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Dec 13, 2010 10:19 AM

Downtown old Chinatown

I would appreciate some input. Many years ago (mid 50's) my uncle began dating a young lady who became my aunt. I was about 6-7 years old and my aunt-to-be and uncle used to take me many places. My parents were older and never went out, so this was a huge treat for me. One of my earliest memories is going to Chinatown. My aunt ordered some fried shrimp from a stand, and we ate it standing at the wishing well. I had never had shrimp before and to this day (50+ years later) still remember how good it tasted to me.

So now my uncle has passed and my aunt has serious health issues. She has a milestone birthday this week and on Wednesday I am taking her to lunch. For the sake of memories we will be going to Chinatown. I have not been there in ages and have no idea as to whether or not they still have shrimp stands and whether there are any decent restaurants either there or in the very near vicinity. I know that if this was purely a food situation, we should to the San Gabriel Valley, but the memory card trumps the food card this time. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

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  1. Wow, what a great story.

    I've lived in Los Angeles for 14 years and have never seen any shrimp stands near the wishing well or otherwise. But I can tell you that to my eye, that area of Los Angeles hasn't changed considerably in the time I've been visiting.

    I'd love to see some old photos of those shrimp stands, though. I wonder if the Central Library has anything in their photo archives? Off to!

    Mr Taster

    1. penguin,

      I am almost positive there are no longer shrimp stands in Chinatown, but if you are looking for some information or perhaps a walk down memory lane, you might want to check with the Chinatown Historical Society ...

      And to keep this food related, if you dine in Chinatown I'd suggest CBS Seafood, Ocean, or maybe JR Bistro.

      Good luck!

      5 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I just went to CBS Seafood for the first time - and really enjoyed it. Normally my husband and I will drive to Rowland Heights for dim sum but we were pooped, and wanted decent dim sum for not too much money - CBS Seafood was great for that! They had the standards (I think I could just eat har gow for days) but also had neat surprises (shrimp stuffed tofu! fresh spinach dumplings!) Plus they spoke a good amount of English which, for a lame gal like me, is not mandatory, but can be helpful.

        Pat of Eating LA also rec'd JR Bistro. I haven't gone there but it's on my list! Here's her post about it, she liked that they had old fashioned standard dishes, which might be just what the OP was looking for...

        CBS Seafood
        700 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

        1. re: happybaker

          J.R. is probably as good as it gets in Chinatown, but it's not old school. They get enough tourist types to know how to fix those dishes if requested, but it's a solid Hong Kong/Cantonese place.

          1. re: happybaker

            Maybe it's a cultural thing but those pictures are disturbing.

            1. re: ns1

              Then, you better not try sushi.

              1. re: cfylong

                sushi looks hot and not smothered in gravy

        2. Not a shrimp stand, but it's possible that the "shrimp stand" was a dim sum place that was across from the wishing well. Forgot the name (it will come to me) of the dim sum place, but the property still sits empty there on Hill Street. There was also Hong Kong Low dim sum take out around the corner where you may have gotten fried shrimp to go.
          Close by you could take her to Empress Pavillion for dim sum or Golden City (it's alright).
          The wishing well is still there....I know the family that owns it.

          1. now that monku has mentioned hong kong low, i am pretty certain that is where we got the shrimp - i remember going there again in the late 60's and early 70's. the quality had deteriorated pretty much by then.

            a couple of friends have suggested Yang Chow on broadway. any thoughts? please keep in mind that food is important, but secondary in this case. and thank you.

            19 Replies
            1. re: justanotherpenguin

              Well there is one restaurant still open fairly close to the wishing well, Hop Louie. Back in the 1970s and before it was Golden Pagoda. Hop Louie never gets mentioned on this board for food, but it is in a historic building right in Chinatown Plaza and it would be nostalgic to eat there.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                Have you ever seen the menu at Hop Louie?
                It's an insult to Chinese restaurants and people.
                The only people who go there are people who think Panda Express is too Chinese for them.

                1. re: monku

                  I think Chandavkl nominated Hop Louie for its nostalgic and historic significance, and less for the food. Plus, back in the 1950s, I'd bet what Hop Louie serves today is a pretty good facsimile of what they had back then ...

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Their menu is choose one from column A and one from column B.

                    I know people who still go there and think that's what Chinese food is all about..they think Panda Express is too ethnic for them.

                    1. re: monku

                      Panda Express was probably "too ethnic" in the 1950s.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

               what was the name of the dim sum place across from Hop Louie(Golden Pagoda)?

                        (there's an empty lot there now with a sign that says Chinatown that resembles the Hollywood sign)

                        1. re: monku

                          Grandview Gardens. First modern era Chinese restaurant in L.A. to create a buzz with Chinese and non-Chinese alike waiting to get in for Sunday morning dim sum.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            That was it...Grandview Gardens.

                            1. re: monku

                              Yes, it was almost 40 years ago when dim sum at Grandview Gardens was the rage.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                I remember the decor being black and not really Asian.

                                1. re: monku

                                  I remember more about waiting outside to get in than the interior.

                            2. re: Chandavkl

                              Ah Grandview Gardens, I remember we had to stand in line outside the little window for takeout dim sum on busy Hill Street next to the parking meters. I used to complain about the size of their tiny little char siu baos comparing them to the humongous ones from Hong Kong Low. Nevertheless, they had one of the best take outs in those days.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                Oh thank you Chandavki. As I read this thread I was trying to think of the neame of the place across from the wishing well in Old China Town and it certainly was Grandview Gardens. My mother loved that place and I would take her there just because she did. Actually they had a fairly decent Peking Duck and their dim sum in those days was passable. A second choice for the poster might be the Golden Dragon. Went there for some Dim Sum about three four months ago. Ninety percent Asian clientele with a good variety of dim sum. Food should be good, no reason why not.

                                China Town
                                10935 Magnolia Ave, Riverside, CA 92505

                  2. re: justanotherpenguin

                    Hong Kong Low dim sum take out went out of business this year and some of their dim sum is available from Phoenix Bakery.
                    Yang Chow is alright. Food is important, but at that age sometimes the familiarity of what they once had is just as comforting.
                    If my Chinese grandmother were still alive she'd prefer a place like Golden Dragon across the street on Broadway from Chinatown Plaza where the wishing well is. Golden Dragon has been around maybe since the days of Hong Kong Low and they probably make that fried shrimp of your memories. I know what you're talking about.

                    Wishing well

                    Yang Chow Restaurant
                    819 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                    Phoenix Bakery
                    969 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

                    1. re: monku

                      Across the wishing well was the old Man Jen Low or General Lee's which closed down maybe in the late 60s or early 70s. Don't honestly remember any "shrimp" stands but only that little hut across the parking lot which sold char siu and roast duck back in the 60s. We did many a lion dance performances in that Chinatown square back in the old days in front of Hong Kong Low.

                      1. re: monku

                        Golden Dragon was once THE place to go in Chinatown back in the late 60s and early 70s. My in-laws held their wedding reception there and it was a much-to-do affair. When the banquet started off with shark fin soup, you knew the rest was going to be spectacular in which it was!

                        1. re: Clinton

                          Little worn around the edges, but still the place to go for some (not me). I went for dim sum a couple years ago and it wasn't that bad.
                          They still hold a lot of banquet functions there because it's one of the largest restaurants in Chinatown. I think they can seat around 400 for a banquet there.

                          1. re: monku

                            Actually we had 600 for a banquet there once.

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              I was going to say it held 500+, but I really wasn't sure.

                    2. All I remember of Chinatown in the 50's was the Rice Bowl restaurant and Phil's bar upstairs. And the "Zombie" drinks that tasted like Hawiaan Punch!!! Ay yi yi yi yi!!!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Neta

                        My first Dim Sum experience was at Grandview Gardens in the mid 70's. I remember they charged by the number plates on the table when you were finished. They were an amazing $ .75 a plate and the more expensive items were served with two plates, which we thought at the time was very high!!

                        Outside of going to Chinatown for the memory factor, there really isn't any reason to go there today.

                        Let us know justanotherpenguin where you end up and your thoughts on your dining experience.