(images via Yelp.com)- Sam Woo BBQ

Just to be clear, this is not a food blog. However, Los Angeles is very well known for having great Asian cuisine and a huge concentration of great Chinese food is just east of Downtown LA, in the San Gabriel Valley (ie: Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park, Rosemead, Arcadia, etc). For many Asian Immigrants, the San Gabriel Valley is the first (and last) stop when they arrive in the US. Food is culturally significant for many Asian groups, as it can be a social event. And with so many restaurants in the area, the food has to be good or it’ll sink quickly.

Three general things to know about San Gabriel Valley restaurants:

(Image via KevCheng on Yelp) – Indian Restaurant

1. Don’t be scared!!: Ordering food in a restaurant that only has Chinese menus and Chinese-only speaking workers can be intimidating. But don’t be or you’ll miss out on a culinary orgasm. yes. ORGASM. Take a look around at what everyone is eating and order it. You may be shocked to find out that Chinese people don’t just eat chow mein and eggrolls. Whenever I get caught in these types of situations, I survey the tables and then ask the server what HIS favorite dish is and order it. Is everyone eating a clay pot? Try it out!

2. Egg Foo Young isn’t real: I have no idea what Egg Foo Young is. For that matter, I’ve only seen General Tso’s chicken in pictures and I’ve only eaten Moo Shu Pork once out of curiosity. East Asia is vast and each region has its own distinct flavor. It’ll be up to you to explore the different types of Chinese food, but ask your server what type of Chinese food it is.

(image via JayChan H and Jenny K from Yelp) -Sin Bala

3. Service lacks: I’m a foodie that enjoys the full dining experience. I love it when I get great service at restaurants. But whenever I eat in the San Gabriel Valley, I waive aways all my expectations of service. Chances are, 80% of the time, it’ll suck. You probably won’t be greeted with a smiley happy face. You might have your order taken by a server in a rush. You probably will get your food before your drink. BUT, you will probably get your food on your table a few minutes after you order, your meal will be less than last night’s bar tab, and it’ll be the best Chinese food you’ve ever had. Forgo any expectations of great service and you’ll have a great meal.

(Image via Jim C. from Yelp) – Din Tai Fung

Side note: A simple truth in all LA restaurants is that the entire kitchen is probably staffed with Mexicans and other Latino groups. I’ve even encountered a Latino server in a restaurant who speaks perfect Chinese. Don’t be too surprised if you sneak a peek into the kitchen and you don’t see any Asian people. LA’s a diverse and interesting place.

(Find more information about San Gabriel Valley in the WanderRegions section of our site.)

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