Best Of :: Chinatown/ Elysian Park
Best Filipino Restaurant: LASA
LASA began as a series of backyard dinners before landing a weekend residency at Unit 120, the culinary incubator run by Eggslut's Alvin Cailan in Chinatown's Far East Plaza. Despite a smorgasbord of competition at the storied strip mall, LASA, which means "taste" in Tagalog, stands out with a brand of Pinoy-California cuisine where traditional Filipino dishes utilize seasonal ingredients. Now a brick-and-mortar shop after taking over the original Unit 120 space early this year, LASA was created by brothers Chase and Chad Valencia; Chase runs the front of the house while Chad, a veteran of farm-to-table restaurants including Canelé and Sqirl, does the cooking. For lunch, stop by the takeout window for a tender chicken adobo over garlicky jasmine rice or "O.G. pancit" with egg noodles, patis-cured egg yolk and calamansi butter. For dinner, sample a seasonal menu of regional offerings such as fresh lumpia with kale, grilled chicken gizzard skewers and condensed-milk ice cream. From inspired plates to the casually elegant family-style vibes, it comes as no surprise that LASA is at the forefront of the Filipino food movement.
The thrill of the hunt for furniture is only, well, thrilling when you have time on your side. Enter Salvare Goods, the charming salvaged-goods shop swelling with one-of-a-kind finds from factories, churches, barns, schools and eclectic homes. Salvare's owners have done the hunting for you. The sweet, doe-eyed Selina Becker and her kind husband, Seth Meisterman, a builder and sculptor, started selling salvaged goods in Boyle Heights several years ago. Their current Los Angeles River–adjacent location has been open for three years. Inside, regulars return for an artful mix of midcentury, Mod and brutalist items, reclaimed wood creations, and Victorian-era antiques as well as novelties such as a vintage George Smith wool kilim sofa. If you can't find what you're looking for among the glazed vintage pottery or hand-carved wood tarot reading signs, Meisterman will custom make it for you for a reasonable rate. He has a masterful touch, whether he's crafting a stunning dining room table from Douglas fir, building wood-and-steel shelving or creating something you dream up from Salvare's recycled wares. Need help with decorating? Becker, who has an eye for design, can help. She works independently with clients and will search tirelessly to find the perfect vintage or salvaged decor for your home. Becker says, "We really believe in keeping stuff out of landfill, and making something beautiful out of it."
This isn't the dusty old "Cornfields" you remember from FYF and HARD Festivals of a few years ago. After an extensive overhaul, Los Angeles State Historic Park has emerged as the park this city needs: a sprawling mass of green(ish) open space located right by the Gold Line's Chinatown exit. The former rail yard still has a ways to grow — its baby trees don't provide much shade yet — but there's more than enough room for picnics and morning jogs. Head out to the bridge in the middle of the plot and take in the view of the city that surrounds you in this spot near where downtown and the northeastern portions of Los Angeles intersect. There's a budding public art collection here, too, which includes artist collective Fallen Fruit's project A Monument to Sharing, an orange grove from which anyone can grab a bite. Check out the park's calendar for events ranging from movie screenings to fitness groups.
In an anonymous Chinatown warehouse lies an unlikely trove of treasures from Thailand. Just a short distance from the newly revamped State Historic Park, an unassuming strip mall features the offices of a Thai newspaper, a seafood spot and the Andy Ricker–approved Chimney Coffee cafe, which serves third-wave java and savory larb burgers. But tucked away behind them is the LAX-C warehouse, containing everything from Bangkok and beyond. While the exterior of the building is emblazoned with an Old West mural depicting Native Americans hunting bison, the interior feels more like Asian Costco, with rows upon rows of Thai, Indian and pan-Asian items. If you've ever wondered where your pad Thai came from, this is the place. Looking for a gallon of hoisin sauce? There's aisle after aisle of Asian marinades and hot sauces. The expansive freezer section showcases enormous boxes of dumplings and an entire hog leg or two. And seafood doesn't get any fresher than the water tanks in the front of the compound, where live crab and lobsters await their unfortunate fate. But beyond food, there are restaurant-grade kitchen supplies, including dumpling pots and woks galore. Another wing of the compound features decoration for restaurants, such as hand-carved Buddhist statues, low-slung tea tables and roll-out sleeping mats. Need an $11,000 gamelan — that immense percussive instrument sometimes clanging away in Björk songs? There's one over there, under a pile of empty boxes. If you're in for an adventure, sneak around back to the outdoor area, where you'll find even bigger altars, elaborately carved furniture and a few tuk tuk motorcycles, those whimsically painted taxis that zip along Thai thoroughfares. With each visit, you'll discover something new among the Thai treasures in this warehouse of wonders.