The best Chinese food may be in San Gabriel Valley, but Chinatown is still a dark and wondrous place for an evening out amongst friends. It wasn't exactly the preferred destination of J.J. Gittes, but for the rest of us, just walking its streets late at night makes you feel like a pivotal character in an old noir.
Start things off at Hop Louie, the dive bar that lies somewhat hidden in the walkway between Hill Street and Broadway. There, you can suck down Tsingtao, or even some frilly blue cocktails, all for much cheaper than you'd pay at other spots around town. It's got a jukebox, a makeshift dance floor, and a much appreciated low-key vibe. Sadly, their amazing old bartender has retired, but you can still see people's drawings of him on the cocktail napkins posted up on the wall.
If you really want to change venues (though why would you?), you can always trot just across the way to The Mountain Bar for something a little trendier. But regardless, when last call is sounded, you're probably going to need some food in your belly, and on the other side of Hill is Full House Seafood, a perfectly serviceable restaurant, considering they're open through the wee small hours of the morning. Their spicy, crispy, head-on shrimp, garlic snow pea leaves and sizzling rice soup certainly get the job done, and on occasion you can convince them to keep serving beer (tip: don't order more beer if you're the one driving).
All that, mixed with the soul-satisfying ambiance, makes for a memorable night. You're more than welcome to re-create this evening on a weekend, but there's something about engaging in sinful activities in the middle of the week that makes it all the more exciting.
Hop Louie, 950 Mei Ling Way, L.A., (213) 628-4244., The Mountain Bar, 475 Gin Ling Way, L.A., (213) 625-7500, Full House Seafood, 963 N Hill St, L.A., (213) 617-8382