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Oldest Chinese Restaurant in L.A.?

estone888 Jun 27, 2011 03:16 PM

Anyone have any idea what would be the oldest, continuously operating Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area? If it was somehow still run by the same family that established it, that would be even better. (Quality doesn't matter - I'm looking for history.)

While you're at it - if you also happen to know what would be the oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurant in the U.S. - I'd love to know that, too.


  1. scottca075 Jul 6, 2011 10:32 AM

    I would think Formosa has to be the oldest, next oldest maybe Hop Louie in Chinatown.

    3 Replies
    1. re: scottca075
      Chandavkl Jul 6, 2011 12:45 PM

      Actually, Hop Louie opened up in the mid-1980s and there are many restaurants in Chinatown that have been around for longer than that.

      1. re: Chandavkl
        scottca075 Jul 6, 2011 08:24 PM

        Mmmm, I think it had to be before that, or it had another name, because I remember eating there in the early 60's. We'd visit my grandparents in Pasadena and we'd come down to Chinatown to eat.

        1. re: scottca075
          Chandavkl Jul 6, 2011 09:23 PM

          It was Golden Pagoda prior to the 1980s. No continuity of operation with Hop Louie so it doesn't meet the original poster's test.

    2. c
      Chandavkl Jul 5, 2011 09:52 PM

      Not exactly on point, but I went by Phoenix Bakery and noticed a 73rd anniversary banner in their window. Definitely the same family throughout.

      Phoenix Bakery
      969 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA

      1. The Chowhound Team Jun 28, 2011 10:55 AM

        Just a quick request, folks, that if you've got non-LA thoughts on oldest operating Chinese restaurants, that you start a new thread on the General Topics board, rather than posting about them here. Thanks!

        1. c
          Chandavkl Jun 27, 2011 03:45 PM

          Funny, we were sort of talking about this yesterday. Formosa Cafe sounds like a good guess. Bamboo Inn on 7th St. near Macarthur Park. has also been around for quite a while. It does not appear to have been remodeled since the 1940s at the latest.

          I know that the original New Moon Cafe opened up a long time ago. The original location on San Pedro St. was torn down and replaced by a modern version, probably in the 1960s. However, they were out of business for several years until younger generation family members opened up the garment district, Glendale, and Canyon Country locations.

          You do have to be careful as to lineage. For example, Lucky Star on Brand Blvd. in Glendale has a statement on their menu that says something like "Since 1947". However, I remember eating at the same location 20 years ago, but it was called Lantern Cafe back then, so it's clearly not the same restaurant; perhaps they mean there's been a Chinese restaurant at the location since that time. Or, a place like Dumpling 10053 had something on their business card indicating they had been in business since the 1970s or 1980s. However, I know that they opened up less than 10 years ago. So I asked them about that, and the reply was that included the time that the owner ran another restaurant in New York Chinatown.

          As far as the US goes, I know Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan Chinatown has been open since around 1920 and has been getting a lot a talk on the New York board because a young family member has totally revived the operation. Also, Sam Wo in SF Chinatown has been around for more than forever.

          Honorable mention goes to Golden Chicken Inn in Oxnard, where I ate yesterday. They've been around since 1929, though the current owner is a relatively recent immigrant.

          Dumpling 10053
          10053 Valley Blvd Ste 2, El Monte, CA 91731

          Lucky Star Restaurant
          374 S Main St, Orange, CA 92868

          Golden Chicken Inn
          701 S Oxnard Blvd, Oxnard, CA 93030

          New Moon
          112 W 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

          Bamboo Inn
          2005 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90057

          9 Replies
          1. re: Chandavkl
            Servorg Jun 27, 2011 05:28 PM

            For west side Chinese I've got to think that Twin Dragon on Pico would be a contender. Same location since opening in 1962

            Twin Dragon Restaurant
            8597 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035

            1. re: Servorg
              maudies5 Jun 27, 2011 05:58 PM

              Wan Q and Kowloon pre-dated The Twin Dragon. (Westside)

              1. re: maudies5
                Chandavkl Jun 27, 2011 06:01 PM

                Yes, but they're long gone, as are a bunch of others.

                1. re: Chandavkl
                  Servorg Jun 27, 2011 07:19 PM

                  I figured we were playing with places one could still eat a meal, should one be so inclined... ;-D>

                  1. re: Servorg
                    estone888 Jun 27, 2011 07:24 PM

                    Yep, that's what I have in mind.

            2. re: Chandavkl
              scoopG Jun 28, 2011 03:38 AM

              Mei Lai Wah on Bayard Street in NYC has been open since the late 1880's.

              The earliest Chinese restaurants in the US were in San Francisco. By early September of 1849 there were already three Chinese restaurants there and even one Chinese hotel in Monterey.

              In March of 1850, New York Tribune reporter Bayard Taylor observed that the Chinese had "summoned men to take their meals by the sound of their barbaric gongs" and went on to note that the Chinese restaurants were already "very popular with Americans on the account of their regard to quantity."

              Apparently the "barbaric" Chinese restaurateurs were shrewd enough to retain local attorney Selim E. Woodworth as their business lawyer.

              1. re: scoopG
                Chandavkl Jun 28, 2011 08:48 AM

                Thanks scoopG. I knew you would come through. One question for you. Mei Lai Wah shut down in 2008, I believe, bumming everybody out. However it reopened a few months later under new management and the slightly different English language moniker, Mei Li Wah. Do you know if they kept the old Chinese name?

                1. re: Chandavkl
                  estone888 Jun 28, 2011 09:56 AM

                  This is all very helpful and interesting. Thanks.

                  1. re: Chandavkl
                    scoopG Jun 28, 2011 07:45 PM

                    I'll have to try and check - I do know the building has long been owned by a Taiwanese concern. . .

              2. raytamsgv Jun 27, 2011 03:31 PM

                Try this page from the LA Public Library. It allows you to search for restaurant menus in their collection. The restaurants may or may not still be in business:


                1. s
                  silence9 Jun 27, 2011 03:27 PM

                  Hi... Maybe the Formosa Cafe? It opened in 1925, according to Wikipedia. And does it even count as a restaurant (much less, a chinese restaurant) since it's reputation is at lease as much being known as a watering hole for the famous, infamous and anonymous? I believe it has had several owners during its 85+ year run. And for all I know, perhaps other more authentic chinese restaurants have been around continuously for much longer. But 85+ years is nothing to sneeze at. And if you want history, that they certainly have...

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: silence9
                    cls Jun 27, 2011 06:57 PM

                    I can confirm that Formosa is both a celebrity watering hole and Chinese restaurant...
                    Several (many) years ago, I remember being in an empty Formosa cafe sitting next to Quentin Tarantino who was lecturing to Marisa Tomei on how Formosa is one of the best Chinese restaurants in LA and under appreciated. Not that I agree with his assessment.

                    1. re: cls
                      Chandavkl Jun 27, 2011 07:00 PM

                      Isn't there a picture of Babe Ruth or somebody like that on the wall?

                      1. re: cls
                        mucho gordo Jun 28, 2011 10:43 AM

                        I wouldn't agree with anything Quentin said. While I admit he is a creative genius, he's also a bit of an oddball and given to hyperbole. I knew him before he became famous when lived with his mother in Glendale. His mother and Mrs. G worked together at Cigna and we were at their house for dinner and games several times.
                        I agree with your assessment of Formosa and with another poster's New Moon. Now, if the OP wanted to go down memory lane, here's a list of great Chinese restaurants that are, sadly, no longer with us: General Lee's Man Jen Low, Kowloons, Moongate Inn, Ah Fong's, and Wu's Garden.

                      2. re: silence9
                        AAQjr Jun 27, 2011 07:23 PM

                        Funny I've driven by that place a lot, but never new it had such history. What's good there?

                        1. re: AAQjr
                          Phurstluv Jun 27, 2011 07:28 PM

                          Yes, me too, AAQjr. Now I must know : is it an old school Chinese American place? Cuz, if so, I am SO there.

                          1. re: Phurstluv
                            Chandavkl Jun 27, 2011 09:58 PM

                            As I recall, not very good and relatively expensive.

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