restaurant,. It is not difficult to see why. It boasts some of the finest, spiciest and most authentic Thai cuisine outside of Thailand.

  1. Hollywood Thai Restaurant

Address: 5341 Hollywood Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 11am-4am

Despite the off-putting name, Hollywood Thai Restaurant is one of the finest restaurants of its kind in the city. Open until the early hours of the morning, Hollywood Thai specialises in the region-specific Thai Chinese cuisine. A unique and delicious option amongst an embarrassment of riches in Thai Town.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Songkran

Celebrated on either the 13th or the 14th of April, Songkran refers to the Thai New Years celebration. The festivity is also celebrated across a number of other South East Asian countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. It is the best time of year to visit Thai Town as the entire neighbourhood transforms into a major festival. There are stalls selling Thai food as well as a range of entertainment. An unmissable event.

  1. Thai Sabai

Thai massage is a unique cultural export that has become popular throughout the Western world. The Siam Classic Thai Massage in Thai Town is the best place in town to experience this relaxing and distinctly Thai pleasure.

  1. Buddhist Monks at Wat Thai Temple

The largest Thai Buddhist temple in the city, Wat Thai Temple is a major spiritual and cultural hub of the Thai community in Los Angeles. With a history stretching back to 1971, the temple plays a major role in religious and cultural activities of Thai and Thai Americans in Los Angeles. While the temple itself is located in North Hollywood, a 15 minute drive away from Thai Town, the temple’s monks visit the community once a week.

  1. Thai Cultural Day

Held in the nearby Barnsdall Art Park, this free festival happens every September and is a major festivity amongst the Thai community that readily welcomes outsiders. It is a celebration of all things Thai, featuring several food stalls, massages, dances and kickboxing demonstrations. One of the most exciting cultural events in the city.

  1. Dokya LA Bookstore

Right in the heart of Thai Town is Dokya Bookstore, one of the most valuable cultural institutions in the neighbourhood. An American outpost of a major Thai bookstore chain, this is the best place in town to get your hands on Thai literature.

Historic Filipino Town

Los Angeles is home to the largest community of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. The population of Filipinos in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area was recently estimated at around 607,000. The total population of Filipino Americans based in California numbers at around  1.2 million, while the total population of Filipinos in the United States is around 3.2 million. It is clear that Los Angeles and the surrounding regions function as a major hub for the Filipino American community. No place illustrates this better than the recently-designated Historic Filipinotown district in East Los Angeles.

History

Filipino immigration to the United States has an extensive history stretching back centuries. However, the immigration settlements were scattered throughout the country with few substantial communities emerging. Filipino enclaves emerged in California at the beginning of the 20th Century, particularly centred around Los Angeles due to its major ports. The city initially functioned as a ‘half-way house’ for Filipino migrants looking for work throughout the country in regions as far as Alaska. With the Philippines having been ceded to the United States by Spain following the Spanish-American War, immigration, unlike many other Asian countries, was unrestricted.

As Filipino immigration to the United States increased, communities began to expand and develop within Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. The area now known as ‘Historic Filipinotown’, near Echo Park, became a major hub but there were many other centres of the Filipino community throughout the city, including Bunker Hill, Eagle Rock and Carson. The first major wave of Filipino immigration occurred in the aftermath of the First World War in the early 1920’s. A precursor to ‘Historic Filipinotown’ emerged adjacent to the Japanese enclave of Little Tokyo and was known as ‘Little Manila’. This area was a major hub up until the Second World War when the community drifted towards the area now known as ‘Historic Filipinotown’.

A number of churches were set up while Filipino American businesses and community organisations began to flourish. The Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) was set up in 1945, the oldest non-profit organisation in the United States. Filipino Americans became increasingly assimilated into the city’s life, often hired as labourers. The population remained very male-dominated due to the majority of residents being labourers. However, the Second World War proved to be a major turning point. Filipino immigration to the United States increased substantially as many Filipino soldiers had enlisted in the US Army and took up the option offered to them to become American citizens. Many of these migrants brought their wives with them.

This turning point coincided with the expansion of the burgeoning Filipino community in Los Angeles. The population established a sense of community with a wealth of Filipino-owned businesses and community organisations ad

ding to this atmosphere. It was all based around ‘Historic Filipinotown’. In the 1950’s, when laws allowed Filipino immigrants the right to buy property in the United States, the community’s Filipino identity increased significantly.

Despite this, the population eventually dispersed throughout the city. Many Filipino-Americans moved into more suburban areas away from the city centre. There are major Filipino populations in areas such as Glendale, Eagle Rock, Orange County and increasingly so in South Bay regions such as Long Beach. As the Filipino population has decentralised, ‘Historic Filipinotown’ has become a far less homogenous area. Indeed, recent estimates note that the area now boasts a majority Latino population although Filipinos do still count for around 25% of the area’s population.

Despite this, ‘Historic Filipinotown’ remains an area of considerable cultural importance to its namesake population. Indeed, at the turn of the 21st Century, a political campaign to assign the neighbourhood the designation of cultural and historical importance was successfully implemented. The neighbourhood was officially christened ‘Historic Filipinotown’ in 2002 and, while it is only home to around 2% of Los Angeles’ Filipino population (est. 10,000 out of 600,000), it remains hugely culturally and historically significant.

Top Five Restaurants

Filipino cuisine is perhaps one of the most diverse and difficult to define cooking styles in the world. Representing a cultural flashpoint, Filipino cuisine varies throughout the country. Influences include that of the native populations as well as Chinese, Indian, Spanish and American ones. A Spanish colony for centuries and an American colony until the mid-20th Century, the Philippines is amongst the most unique cultural oddities in the world. Its cooking very much represents a synthesis of Eastern and Western styles unlike any other and one that feels uniquely authentic.

  1. Bahay Kubo Restaurant

Address: 2330 W Temple St, 90026

Opening Hours: 7.30am-9pm

Considered by some to be the most iconic and authentic Filipino restaurant in Los Angeles, Bahay Kubo (named after a distinct Filipino stilt-house found most often in rural regions), is known for its top-notch home-cooked dishes, no-frills atmosphere and bargain prices. A real treasure of ‘Historic Filipinotown’.

  1. Max’s of Manila

Address: 313 W Broadway, Glendale, 91204

Opening Hours: Monday-Friday (10.30am-10pm), Saturday (9.30am-11pm), Sunday (8.30am-10pm)

Glendale has become an increasingly important hub for the Los Angeles Filipino population and as a result a number of Filipino restaurants have popped up. None are more popular than Max’s, the LA outpost of a major chain in Manila. Most popular for its distinct fried chicken, Max’s is a cult favourite amongst the Filipino-American population and foodies.

  1. Bamboo Bistro

Address: 8516 Van Buys Blvd, Panorama City 91402

Opening Hours: Various (Closed Tuesdays)

In the neighbourhood of Panorama City is one of the most indulgent Filipino restaurants in Southern California. Known for its massive portions, reasonable prices, the restaurant also hosts karaoke and comedy nights, the pairing of delicious food and entertainment making it a major Filipino standout.

  1. Jollibee

Address: 3821 Beverly Blvd, 90004

Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday (8am-10pm), Friday-Saturday (7am-11pm)

One of the Philippines’ most notable fast food chains, Joillibee has become somewhat of a cult icon in Los Angeles. Located on the outskirts of ‘Historic Filipinotown’, Jollibee is one of the Philippines’ most notable and visible cultural exports in the city. Its most well-known dishes are the seemingly incongruous yet delicious combination of fried chicken and spaghetti.

  1. Little Ongpin

Address: 1700 Beverly Blvd, 90026

Opening Hours: 10am-6.45pm (Monday-Friday), 9.30am-5.45pm (Saturday), 9.30am-2.45pm (Sunday)

One of the finest Filipino restaurants in ‘Historic Filipinotown’, Little Ongpin is best known for its specialty of loom noodle soup as well as the astoundingly reasonable prices.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana Mural

The largest Filipino-American mural in the country. The mural was painted by esteemed artist and activist Eliseo Art Silva in 1995. Known for its immense size (it measures at 25 ft by 145 ft), the  mural depicts the major events and figures from the extensive timeline of Filipino-American history. A major artistic and cultural relic of the Filipino community in America which reflects its importance to the city of Los Angeles.

  1. Filipino American Library

Established in 1985 by local Filipino-American activist Helen Agcaoili Summers Brown, the Filipino American Library is both the oldest and largest Filipino library in the United States. Containing over 6,000 separate books, the FAL is one of the most significant cultural milestones of the Filipino community in Los Angeles.

  1. Filipino American WWII Veterans Monument

The story of Filipino soldiers’ service in the Second World War has been grossly under-portrayed. Indeed, as a colony of the United States, the Philippines became a major theatre of conflict during World War II. 57,000 Filipino soldiers were killed while over 900,000 civilians were killed during the Japanese Occupation. This memorial, in ‘Historic Filipinotown’s’ Lake Park, memorialises the many soldiers who gave their lives during the war.

  1. Temple Seafood Market

‘Historic Filipinotown’ is full of several family-owned Filipino stores and restaurants. The best market to buy local produce however has to be the Temple Seafood Market. Well-stocked with all kinds of Filipino culinary staples, this is the place to go if you want to cook up local delicacies yourself.

  1. Pilipino Workers’ Centre

A major community organisation, the PWC offers tours of ‘Historic Filipinotown’ by local experts. A highly enriching experience, visitors can learn about the area’s rich and extensive cultural history. The PWC is a major social activist organisation within the area which acts for positive change amongst disadvantaged workers and families.

Little Armenia

The Armenian diaspora is a sizeable population with a presence throughout the world. Los Angeles, by some distance, contains the largest Armenian population in the United States. Estimates range from as low as 215,000 to as high as 500,000. Only Moscow and the Krasnodar region of Russia boast larger Armenian diaspora populations. The Armenian diaspora is one of the most significant immigrant communities in Los Angeles, with the designated neighbourhood of ‘Little Armenia’ being one of the city’s most distinct neighbourhoods. The community has dispersed throughout the city and is one of the city’s most visible immigrant populations.

History

Armenian migration to Los Angeles has a long history stretching back to the end of the 19th Century. There are reports of Armenian presence in the city as early as 1889 although most of these were isolated businessmen. The Armenian community’s real beginnings, as is the case with most variations of the Armenian diapsora, can be traced back to the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. Significant numbers of immigrants from Western Armenia, on the border of Turkey, fled en masse from rampant oppression and genocide in the political upheaval caused by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Within a few years of the Armenian Genoicde, around 3,000 Western Armenian immigrants had settled in Los Angeles, with a community emerging in the Pasadena area of Los Angeles. The Armenian community in Los Angeles steadily grew over the following decades, its main base moving from Pasadena to East Hollywood, forming the community that eventually became known as ‘Little Armenia’. The Californian city of Fresno had been a popular destination for Armenian migrants due to its many agricultural employment opportunities, but this population increasingly gravitated towards Los Angeles as a sizeable community began to develop.

‘Little Armenia’ was a melting pot of Armenian immigrants from all over the country. This included Armenians from the Russian Empire and Armenians from the Ottoman Empire. Several restaurants, churches, schools and community organisations were established, many of which remain intact today. Much of the property in East Hollywood is owned by Armenians while several profitable businesses traced their origins to the area. The most notable example of this is the Armenian-American fast food chain Zankou’s Chicken. The Armenian community in Los Angeles is also well-known for its association with the city’s automotive industry.

Armenian migration increased following the loosening of restrictions associated with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. The city attracted more and more Armenian Americans from major pre-existing communities such as Fresno due to the growing size and success of the community.

Resurgence, Amenian Mural, IKI's World Trip, Flickr Creative Commons

Resurgence, Amenian Mural, IKI’s World Trip, Flickr Creative Commons

In recent decades, Armenian immigrants have settled throughout the city, with many leaving ‘Little Armenia’. While it remains a major Armenian community and retains its cultural signifcance, Burbank, Montobello and Pasadena have equally large Armenian populations. The majority however settled in the area of Glendale, which currently boasts the largest Armenian population in the Greater Los Angeles Area. A more peaceful, suburban environment to the frantic energy of East Hollywood’s ‘Little Armenia’, many Armenians observed that it was a conducive backdrop to their culture, steeped in tradition.

Despite the population dispersion, ‘Little Armenia’ retains its historic identity and is inarguably the city’s most significant cultural centre.

Top Five Restaurants

Armenian food is notably difficult to define. Given the displacement of the Armenian people over several millennia, the food draws upon influences from regions as diverse as the Mediterranean, Russia and Central Asia. It often varies depending on what part of Armenia the cooks hail from.

  1. Falafel Arax

Address: 5101 Santa Monica Blvd Suite 2, 90029

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-6pm (Sunday)

Now a small chain due to the growing and expanding Armenian diaspora, Falafel Araz is one of the finest places to sample Armenian food. The ‘Little Armenia’ location is a no-frills hidden gem in an unassuming strip mall. Despite this, it offers some of the finest kebab and shawarma in town.

  1. Carousel

Address: 5112 Hollywood Boulevard #107, 90027

Opening Hours: Closed Mondays

One of the most long-lasting Armenian restaurants, Carousel has attracted popularity recently due to it being a regular of the Armenian-American Kardashian family. Known for its authentic, no-frills Lebanese-inspired food, Carousel is one of the best places for the classics Armenian dishes such as falafel and kebab. A second location has opened in Glendale to accommodate the large Armenian community.

  1. Raffi’s Place

Address: 211 E Broadway, 91205

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm (Monday-Saturday), 11.30am-9pm (Sunday)

One of Glendale’s finest Armenian restaurants, Raffi’s Place has been a staple of the community since its opening in 1993. Known for its top-notch, home-cooked Armenian dishes, Raffi’s Place is set in the backdrop of a quiet courtyard which offers a throwback to the surroundings of old restaurants in Armenia itself. Authentic and delicious.

  1. Sahag’s Bastırma Sandwich Shop

Address: 5183 Sunset Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours:  8am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 8am-3pm (Sunday)

A cult favourite in Little Armenia, Sahags Basturma is an iconic sandwich shop serving Armenian delicacies such as the eponymous Basturma and Soujouk sandwiches. It has a attracted a wealth of celebrity clientele and remains one of the best places in town for local comfort food.

  1. Taron Bakery

Address: 4950 Hollywood Blvd, 90027

Opening Hours: 7.30am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 7.30am-4.30pm (Sunday)

Having expanded into North Hollywood and Glendale, this is one of the best Armenian bakeries in the city. With its incredibly reasonable prices and diverse wealth of options, this is the best place to experience a specific variant of Armenian cuisine.

Little Tokyo

The Japanese American experience, especially that in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California, is mired in controversy and oppression. Despite this, the Japanese community in Los Angeles is highly prevalent and significant. The cultural legacy is clear through the wealth of restaurants, businesses and community organisations. Los Angeles’ Japanese population is estimated at around 36,000, the 2nd largest after Honolulu (86,000). Major population hubs within the city are Sawtelle and Little Tokyo as well as more suburban regions such as Torrance, Palmdale, Montebello and Irvine.

History

The first documented incidence of Japanese immigration to Los Angeles occurred towards the end of the 19th Century around 1890, in line with the first wave of Japanese immigration to America. The population had mainly centered in Honolulu and San Francisco prior to this. While the Honolulu Japanese population grew, the San Francisco Japanese population splintered significantly due to racial oppression as well as the damage caused by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

The Japanese population initially settled throughout the city, with communities popping up in close proximity to the San Pedro harbour. However, the major population centre emerged in East Los Angeles, particularly in the Boyle Heights and ‘Little Tokyo’ neighbourhoods. These communities developed into sizeable enclaves. It is believed that upon the outbreak of the Second World War, the ethnic Japanese population of Los Angeles numbered at around 37,000, indicating significant growth. This was stymied significantly by the implementation of the Exclusion Act of 1924 and, more significantly, the escalation of tensions between Japan and the United States in the Second World War.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066, which allowed for the forced evacuation and imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese American families on the West Coast. Many were forced into concentration camps, their lives and livelihoods uprooted entirely. The burgeoning East Los Angeles region suffered considerable economic disruption due to the internment of the large Japanese population. This stabilised following the release of the prisoners and their return to their homes. However, the Japanese diaspora, previously highly concentrated within ‘Little Tokyo’, expanded throughout East Los Angeles and beyond. African-American and Latin American migrants had arrived in ‘Little Tokyo’ during the Japanese absence in search of new work opportunities, thus causing a sense of displacement.

‘Little Tokyo’ remains one of the most unusual enclaves in Los Angeles in that there are in fact very few Japanese residents there whatsoever. The displacement caused by the fallout of the Second World War caused the population to resettle in new enclaves such as Sawtelle in West Los Angeles and more suburban regions such as Irvine and Torrance in the South Bay Region, where communities had already developed due to the lack of restrictions with immigrants buying property. Despite this, it remains a focal part of the Japanese American community in Los Angeles. The atrocities committed during the internment caused the population to become highly politicised. As a result, the neighbourhood retains its distinct Japanese identity, with a wealth of restaurants and community organisations being present there. Additionally, a number of Japanese companies chose the area, due to its proximity to the Downtown neighbourhood and Japanese history, as their American bases. Despite its small Japanese population, ‘Little Tokyo’ is very much a bastion of Los Angeles’ Japanese community.

Top Five Restaurants

Perhaps the most significant and popular Japanese export has been its cuisine. Diverse, multi-faceted and thoroughly unique, Japanese food has been immensely popular throughout the world for years, even if regions without a substantial Japanese community. It is a far more wide-ranging cuisine than people think, and Los Angeles is one of the best cities outside of Japan to experience it in all its glory. There are a plethora of Japanese restaurants here, ranging from sushi specialists to ramen joints to everything in between, at noticeably affordable prices and of the highest quality.

  1. Sushi Gen

Address: 422 E 2nd St, 90012

Opening Hours: 11.15am-2pm, 5.30pm-9.30pm (Tuesday-Friday), 5pm-9.30pm (Saturday)

One of the most popular sushi restaurants in the city, Sushi Gen has been a staple of ‘Little Tokyo’ since 1980. Known for its authentic and high-quality sushi, it is one of the finest eateries of its kind in Los Angeles. With reasonable prices without sacrificing the quality, its lunchtime deals are a particularly mouth-watering bargain. There are often long queues outside this Downtown mainstay, and for good and ample reason.

  1. Yabu

Address: 11820 Pico Blvd, 90064

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 6pm-10pm (Sunday)

One of Los Angeles’ more versatile Japanese restaurants, Yabu is particularly well-known for its Yabu Soba noodles, a delicious and well-honed speciality. Its sushi and sashimi are also of an exceptional standard. It is one of the finest restaurants in the Sawtelle neighbourhood, a major Japanese enclave.

  1. Daikokuya

Address: 327 E 1st St, 90012

Opening Hours: 11am-12am (Monday-Thursday), 11am-1am (Friday-Saturday), 11am-11pm (Sunday)

Although it has expanded in recent years to locations in Sawtelle, West Hollywood and El Monte, the original Little Tokyo outpost remains one of the finest ramen restaurants in the city, regularly drawing substantial queues at lunch and dinner.

  1. Yamashiro | Hollywood

Address: 1999 N Sycamore, 90068

Opening Hours: 5pm-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 5pm-12am (Friday-Saturday), 11am-3pm, 5-10pm (Sunday)

While it is one of the less authentic and traditional Japanese restaurants in Los Angeles, Yamashiro is well-worth visiting, both for the food and the surreal experience.  Located in a Japanese-style castle in the Hollywood hills, it houses a wealth of Japanese and Asian artefacts and reflects the significant cultural impact of Japan and its population upon the West Coast.

  1. Marugame Monzo

Address: 329 E 1st St, 90012

Opening Hours: 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-10pm (Monday-Friday), 11.30am-10pm (Saturday-Sunday)

Celebrated by the esteemed late Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, Marugame Monzo is a ‘Little Tokyo’ mainstay known for its traditional udon dishes, the noodles of which are hand-pulled on-site. One of the finest and most authentic restaurants in the area, it recently opened a second location in the nearby Chinatown neighbourhood.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Japanese American National Museum

Probably the most significant Japanese cultural site in the city, the Japanese American National Museum was established in 1992 and is based in ‘Little Tokyo’. The museum was started upon the initiative of Japanese American activist Bruce Kaji, commemorating the significant injustices perpetrated against the Japanese American community in the 1940’s. The museum charts the history and culture of Japanese Americans over the course of over a century and features a rotating series of exhibitions.

  1. Japanese American Cultural and Community Centre

Another hugely significant Japanese cultural site, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Centre was established in 1971 and was the first and largest site of its kind in the country. The centre places emphasis on artistic and cultural activities, fostering a sense of community and creativity amongst the city’s Japanese population.

  1. Njiya Market

With three locations across the city’s three major Japanese hubs (‘Little Tokyo’, Sawtelle and Torrance), Njiya Market is generally considered to be the most authentic and least-touristy of the many Japanese supermarkets in Los Angeles. The best place to find Japanese food items and produce.

  1. Nisei Week Japanese Festival
    A Monument, Nisei Week, djjewels, Flickr Creative Commons

    A Monument, Nisei Week, djjewels, Flickr Creative Commons

One of the most significant cultural events within Los Angeles’ Japanese community, the Nisei Week festival has been a milestone for over 75 years. It is a celebration of Japanese American culture, with a wealth of different festivities occurring, including a major parade, a fashion show and a food festival, amongst many more. Despite its name referring to 2nd generation Japanese immigrants, it is a highly inclusive festival.

  1. MAX Karaoke Studio

Karaoke is one of Japan’s most significant and widely-accepted cultural exports throughout the world. With locations in ‘Little Tokyo’, Sawtelle and Torrance, MAX Karaoke Studio is one of the most fun and unique late-night activities in the city, open into the early hours of the morning.

Chinatown

While the Chinese population of Los Angeles is not amongst the largest ethnic minorities within the city, its history is rich and extensive. The total Chinese or Chinese American population in Los Angeles numbers at around 67,000 within the city of Los Angeles and around 393,000 in Los Angeles County. While the population has expanded throughout the region, its historic epicentre of Chinatown remains one of the city’s most historically and culturally rich neighbourhoods.

History

Chinese immigration to Los Angeles, as with the rest of the United States, can be traced back to the mid-19th Century. Many Chinese labourers were attracted to the United States by the employment opportunities presented by the country’s industrial expansion. Many worked on the extensive railways project undertaken by the Central Pacific Railroad Company. Chinese labourers were hired in large numbers due to their comparative affordability. Many of these labourers settled in Californian cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The Chinese population encountered considerable prejudice and oppression as racial tensions developed. The first culmination of tensions in Los Angele occurred with the Chinese Massacre of 1871, a race riot which saw 20 Chinese immigrants brutally murdered by an angry mob of white and Latino residents. They were killed after being blamed for the accidental murder of a white policeman but this reason was a mere catalyst for years of simmering racial tensions. These tensions didn’t ease after this atrocity, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 curbed Chinese migration to the United States for a number of years, a sign of significant anti-Chinese sentiment within California and the rest of the country.

Despite these racial tensions, the Chinese community in Los Angeles remained intact and expanded over the following decades. The city’s first Chinatown, in the Downtown area was established in 1880 and peaked at the turn of the 20th Century. A number of Chinese-style buildings were constructed including an opera theatre and temples. The Chinatown began a rapid decline due to anti-immigration laws preventing the Chinese population from buying property. The area became associated with criminal activities as opium dens popped up. The area met an ignominious end as the majority of the Chinese population was evicted to make way for the construction of the state-of-the-art Union Station.

The Chinese community found itself in a state of flux for several years, dispersing throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs. However, a core contingent remained within the heart of the city as plans for a new Chinatown were met with continued obstacles. The ‘China City’ project was established in 1938 under the oversight of councilwoman Christine Sterling, the architect behind the successful tourist street Olvera Street. This was met with a polarised reception, with some Chinese residents supportive of the economic benefits whilst others felt it reinforced racist stereotypes. It only lasted a decade and was destroyed in an arson attack in 1949.

The second Chinatown fared more successfully than the ill-fated ‘China City’ project and remains intact in modern times. While it functioned as a tourist destination, it remains a major cultural hub of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles. A number of major cultural institutions are based there, most notably the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California and the Chinese American Museum. In addition, a wealth of restaurants remains in the area.

Entrance to Chinatown, Los Angeles, Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons

Entrance to Chinatown, Los Angeles, Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons

Despite this, Chinatown is very much a symbolic cultural centre of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles rather than a literal one. It is a highly multi-cultural part of Downtown Los Angeles that has attracted a wealth of young creatives in recent years. The Chinese community meanwhile has dispersed throughout the city and its suburbs. The San Gabriel Valley is a major hub of the Chinese community, particularly members from Taiwan and Hong Kong, as are areas such as Monterey Park, Arcadia and Palmdale.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Yang Chow Restaurant

Address: 819 N Broadway, 90012

Opening Hours: 11.30am-9.30pm (Sunday-Thursday), 11.30am-10.30pm (Friday-Saturday)

One of the most iconic and enduring culinary staples of LA’s Chinatown, Yang Chow has been a mainstay of the neighbourhood for over 40 years. Known for its relatively unchanged menu, its most popular dish is the ‘Slippery Shrimp’, which attracts many visitors in its own right. Having recently expanded to Long Beach, it is one of Southern California’s most significant Chinese culinary institutions.

  1. Sichuan Impression

Address: 1900 W Valley Blvd, 91803

Opening Hours: 11.30am-2.45pm, 5pm-9.45pm (Monday-Thursday), 11.30am-3.15pm, 5pm-10.15pm (Friday-Saturday), 11.30am-3.15pm, 5pm-9.45pm (Sunday)

San Gabriel Valley is particularly well-known for its Sichuan cuisine, a spicy and highly popular regional Chinese cuisine. No place is better or more popular than Sichuan Impression, one of the city’s finest Chinese restaurants. With a no-frills atmosphere, emphasis is solely placed on the food here and it is absolutely phenomenal.

  1. Omar Restaurant

Address: 1718 New Avenue, 91776

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9.30pm (Monday-Sunday)

Another fine restaurant showcasing the sheer range of Chinese cuisine in Los Angeles, Omar Restaurant specialises in Xinjiang food. This is a spicy variant of cooking from the country’s Northeastern region near the Mongolian border. This is far from your usual Cantonese-style food, and boasts a distinctly Middle Eastern influence whilst being thoroughly unique.

  1. Ruiji Sichuan Cuisine

Address: 1949 Pacific Coast Highway, 90717

Opening Hours: 11am-9pm

Another icon of Sichuan cooking, Ruiji Sichuan Cuisine is located in the South Bay city of Lomita. Few outside the know are aware of the plethora of top-tier Chinese restaurants in the South Bay and this might be the finest of them all. Cheap and no-frills in an unassuming strip mall setting, this is still one of LA’s finest Chinese restaurants.

  1. Mama Lu’s Dumpling House

Address: 501 W Garvey Ave, 91754

Opening Hours: 10am-9.30pm (Monday-Thursday), 10am-10pm (Friday-Sunday)

Located in the Chinese enclave of Monterrey Park, Mama Lu’s Dumpling House, as its name suggests, is the premier Taiwanese dumpling specialist in the city. While it offers a wealth of other dishes, it is these succulent pork dumplings that make it such an unmissable culinary destination.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Chinese Historical Society of Southern California

Established over 40 years ago in 1975, the CHSSC is one of the Chinese community of Los Angeles’ most significant cultural organisations. One of the most notable historical societies in the state, it organises a number of activities and meetings as well as academic projects researching Chinese and Chinese American culture and history.

  1. Chinese American Museum

Having finally opened in 2003 after nearly two decades of planning, the Chinese American Museum is a major cultural institution celebrating and recording the history of Chinese Americans in California. With a rich, extensive and often tragic history, the museum presents a number of rotating exhibitions whilst hosting an annual Chinese New Year Lantern Festival celebration.

  1. Central Plaza

Very much the hub of modern-day Chinatown, Central Plaza may appear tacky and inauthentic to some visitors, but it remains the main social hub of the neighbourhood. It has a wealth of top-tier restaurants (Chinese and otherwise) and bars, as well as hosting a number of festivals throughout the year. It’s success represents the successful culmination of years of the Chinese American struggle for cultural recognition within Los Angeles.

  1. General Lee’s

While Chinatown, like much of Downtown Los Angeles, has gentrified significantly in recent years and seen its cultural identity somewhat diluted, a number of new establishments pay tribute to the area’s history. This is apparent in popular bar and club General Lee’s, which boasts a modern Chinese-style aesthetic.

  1. Chinese Celestial Dragon Mural

Dating back to 1941, this mural by Tyrus Wong is one of the most iconic and enduring relics of the Chinese American community in Los Angeles. Having been restored in the 1980’s, it remains a visible symbol of the Chinatown community.

Little Saigon

The United States is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam at 2.1 million. While Vietnamese populations are found throughout the country, it is significantly centred in California. The bay area city of San Jose has the largest Vietnamese population with 107,000 people. The Los Angeles metropolitan area also boasts a significant Vietnamese population, both in the city itself but more importantly in the outer region, specifically Orange County. Indeed, Orange County’s ‘Little Saigon’ in the suburbs of Garden Grove, Westminster and Santa Ana, is one of the most significant Vietnamese American cultural centres in the country. Indeed, Orange County has a massive population of 189,000 Vietnamese Americans, the largest epicentre in the country.

History

Vietnamese immigration to the United States is a recent phenomenon, beginning in the wake of the Vietnam War. The conflict had caused significant population displacement and many residents of the formerly capitalist South Vietnam were forced to flee their homes out of fear of political oppression. The first generation of Vietnamese immigrants was generally well-educated. Immigration restrictions were lifted in 1980, which caused Vietnamese migration to the United States to increase considerably.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area quickly emerged as a major hub for the burgeoning Vietnamese community. Some settled in the city itself, but many flocked to the suburbs due to affordability and space. The first epicentre of the Vietnamese American community in Orange County was in the city of Westminster, a suburban city on hard economic times. Given that many of the initial Vietnamese settlers were fairly affluent, a number of businesses were quickly set up to great success.

The Vietnamese community quickly grew and spread throughout the region into the neighbouring suburbs of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove. All these neighbourhoods retain a distinctly Vietnamese character in the present day as the community has expanded and the population has grown. The area is defined by its wealth of indoor shopping centres and strip malls such as the Asian Garden Mall and Little Saigon Plaza, all of which host traditional Vietnamese restaurants and stores.

‘Little Saigon’ is one of the most distinct cultural neighbourhoods in Southern California, with an identity that is thoroughly its own. The Vietnamese community have achieved significant success, as illustrated by the wealth of independent businesses in the region.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Tan Cang Newport Seafood

Address: 4411 W 1st St, Santa Ana, 92703

Opening Hours: 10am-9.30pm (Monday-Thursday), 10am-10pm (Friday-Saturday), 10am-9om (Sunday)

One of the most iconic and popular Vietnamese restaurants in ‘Little Saigon’, Tan Can Nepwort Seafood has been a staple of the community for over 30 years. Known for its signature lobster dishes, it is one of the most distinct and authentic Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California.

  1. Bun Nha Trang

Address: 9240 Garden Grove Blvd #11, Garden Grove, 92844

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm (Monday-Wednesday), 10am-10pm (Friday-Sunday)

One of the finest Vietnamese restaurants in Garden Grove, Bun Nha Trang is known for its many noodle soups. Immensely popular with local residents, it is a cash only hole in the wall. Despite its no frills atmosphere, the food is amongst the best in ‘Little Saigon’.

  1. Song Long Restaurant

Address: 9361 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, 92683

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the original restaurants along Westminster’s Bolsa Avenue-very much the ground zero of ‘Little Saigon’, Song Long is known for its distinct hybrid of Vietnamese and French cuisine. Signature dishes include ‘Cha cha thang long’, escargot and a Vietnamese variant of steak-frites. Thoroughly unique and delicious.

  1. Nem Nuon Khanh Hoa

Address:  1700 W Valley Blvd C, Alhambra 91803

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm (Closed Tuesday)

Celebrated by the late Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, Net Nuong Khanh Hoa specialises in Central Vietnamese cuisine. Known for its no-frills decor, low prices and signature grilled meat dishes, it is one of the best value for money meals in ‘Little Saigon.’

  1. Pho Quang Trung Restaurant

Address: 9211 Bolsa Ave #101, Westminster, 92683

Opening Hours: 8.30am-12am

Another staple of Westminster’s Bolsa Avenue, Pho Quang Trung is best known for its eponymous  bowls of pho. Boasting some of the best pho in ‘Little Saigon’, the restaurant is also known for its specialty fried doughnuts. Open all day everyday, it is an essential food destination in ‘Little Saigon.’

Little Ethiopia

The United States is home to the largest Ethiopian population outside of Ethiopia with 460,000 people. While an overwhelming majority live in Washington, DC (350,000), Los Angeles boasts a significant community of 96,000. The majority of this population is centred in the eponymous neighbourhood of ‘Little Ethiopia’ in Central Los Angeles’ Mid-Wilshire District. It is believed that roughly 1/3 of the Ethiopian population lives in ‘Little Ethiopia’, giving it a distinct character.

History

Ethiopian immigration to Los Angeles has been a fairly recent phenomenon compared to other racial minorities in the city. Generally speaking, African immigration to the United States has occurred at a much lower rate compared to diasporas from Asian, European and Latin American countries. Ethiopians however constitute for a large minority within Los Angeles. Ethiopian migration stemmed from the political turmoil which gripped the country during the 1970’s. Los Angeles quickly emerged as a major destination for Ethiopian migrants.

Ethiopian migration to the United States began in large numbers following the 1980 Immigration Act, which lifted restrictions on African immigration to the United States. With ongoing political turmoil at home, many immigrants moved to major cities in the US. The Ethiopian population of Los Angeles grew throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, with the population settling in the Mid-Wilshire District. The modern-day ‘Little Ethiopia’ was established in 1994 as the community expanded. It was initially named ‘Little Addis’ for Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. The neighbourhood was officially designated ‘Little Ethiopia’ in 2002.

While political factors were an initial motivation for Ethiopian immigration to Los Angeles, the burgeoning Ethiopian community created a number of economic factors for migration to the city. Today, the neighbourhood is one of the most unique and exciting in the city, full of amazing Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants and independent businesses.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Awash

Address: 5990 Pico Blvd, 90035

Opening Hours: 12pm-9pm

One of the most popular and authentic Ethiopian restaurants in the city, very popular amongst locals.

  1. Lalibela

Address: 1025 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 11am-10pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 11am-11pm (Friday-Saturday)

A contender for the finest restaurant in ‘Little Ethiopia’, Lalibela is known for its authentic, subtle home-cooked recipes.

  1. Meals by Genet

Address: 1053 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 5.30pm-10pm (Thursday-Saturday), 5.30-9pm (Sunday

A staple of the neighbourhood, Meals by Genet is one of the best restaurants in ‘Little Ethiopia’, known for its traditional recipes.

  1. Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant

Address: 1041 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm

Another iconic Ethiopian restaurant known for its plethora of vegan options.

  1. Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant & Market

Address: 1036 1/2 S Fairfax Ave, 90019

Opening Hours: 11am-2am

One of the oldest ‘Little Ethiopia’ institutions, this market and restaurant not only offers some of the neighbourhood’s finest food but also a wealth of Ethiopian and Eritrean esoterica.

Cambodiatown

The South Bay city of Long Beach is home to the largest Cambodian population outside of Cambodia. Around 4% of the city’s population is Cambodian, numbering at around 20,000. The majority of the Cambodian community settled in the city’s Eastside, with the eponymous neighbourhood of ‘Cambodia Town’ forming as it became increasingly integrated.

History

Cambodian migration to the United States is a fairly recent occurrence. Prior to the 1970’s, there was very little migration to speak of and only occurred amongst wealthier families. The rise of the communist Khmer Rouge and the carnage from the Vietnam War created an atmosphere of political turmoil within Cambodia and caused significant population displacement.

Initial Cambodian settlers in Long Beach were students and wealthy families. As tensions escalated in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia during the 1970’s, many of these immigrants decided to remain in the United States. The pre-existing Cambodian community in Long Beach attracted many political refugees to the city following the political discord at home. The sense of familiarity and community proved to be a major motivational factor behind the settling in Long Beach.

There was a clear, cohesive mission statement amongst the Cambodian community of Long Beach to rebuild the cultural identity that had been so brutally damaged by the conflict at home. This contributed to a sense of solidarity and community within the Cambodian population, fostering a strong sense of closeness. A number of charitable and community organisations were set up to help refugees with issues of housing and food.

Despite racial tensions emerging between the Cambodian community and the much larger Latino population of Long Beach, there has been successful integration. ‘Cambodia Town’ was registered as an official neighbourhood in 2007 and is a major cultural pillar of the city.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Phnom Penh Noodle Shack

Address: 1644 Cherry Ave, Long Beach, 90813

Opening Hours: 7am-3pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

One of the most esteemed Cambodian restaurants in Long Beach, this is a no-frills and authentic food spot specialising in noodle soups for amazingly cheap prices.

  1. Hak Heang Restaurant

Address: 2041 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, 90804

Opening Hours: 7am-9pm (Monday-Thursday), 7am-12am (Friday-Sunday)

For those looking for a less intimate and more bombastic experience, this is definitely the place to go. Known for its authentic food, banquet-style atmosphere and live music, this is an unmissable and quintessentially Cambodian experience.

  1. Monoram Cambodian Restaurants

Address: 2150 E Anaheim St, Long Beach, 90804

Opening Hours: 9.30am-8.30pm

One of the best neighbourhood restaurants in Long Beach, Monoram has an emphasis on traditional Cambodian dishes.

  1. Sophy’s Fine Thai & Cambodian Restaurant

Address: 3240 E Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach, 90804

Opening Hours: 8am-10pm

Despite the name, this is about as authentic as a Cambodian restaurant as one could get. One of the finest neighbourhood restaurants in Long Beach, this is a cultural institution.

  1. Crystal Thai and Cambodian Cuisine

Address: 1165 E 10th St, Long Beach, 90813

Opening Hours: 8am-8pm

Another misleadingly named institution, Crystal is one of the best Khmer restaurants in Long Beach. A stone’s throw away from Cambodia Town, it is a low-key yet essential Cambodian restaurant that ranks amongst the city’s best.

 

Global Cities: Los Angeles

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