Los Angeles day trip: Chinatown

Find luck and balance in L.A.'s Chinatown
Article by Vanessa McGrady

Why go now: Celebrate Chinese New Year 4707, the year of the ox, by trying something new.

Main streets: Broadway and Hill Street Get the lay of the land: Download a free neighborhood map (angelswalkla.org/walks_china town.html). You'll see Bruce Lee's former studio and the Dynasty Center for designer knockoffs.

Brush up on local film lore: Watch Roman Polanski's Chinatown.

Get a fiery start to the year: Thousands of firecrackers will ward off evil spirits and signal the start of the Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker Run (Feb 8; from $30; firecracker10k.org).

Discover a new favorite artist: Hit studios like the Happy Lion Gallery (closed Sun; 963 Chung King Rd.; thehappylion.com); China Art Objects (closed Sun; 933 Chung King; chinaartobjects. com); and Sister (closed Sun; 955 Chung King; sisterla.com).

More must-stop Chinatown eats

Get your Peking ducks in a row with a classic Chinese barbecue dinner at Hong Kong BBQ. Congee--a savory rice porridge-- comes in at least a dozen incarnations. Also try hot pots in inventive combos like Cantonese beef stew and turnip. $; 803 N. Broadway; 213/687-7238.

Warm up at Via Cafe, where you can slurp a bowl of Vietnamese pho (pronounced "fuh") piled with bean sprouts, jalapenos, and basil. Assemble your own appetizers of fresh herbs, cucumbers, pickled veggies, and meat, shrimp, or tofu, and sweet-potato fritters. $; 415 Gin Ling Way, Ste. B; 213/617-1481.

Adventurous eaters should stop by Automat--a fast-food joint with vending machines full of international snacks rarely seen stateside. Anyone up for shrimp-flavored chips, instant corn salad, or Pocky's crisp, thin, chocolatecovered biscuit sticks? $; 936 Chung King Rd.; 213/617-0422.

Share your weekend finds. Favorite new restaurant? Local hike? Email your suggestions to the weekend guide editor at wgeditor@sunset.com

Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith | From the February 2009 Issue

L.A. getaway: Chinatown