Chinatown seems too easily forgotten after the Chinese New Year’s parade and festivals early in the year. Once the firecrackers stop crackling and the colorful dragons disappear, this easily accessible destination a couple of blocks from the Gold Line could use with a resurgence of activity. And that’s just what the Chinatown Business Improvement District along with sponsors like KCRW have done, heating up the action in this red lantern district with the free Chinatown Summer Nights events.
The events scheduled for summer 2013, give visitors an opportunity to reacquaint themselves to all the offerings in and around the Central Plaza. The theme of the evening’s festivities revolves around music (presented by KCRW), dancing and food with a food cook-off by Chinese chefs, cooking demonstrations and of course, food trucks, the staple of any festival.
Much of the charm of the festival is in wandering down the alleys and narrow streets strewn above with glowing red lanterns and hearing a few firecrackers thrown down for the full effect. Shops are open late and bustling with activity, although mannequins must have a tendency to run away ala Kim Cattrall as everyone we passed had their feet duct taped. Ouch!
Make sure to stop and watch handmade candy creations that are too beautiful to eat and are sculpted around a long wooden stick in a variety of animals. This attracted quite a crowd.
Arrive early to see authentic Chinese acts held before sundown in the Plaza or come late and dance the night away underneath the neon lights as KCRW’s DJs mix it up and crank it out.
If you’ve grown weary of the food truck craze or just don’t feel like standing in the long lines, there are plenty of eateries around every corner. While Hop Louie with its eye-catching structure is a popular favorite, we found a table at the Golden City Seafood Restaurant on Hill Street—a little ways from the foot traffic. Order ala carte or family specials (with six you get egg roll) to have a nice sampling of soup and meat dishes. We noticed a young crowd nesting on the steps of the New Dragon Chinese Restaurant just past Hop Louie for hipsters looking to save a buck.
For good eats anytime: Phoenix Bakery for strawberry cake, Ocean Seafood for dim sum, Yang Chow for slippery shrimp.
Chinatown is one of our favorite places to go when you're looking for a colorful kitschy escape or aren't sure what you want to do. If you haven’t been here in awhile, then these Summer Nights events are a good bet if you'd like to get reacquainted with the area or just want to party down. The plaza makes for a great dance floor.
Photos - A. Kirk
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