The great American melting pot still simmers briskly, I think while awaiting my lunchtime order at Mission 261 restaurant in San Gabriel. Here, in a century-old space whose architecture echoes that of San Gabriel Mission Archangel (just down the street), Asian pop tunes play, Chinese screens line stucco walls, and I'm the only person of European heritage in sight.
The restaurant ― two years old and considered one of the best Chinese eateries in greater Los Angeles ― is a sign of an increasingly vital San Gabriel. In the city's seven-block Historic San Gabriel Mission District, Hispanic roots run deep: The mission was founded in 1771. But a steady stream of immigrants from Vietnam, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are now adding their own distinctive accents ―and food ― to the mix.