Serving Los Angeles since 2008, the Lobsta Truck brought us those delicious mouthwatering lobster rolls New England is famous for. It all started when Lobsta Truck founder and owner Justin Mi came back to LA from a trip to Maine after partaking in a two-day lobsterfest and realized that you really couldn’t get that kind of lobster experience here on the west coast. So the lobsters-on-wheels concept was born and became instantly popular as Angelenos far and wide lined-up to taste that buttery crustacean goodness served on a toasted split-roll made the traditional east coast way. After expanding the Lobsta Truck to the Bay Area earlier this year, Mi is now onto the next evolution of his business opening his first brick and mortar location, Lobsta Shack, here in Chinatown in Downtown LA.
The moment you enter Little Jewel of New Orleans you are transported to the heart of Louisiana. Housed in an original 1870’s era building in the heart of Chinatown, the space is a combination market and southern deli offering some of the best Creole cooking in Los Angeles. While new to the block, Little Jewel feels like it has been a neighborhood staple for years. From the quirky artwork that adorns the walls to the awesome collection of classic jazz and soul that emanates from the sound system, the space feels casual, welcoming and unpretentious.
A very, very exciting mixed-use project is in the early planning stages over in El Pueblo just north of the 101 freeway and south of Chinatown, which is the historic birthplace of Downtown LA, and to a greater extent, the birthplace of Los Angeles itself. In fact, the oldest residence still standing in Los Angeles, Avila Adobe built in 1818, remains one of Downtown LA’s main visitor attractions located on historic Olvera Street within El Pueblo. Now, exciting plans are taking shape to further enhance and strengthen El Pueblo allowing for both visitors and Angelenos alike to embrace and appreciate the historic value of the district. A non-profit foundation based in El Pueblo called LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is currently in the process of selecting a developer to build two mixed-use projects, named “LA Plaza Cultura Village,” on two county-owned parking lots just west of the foundation’s headquarters on Main Street that will connect El Pueblo to its surrounding communities including Chinatown and Union Station.
Far East Plaza in Chinatown is really becoming the new casual culinary hot spot to watch in Downtown LA. One of LA’s most popular ice cream shops, Scoops — what the LA Times Daily Dish calls a “cult favorite” — soft opened yesterday on Friday in the Far East Plaza shopping center in Chinatown. The new “Scoops Chinatown” is just a couple doors down from Roy Choi’s immensely popular Chego eatery, which opened last year and successfully injected a completely new fresh breath of life into the aging shopping center. Chris Gere, owner of the new ice cream shop (he’s a franchisee), was attracted to up-and-coming Chinatown and found the space next to Chego a fantastic opportunity. The beginning of some beautiful synergy has begun.
After more than two and a half years of construction, Chinatown’s very first market rate housing development called Jia Apartments is now officially open. Developed, owned, and managed by Equity Residential, the new mixed-use project — with a new Starbucks opening in early April and a couple more restaurants in lease negotiations — rises six stories adjacent to the striking Chinatown gateway with its twin golden dragons guarding the Broadway entry. Jia Apartments, which cost $93 million to develop, signals a new economic incline for Chinatown as more money is being invested into this northern district of Downtown LA. Finally, Chinatown joins the rest of downtown’s development wave that has reinvigorated the city center with new life and regional relevancy.
Although largely ignored during the Downtown LA redevelopment boom of the mid 2000’s, Chinatown has begun to show new signs of life. The recent opening of Chef Roy Choi’s Chego at Far East Plaza, the near completion of Jia Apartments (Chinatown’s first market rate rentals), and the groundbreaking of Blossom Plaza, a new mixed-use “gateway” to the historic neighborhood for transit riders, have all instilled a new sense of optimism in Chinatown’s future.
DTLA Rising first leaked the rumors almost two years ago that Walmart was coming to Chinatown. Soon afterward, we learned that it would be a Walmart Neighborhood Market taking over a never-occupied 34,000 square foot space (about 1/5 the size of a typical Walmart Supercenter) in a senior housing mixed-use complex at Cesar Chavez and Grand Ave. Not surprisingly, what subsequently ensued was a lot of protests and political handwringing that delayed the opening of Walmart’s grocery concept by many months. However, this past Friday, Walmart Neighborbood Market opened its doors for business on the fringe of Chinatown. The dust is far from completely settled, but when all is said and done, Chinatown now has a bona fide grocery store — whether you like Walmart or not.
As construction wraps up on Chinatown’s first market-rate apartment project — Equity Residential’s new Jia Apartments (jia means “home” in Chinese) — with a projected occupancy date slated for Sept 10, 2013, another new ground-up project directly adjacent to the apartments will begin construction sometime soon. The new headquarters for the Southern California Teo-Chew Association will be built just north of Jia Apartments along Broadway near the Ord Street intersection.
In February we found out the exciting news that Chego — a trendy, casual Asian fusion eatery from Palms (near Culver City) brought to us by rising star chef Roy Choi — was relocating to Chinatown. Chego took over what used to be an underperforming Thai restaurant in the Far East Plaza, which straddles Broadway and Hill near Ord Street and located conveniently near Chinatown’s first market-rate apartment rentals — the new Jia Apartments slated to open in late summer 2013.
A reader sends in an exciting tip that Roy Choi’s popular Korean-inspired eatery in Palms, called Chego, will be opening inside the Far East Plaza — one of Chinatown’s many shopping arcades. Apparently, Chego will be taking over an existing smallish restaurant called Wu Ha Thai Food located toward the interior-middle section of the shopping complex.
Currently under construction and formerly known as the “Chinatown Gateway” (a name derived from its location adjacent to the double dragon gateway on Broadway and Cesar Chavez), the new name for Chinatown’s first market-rate housing complex is now called “Jia Apartments,” which means “home” in Chinese. The 280-unit mixed-use development, being developed by Equity Residential and designed by Downtown LA-based Thomas Cox Architects (TCA), topped out earlier this week at six floors with a projected opening date later this year.
Part of LA’s true historical gems lie to the north of the 101 freeway. Unfortunately, when the 101 freeway was built–with its trench-like chasm slicing through and forming a deep scar in the landscape–it mercilessly destroyed the urban connection between the LA Civic Center and the oldest historic heart of Downtown LA, which includes El Pueblo, Union Station, and Chinatown.