This article may be my favorite of anything I have ever written. As someone who has observed the Chinese restaurant industry for decades, I often wondered how so many mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants could serve seemingly identical dishes or offer uncannily similar menus.
My first clue into the answer came from an unexpected place: a story in the financial press, which I only stumbled upon while Googling something else. With my experience as an attorney and CPA, I then followed the trail to find source documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). And it took a combination of all these things for this article to come about!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.(more…)
In the Los Angeles area, both the San Gabriel Valley and Chinatown provide hundreds of choices for authentic Chinese food. But few are aware of a collection of authentic Chinese restaurants tucked away in the South Bay, centered in the unlikely location of Lomita. With a negligible Chinese population, Lomita boasts no Chinese grocery, dry goods, or other kinds of Chinese stores or businesses anywhere in the vicinity. But decades ago, in a roundabout manner, Lomita started to become a center of Chinese dining. (more…)
Chinese food in Los Angeles is the best you’ll find in this country. And yes, that means that Chinese food is better here than in San Francisco.
But what qualifies me to make such a statement about Chinese food, given my professional background as an attorney and in accounting? Add on the fact that I hated Chinese food as a kid, and that even now I am unable to use chopsticks. Who am I to make this argument?
Let’s take a short journey through the history of Chinese food in America, and see how that history has been reflected in my own personal experiences. The two intertwined stories will illuminate how my home city of Los Angeles has become the center of Chinese food in America, and why it’s not so outlandish for me to proclaim it so. (more…)
Hotel dining isn’t generally an interesting topic of discussion. With a few notable exceptions, people dining in hotels usually don’t want to bother to look for someplace to eat after a tiring day of travel. Meanwhile, hotels are sometimes not particularly keen to operate on-premises restaurants, particularly if they don’t have conference facilities, but do so grudgingly to offer an option for weary guests.
In the context of Chinese-American communities, hotel dining has been historically non-existent because in Chinatowns new and old, hotels themselves have been largely non-existent. While Chinatowns have been a tourist attraction for well over a century, few tourists desired to secure rooms there. Those few lodging facilities that did open in Chinatowns during the 20th century were largely independent motels without many amenities, such as the Royal Pacific Motor Inn in San Francisco Chinatown and Moytel in Los Angeles Chinatown. With the plethora of local Chinese dining opportunities only steps away, the motels did not need to offer on-premises dining. (more…)
With a few high-end exceptions, no self-respecting foodie would be caught dead at an all-you-can-eat buffet, particularly not a Chinese buffet. Buffets are associated with quantity over quality, and with Chinese buffets in the United States largely associated with cheap Chinese food, culinary interest in these establishments is even lower. (more…)