Jonathan Gold’s calling card has always been his knack for tracking down budget-friendly eats on the outer reaches of L.A.’s sprawling immigrant communities. But his role gradually changed several years ago when he left the L.A. Weekly and joined the Times. With less column space and a new set of responsibilities, there has been a drop in ethnic coverage compared to his days spent at the alt-weekly—even if you take into account his hand-selected network of scouts.

One of Gold’s favorite areas to explore was the western part of San Gabriel Valley, a pan-Asian dining enclave just east of the Downtown Los Angeles metro area, and home to some of the best dumpling houses and banh mi sandwiches this city has to offer. Despite all of this, the curious state of SGV restaurateuring typically means a Gold review holds little weight for the businesses here like it does for other locales; at the end of the day, local restaurant operators understand their target audience is non-whites.

Gold admits bad press is a waste on restaurants his readership won’t bother visiting. Perhaps, then, good press is also wasted on restaurants already popular with the locals. To conclude our unofficial #JGold week, we give you a rundown of the best SGV restaurants, both old and new, serving everything Taiwanese spicy-intestine casserole with pork blood, to Burmese noodles—places that Mr. Gold might already adore, but has not yet inked into his handy 101 pamphlet.

Pho Ngoon


Address and phone: 741 E Valley Blvd (626-872-2729)
Website: N/A
Good for: Saving an airline ticket to Hanoi, Vietnam

This Northern-style pho bac shop specializes in pho made famous at San Francisco’s Turtle Tower. Unlike at the JGold-endorsed Golden Deli, lines are minimal. A few young millenials, backed by a middle-aged Vietnamese kitchen crew, run the show here. Don’t be alarmed by the street-styled graffiti paintings of Vietnamese street food on the walls. After all, they do bump EDM from an iPod. (Photo courtesy Tony Chen)

Order this: The fried crab roll in lettuce wrap

Phuong Anh


Address and phone: 9442 E Garvey Ave (626-450-0729)
Website: N/A
Good for: Authentic replication of a Saigon hole-in-the-wall with no door

Stinky Vietnamese noodle soup made of shrimp—which most white people would shudder at the thought of—is the main attraction at this 600-square-foot shoe box. It’s a refreshing deviation from the standard Vietnamese shops offering pho and bun bo hue, but it only seats a dozen people on a good day. Food comes out amazingly quick and hot. (Photo courtesy Tony Chen)

Order this: Cari ga, bun nuoc leo bac lieu

Tin Tin


Address and phone: 7621 Garvey Ave (626-573-1983)
Website: N/A
Good for: Christmas dinner

One of Monterey Park’s oldest popular Cantonese restaurants offers little of the fanfare from glorious dim sum and seafood houses. But, in case you hadn’t heard, Cantonese people don’t only eat dim sum, noodles, and porridge. Families head to the old-timey Tin Tin because of its consistency, extreme affordability, and unfussy environs. Lunch stir-fry specials start at $5.50 and are probably better than the food covered in The Search for General Tso. (Photo: a_rios_/Instagram)

Order this: Peking-style ribs, green-onion lobster

Uncle Yu’s Indian Theme Restaurant


Address and phone: 663 S San Gabriel Blvd (626-287-0688)
Good for: Pre-gaming with feather-adorning waitresses

The decade old Taiwanese Hooters-equivalent, with Taiwanese street food and stinky tofu, is admittedly gauche and raunchy. However, it had lines out the door long before the 626 Night Markets opened and millenials began hashtagging #bobalife. (Photo: Uncle Yu)

Order this: Stir-fried stinky tofu, three cup cuttlefish, spicy intestine casserole with pork blood

Boiling Point


Address and phone: 153 W Garvey Ave (626-288-9876)
Good for: Shabu shabu for the impatient

Boiling Point is a smoothly run operation that is also the first hot-potting “concept” to make it big in the SGV. Every branch is popular, and even its extra-large flagship line commands 30-minute waits during weekends. The Taiwanese restaurant has never been given lip service, whereas Beverly Soon Tofu—JGold’s darling—is lauded left and right. (Photo: Boiling Point)

Order this: XL Taiwanese individual pot

Yoma Myanmar


Address and phone: 713 E Garvey Ave (626-280-8655)
Good for: Backpackers who love Southeast Asia

The oldest surviving Burmese restaurant is a tiny space with harsh lighting and awkward seating, with a kitchen staffed with a few lovely Burmese matrons. . Joan Lam is the latest proprietress here, and she will offer the most offensively authentic Burmese dishes such as fish past curry—if one insists. Compared to other Chinese dumpling houses in the area (Luscious Dumpling, 101 Noodle Express), this place needs all the foodie press it can get.  (Photo: Yelp)

Order this: Shan noodles, pon ye gyi pork belly

Yummy Restaurant


Address and phone: 600 E Live Oak Ave (626-445-1896)
Website: N/A
Good for: Farm- to-table eaters seeking a Chinese twist

Daniel Patterson may be seeking Indiegogo funds to open a chain of cheap “healthy” fast food restaurants, but Yummy has already succeeded in the concept. Yummy also serves up quick Cantonese-style veggie dishes grown from its own farm. Wait, what? This place has its own farm in Ontario, CA, and it’s USDA organic certified? Yummy is the Manresa of SGV, folks, with dishes in the single-digit dollar range, not hundreds. (Photo: Yelp)

Order this: Stir-fried chrysanthumum greens, or whatever exotic seasonal organic Chinese vegetables are being offered

Tan Khai Hoan


Address and phone: 8232 E Garvey Ave (626-571-0379)
Website: N/A
Good for: Starving families

Vietnamese food goes beyond pho and spring rolls, which is why Tan Khai Hoan is a local darling. The concept of family dining is a great boon (and bargain)—$18 prix-fixe dinners make this place slammed come Sunday nights. Caramelized catfish is a constant fave here. (Photo courtesy Tony Chen)

Order this: Anything with catfish



Address and phone: 930 E Garvey Ave (626-307-7176)
Website: N/A
Good for: the patient, and the heat tolerant

Three years before Gold reviewed his first Wuhan-style dry-pot restaurant, and five years before POT opened at Koreatown’s Line Hotel, WOK B.B.Q. offered up family-style shared spicy casseroles at big discounts ($20 per pot, free stock refill!). Perhaps the nonchalant—sometimes bordering on belligerent—service scared him away. But the spicy frog-leg pot? Now you’re talking.

Order this: Spicy pork short-rib hot pot and complimentary spicy peanuts