Chinese-American Cantonese Restaurants in Los Angeles

Personally, I prefer the Hong Kong style places in Monterey Park and Alhambra, and got used to them in the past 30 years or so, but it's not true that LA doesn't have old fashioned Chinese-American food anymore. People say it, but that's because they're eating at fusion restaurants or a newer place.

Uncle John's Cafe

Howard's Cafe

Paul's Kitchen

Canton City

Ho Sai Kai

Chinese Garden

Bamboo Inn

Yee's Chinese Food

(I forgot the Hop Louie, Won Kok and a number of other places in Chinatown. The style lives on there!)

There's definitely two different generations of Americanized Chinese food on sale in the city. One is the pre-1980s Cantonese style food, and the other is the "Chinatown Express" style which riffed on Panda Express, which was an old style Cantonese place. The main difference with the "Chinatown Express" and "Hong Kong Express" and other mom and pops is that they're often run by Southeast Asians (Viet, Lao, Khmer), sometimes by Chinese from the mainland, sometimes Chinese Americans, sometimes Chinese Latin Americans, and sometimes Latinos. So you're going to get this mashup of differences with each shop. It's actually kind of nice that there's this inconsistency, because the baseline recipes aren't that good.

This newer style is less sweet, has more meat, usually includes teriyaki at the table, and don't know what "chop suey" is. They're starting to add "chop suey" but it's not the old style. It's a little more like Thai mixed vegetables, but not as good yet. It'll get better over time.

The old Cantonese places are starting to change a little bit, at least from my memory. New Chinese people are buying them, and making the old recipes, but seem to be doing a little more with fresh vegetables. I had an "egg foo young" that was really good, like a massive omelet in gravy or something, in East LA.

There's also local variations, like in South Central LA, you can get Louisiana fried chicken at many Chinese fast food places. In Pico Union, some have beans and platanos, and one, Foodland has a Mexican menu. Foodland also makes "whatever" - they seem to just make stuff up. East LA keeps it mostly Chinese, but there's always teriyaki - but there are Latino teriyaki places here and there, so it's probably a concession to that.

I keep hoping for innovation, and maybe incorporating some SE Asian influences into the steam table, but I don't sense it happening. Not even banh mi.