HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >

Discussion

Gentrification of Los Angeles Chinatown Continues--Little Jewel

Los Angeles Chinatown, like it's counterpart in Manhattan is going through a gentrification phase in which non-Chinese restaurants and businesses have moved in. Latest evidence here is the upcoming opening of Little Jewel of New Orleans, which appears to be a deli and grocery operation, right next to ABC Seafood. This is the space most recently occupied by Hoy King, and occupied for many years by Yuan Ten and for you real old timers, Chung Mee. Apparently during the renovation, Little Jewel found some interesting artifacts dating back to when the building was part of the North Spring Street Chinatown, which as some of us remember was a separate Chinese community that was a few blocks away from Broadway Chinatown, the two once being separated a large patch of non-Chinese businesses.

And speaking of ABC Seafood, signs on the exterior indicate that they now serve dim sum in their dining room, cooked to order. Previously dim sum was available in the take out section, and only available in the dining room by request to be carried over from the take out area. And until the new Empress Pavilion reopens, CBS Seafood is doing swell with a mob of people waiting to get in for Saturday afternoon dim sum.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Thanks for the update, Chandavki. I feel bad for Fong and his family.

    1. The center with Chego, Starry and Scoops will be damn near fully gentrified within a year.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JAB

        Starry Kitchen isn't in the Chego and Scoops plaza; it's further north next to the Bruce Lee statue.

        1. re: SauceSupreme

          As of when because the last time that I was there, Starry had a location in what used to be the Pho Ga location and a kiosk just outside of that for their banh mi pop up.

          1. re: JAB

            Ah their banh mi pop up, yes. Is that a regular thing? Regardless, their real brick and mortar location is on Gin Ling Way.

            1. re: SauceSupreme

              The intention is to develop the Far East Plaza space into a banh mi shop run by SK.

        2. Hello, I'm one of the owners of The Little Jewel of New Orleans Grocery and Deli. We did, in fact, find some artifacts that we are donating to the Chinese Historical Museum shortly. I am also making plans to have a mural painted on the back of our building that celebrates and commemorates China City (and the history therein) with full support of the longtime property owner and landlord. My partner Eunah and I live downtown (where I have lived for 17 years) and love Chinatown. Eunah is Asian and I'm Italian, just like the people that lived in this neighborhood alongside you historically. Let me assure you that my friends & neighbors at the restaurants you have mentioned are delighted that we are not yet another Chinese business, as they are over saturated and are really feeling the pinch. In fact when they saw that my girl was Asian they were really worried that we were in fact going to be another Chinese business. When I told them that we were doing po boys and New Orleans cuisine along with Southern Regional cuisine they were relieved and honestly I can understand. There's about 14 Chinese seafood restaurant around here. The neighbors and passerbys tell me daily that they are highly anticipating our opening and appreciate the variety. Sadly the former restaurant was closed down by the Board of Health and sat festering in horrible neglect for over 9 months, in truly horrible condition that we have made great efforts to repair . If you would like to know more about what we are doing and what the plans are please feel free to contact me! Eunah and I both love the history of this place and look forward to our further interaction with the community. Thanks! CHEF MARCUS markvsaugustvs@gmail.com

          45 Replies
            1. re: jessejames

              +1 Best of luck. I will definite come in and try a po-boy.

              1. re: ns1

                Do you honestly think after having at best lackluster cuisine from supposedly New Orleans restaurants here in clueless California for at least 18 years that I have any intention of doing so? That's part of the reason we opened the joint!

                 
                1. re: ChefMarkvs

                  that's good to hear ;) been looking for some good fried catfish/poboys w/o driving south of the 10.

                  1. re: ns1

                    Middendorffs style from the swamps of Manchac! I think it would help if people would use a little egg wash to begin with!

                     
                    1. re: ChefMarkvs

                      Your checkered floor reminds me of some NOLA spots. I'm thinking K-Paul's and another spot outside the Quarter that may have been a pharmacy (?) at one point?

                      1. re: mc michael

                        Yeah, it's the "flavor" of the neighborhoods for sure. My Gramma used to take me to the old Italian groceries near the race track (where they hold the Jazz Fest, now) every morning in the Ursulines area after Church (yeah, sterotypical Sicilian catholic boy), for fresh French Bread, and it looked like this. I am Sicilian and there are a lot of us down there, with these types of businesses (groceries and deli's) and decor.

                        1. re: ChefMarkvs

                          As someone who hasn't actually STOPPED in Chinatown for, um, a few decades, I'm glad to see some sort of revitalization, regardless of whether the stores/cafes are Chinese or not. We have plenty of Chinese not too far from Chinatown; I think anything that brings in new blood and foot traffic is a good thing....

                          Wish I comment more on New Orleans food, but I know very little about it. Hopefully there'll be beignets for dessert. =)

                          1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                            Beignets and Café au Lait scheduled for fall. I worked at Morning Call Coffee and Beignets in New Orleans as a youth (*the locals choice that wails on the touristy Cafe Du Monde)!

                          2. re: ChefMarkvs

                            Really interesting. So this is the broader conversation that the New Chowhound is engendering. I was skeptical, but am glad your post is the first that I've reads of these "new wave" posts.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/985121

                            I Googled you and found the LA Times piece.

                            http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish...

                            I was absolutely delighted to see Blue Plate mayo for sale locally.

                            I was *especially* delighted to hear you channeling your grandma's derision of FUB™ type goods. (e.g. $14 mason jars.) Listen to your grandma. I wish more LA chefs would.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8531...

                            I've been far too interested in food for a long time, way longer than the recent "foodie" explosion (as were many of us who found a refuge on Chowhound in the early days). However, I've never been a fan of the hype around restaurants or personalities.

                            I'm really only interested in well prepared food at a fair price. I don't want style, I want substance. And from what I've seen from your place, it looks promising. If you do the simple things well, without trying to fusion up some trendy, overpriced New Orlenas/LA cuisine (and I'm not saying you are), you'll certainly win my business.

                            Here's wishing you the best of fortunes in your new endeavor.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              QUOTE (from the article): "'"But my grandmother would laugh at anything served in a Mason jar that costs $14.'"

                              Now you wouldn't be throwing shade at a certain Eggslut, would you??? ;) I only went there once. While I would not consider it a "good value," I certain do think the food was delicious.

                              If Chef Marcus can provide a better price/quality ratio, then I'm certainly interested.... (esp when the Expo extension is done, so I don't have to deal w/ traffic!).

                              1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                I think it's a good value and quoting from the menu

                                SLUT

                                a coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée, poached in a glass jar and served with toasty crostini

                                $9.00

                                EGGSLUT CHEESEBURGER

                                ground american wagyu beef, caramelized onions, bread and butter pickles, melty cheddar cheese, and dijonnaise, topped with an over medium egg in a warm portuguese bun

                                single $8.00

                                plus nice clientele.

                                1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                  Actually I live right next door to SLUT, I really enjoy it and I wasn't talking about them at all. What they are doing isn't really even anything that we do back home. I don't think it's as expensive as all that either. I'm referring to some of the experiences I have had in restaurants doing "Southern cuisine" as a trend. The idea of "classing up" country style food to the point where it's supposedly gourmet. It's not just in Los Angeles, I've experienced a lot of this in San Francisco as well.

                                  1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                    I'll see your $14 pickles and raise you mason jars as drinking glasses. Putting my lips up to thick, threaded glass is just not a pleasurable way for me to enjoy a beverage.

                                    Over the last decade+, we've had many debates on Chowhound about fancying up humble, simple foods, and whether that's a good or bad thing. It's a complex issue. Why is a plate of freshly made Italian pasta a bargain at $10, but zha jiang mian is too expensive? My opinion on this has evolved, but is still complex. I dislike gentrification, and the way that trendy places seem to attract a very narrow demographic of Angelenos. But, I do sometimes enjoy the food that is the result of gentrification. I've said many times before, Cole's vs. Philippe's is a great example of a place that ostensibly serves similar foods, with a vastly different customer demographic. One serves a broad swath of Angelenos from all walks of life, and the other serves a considerably narrower demographic. I'll let you figure out which is which. Even though I believe the food at the newly renovated Cole's is much better, I'll go to Philippe's 10x for each 1 visit to Cole's. The place just feels better to me. It's real, it's honest. It's not trying to be anything other than what it is, and I respect that. Contrast with Coles which is, in this odd way, a beautiful recreation. It's missing this ethereal element... sincerity, perhaps? I don't know.

                                    And when chefs who love to evoke this down-home "comfort foods", "welcome to my kitchen" schtick on their menus and websites (e.g. Nancy Silverton), and then charge absurd prices for inexpensive, simple foods- the insincerity of it rubs me the wrong way. If you're going to charge those high prices, fine-- but don't pretend that we're your friends in the kitchen with you, or at your backyard BBQ, where you charge your guests $30 for a burger, fries and a coke.

                                    In any case, I personally hope that Little Jewel is more in the vein of Philippe's rather than Cole's. I hope you understand what I'm trying to convey here.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      i did like the old, grungy cole's.

                                      btw, what's a demographic ??????

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        I see no reason why you cannot find a happy medium, personally. I don't think that "food made with love" needs to bend you over the counter at check out time for an "artisan" gang bang ( if you will ). Sure, some of the items I will have will be expensive because they are seafood from the Gulf, or items from Louisiana that I have had to fly in because of difficult distribution routes. I'm not trying to make it a general practice, and we would like to cater to many "demographics".

                                        1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                          make some money be successful and stick around

                                          1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                            Wow. Artisan gang bang. That's spot-on hilarious, dude. I wish I had thought it up.

                                            I do hope your place attracts a broad swath of Angelenos. The problem is, the moment Jonathan Gold writes you up (and its inevitable if you do NOLA food really, really well), you're going to have a line of hipsters out the door and that's going to keep everyone else away. So, how do you make the rest of LA feel comfortable in your place? It probably requires outreach to the community, and some lower priced menu items. It looks like you're with a Chinese gal... my wife is Taiwanese. Sell the beignets to the hipsters, and to the local Chinese and VN as NOLA youtiao! Leave the mounds of powdered sugar off, and they'll snap that up for breakfast every day.

                                            Ah, but that's right-- you're not looking to compete with the locals, though for the life of me I can't think of anyone making decent youtiao in Chinatown.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              I extend my hospitality to everyone, I just want everyone to have a good time of it.

                                                1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                  I salute you for that. Let's see how it goes!

                                                  Mr Taster

                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                  So you hate hipsters for lining up at places you would frequent? Doesn't that make you a hipster in some way?

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                Well, Cole's has pretty good mixed drinks. Philippe's has beer and wine.

                                                1. re: mc michael

                                                  I love Cole's and think it's a completely different experience.

                                                  The varnish bar in the back of the restaurant is a great swanky mid century cocktail lounge and it's more fun for getting dressed up and going out for drinks.

                                                  Phillipe is a proletarian everyman lunch counter. Other than the food itself (for which I marginally give the nod to Cole's) there's really no reason to compare the two places. They serve entirely different purposes and are both equally great in my opinion.

                                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                                  I walked THROUGH Cole's once (on the way to the Varnish), but I'm not even sure why Cole and Philippe are being compared to each other. It doesn't make sense to compare restaurants simply b/c they have a similar menu (IMHO). Both places have a very different "vibe" and are PURPOSELY trying to cultivate that.

                                                  For me, the overly precious pricing and self-consciously retro environment at Philippe is no more "sincere" than whatever is going on Cole's. That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed Philippe the few times I've gone.

                                                  Regardless of whether Little Jewel is Cole's or Philippe's, I simply hope that they have good food at a "decent" price and night and weekend hrs. ;) In terms of questioning the motivation of the owners/operators, I leave that to other people. ;)

                                                3. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                  Ah, thanks for the clarification. Although I wouldn't have minded if you WERE referencing them.

                                                  Mr. Taster's post below indicates why I was wondering if you were referencing the changing scene in DTLA.

                                                  1. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                                    I understand completely. In regards to gentrification, at least here in Chinatown, there were so many open and blighted and properties when we were looking 7 months ago, and I'm sure things are changing, that I don't know how aplicable that is. Quite frankly a lot of places around here are really kind of falling apart and vacant. Lots of ratty, disused old properties sitting in weathered former Asian retail plazas. Basically these businesses have migrated to the San Gabriel Valley. Sort of like the white flight that I remember in the south to the suburbs. I'm not inferring that it is for the same reason, mind you, but none the less that is what happened. Chinatown is a changing area and that seems to be a constant theme . I doubt that when the Chinese moved into the formerly Italian area it was referred to as the Chinafiction of Little Italy? Regardless I want all people to be our customers and I enjoy every culture so I'll get back to working on this menu now, I enjoy speaking with all of you.

                                                    1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                      I think what's happening is that rents in CTown are rising, and people are moving to Lincoln Heights and the SGV. At least that was the situation 10 years ago. Also, the recession probably did a real number on the locals, as it has to everyone, except to people involved in the internet. The area really depends on tourists, so once the tourism goes - there goes everything.

                                                      1. re: wildgift

                                                        Haha rents in Chinatown aren't rising for shit. Do you know what commercial rent goes for in SGV? You'd be surprise how much more it is.

                                                        Whats happening is that no ethnic group wants Chinatown. This area has always been a place for new coming ethnic groups to settle due to its long history of being a cheap place to settle but being that our immigration patterns don't support that sort of environment for Chinatown anymore it has been dying off for the past few years.

                                                        1. re: Johnny L

                                                          Chinatown continues to be deal in terms of rent in the area. Especially with its proximity to the gold line and all that downtown and the arts district has to offer. But it's going to take a while for it 'clean-up'

                                                          --Dommy!

                                                          1. re: Dommy

                                                            Not enough homeless people in the area to make artistic "edgy" types want to overpay to live there ;-)

                                                            Mr Taster

                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                              Cute. Actually there is still a lot of older Chinese/Vietnamese people who still live in the area (my friend's biggest complaint is that people steal from her fruit trees. ;/) that will be harder to displace. But they area already building new places... slowly. slowly.

                                                              --Dommy!

                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                There are a ton of "edgy" art galleries in DTLA Chinatown.

                                                                That armchair you have sure gets a lot of use.

                                                                  1. re: cacio e pepe

                                                                    Also isn't the history usually broke artistic edgy types live in lower rent areas until they are pushed out due to rising rents?

                                                                    1. re: Jase

                                                                      @Jase - "broke" and "lower rent" mean different things when it's art-school graduates pricing apartments in immigrant communities. You're looking at artists who maybe got a scholarship, or paid, for a year of school, more than what most of the residents earn. That affects perspectives. (Example: Otis is $38k per year. Chinatown median household income, 2008, $22.7k. Even adjusting for the year - the art school is way more expensive. The CTown wages skew down due to seniors, I'm guessing.)

                                                              2. re: Johnny L

                                                                damn, in that case, maybe i should just open up a crazy dope sushi bar there.

                                                                1. re: Johnny L

                                                                  Johnny L - I meant residential rents. Wasn't thinking of commercial rents. I remember it used to be really cheap there, but when the galleries came in in the early 2000s, the rents went up. Some places were intended for hipsters, judging from the rent and remodel jobs.

                                                        2. re: paranoidgarliclover

                                                          Eggslut sandwiches and burger are amazing! Chill out!

                                                  2. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                    Middendorff's!!!!!
                                                    Me and my Baton Rouge reared girl are sooooo looking forward to trying your food.

                                                4. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                  Oh good god. Is this really happening? I had completely given up on LA food in L.A. Best of luck. No one is rooting for you guys more than the people on this board.

                                                5. Another note would be that myself and the employees that will staff the kitchen (so far)are all graduates of Los Angeles Trade Tech, and deeply tied to the Los Angeles community. We look forward to also holding interviews for a Chinese speaking clerk in the grocery.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                    Did you learn under chef Gio, and Headly et al?

                                                    1. re: AAQjr

                                                      Vachon, Kasmar, Blanchard. Etc...Headly was done when I started. Don't get me wrong I had already been cooking in Louisiana but I wanted to go into the program not only to benefit from the program itself but to work on my future crew. It was a great experience and I can't say enough of it .

                                                  2. Also, just as a visual aid to let you know the place we spent 5 months remodeling and bringing up to code in this rather run down area of the city with real questionable Health and Food Service practices.....we like to think the public deserves better than what is currently here. That's why we have put our blood, sweat, tears and MONEY into it (the whole place was so wrecked I won't even show you, quite disgusting..I am thankful I had some Katrina house cleaning experience before going into that WALK IN, I assure you)! We are all certified chefs here (mostly from Trade Tech) and are NOT rich kids. This is a labor of love.

                                                     
                                                    16 Replies
                                                    1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                      Laissez les Bon temps roulez indeed. Are you open tomorrow morning for lunch before 1pm ahmanson show?

                                                      1. re: chewbacca

                                                        If only, we have our board of health final inspection Monday. I will make a great understatement when I say that going through all the processes with the city is an extremely time-consuming process. If everything goes right we should have the market part opened up a week after. It will take me a few weeks in the kitchen after to bang out a starter "soft menu" (po'boys!). I will keep everyone posted and feel free to email me @markvsaugustvs@gmail.com

                                                          1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                            Please!!! be as good or better than Parkway Bakery & Tavern in LA.

                                                            1. re: STEVEMIU

                                                              You know it, "Surf and Turf" fan, or you like the Roast Beef straight?

                                                              1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                                O-boy! Now you got me hungry for some shrimp po' boy. From SGV to Orleans & York....here I go!!!

                                                                1. re: STEVEMIU

                                                                  Bon appetit! We plan to shorten your po'boy commute soon enough!

                                                                  1. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                                    Is there a liquor license in all this? I might get thirsty.

                                                                      1. re: mc michael

                                                                        You and me both. Unfortunately, as the restaurant was closed down by the Board of Health ( the one that was there before us) we have to go through that process fresh...which will take about 6 to 8 months. That being said obviously we are going to do it. There is no way that I want to eat my "half and halfs" without a cold Abita..at the very least. ;)

                                                                  2. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                                    Are you making your po boy bread or shipping or buying locally? No pressure here either you sound like on right track.

                                                                    1. re: jessejames

                                                                      One word. Leidenheimers. Obviously the bread is the most important thing really. That's what's been so wrong with it citywide in the first place. That and not using egg wash so that the breading actually holds to the shrimp and oysters. Don't get me started on all of that, these discrepancies are exactly the reason why we started this grocery deli. I'm trying to not talk s*** here, help me out gang!

                                                                2. re: ChefMarkvs

                                                                  Woohoo! You're almost there -- you got this thing!

                                                                  I am soooo going to come eat your cooking. And it sounds like the opening might end up being timed to coincide with L.A.'s "monsoon" season -- adding humidity to the equation will only add to the proper LA (state, not city) effect.

                                                                  Good luck with the final steps...looking forward to eating some food made with LOVE.