Even to locals, the transformation of Downtown Los Angeles is hard to believe. Less than a decade ago, there were really two Downtowns: the high rises and upscale lunch spots of the Financial District and… everything else. Cheap eats ruled the day, taco carts crawled the late night streets, and the occasional ramen joint or yakitori spot could be found among the warehouses and shuttered storefronts. But for the most part Downtown was dead.
These days, revitalization is so rampant that it’s hard to recognize the same boulevards that used to be near-empty ten years ago. Young, urban crowds flock to bars, restaurants, art galleries and entertainment venues nightly, and it’s no longer a surprise to see someone on the streets at all hours of the night. Of course, with the influx of people and money comes competition, and Downtown is quickly becoming one of the most contested core neighborhoods for food and drink in this otherwise decentralized city.
Roy Choi is more than just a native Angeleno; his culinary sensibilities are a part of our culture. Choi’s Mexican-Korean fusion food not only speaks to a wide slice of Los Angeles eaters, but the man’s Kogi BBQ empire arguably began a mini-revolution that changed the way urban areas thought about restaurants, food, and their own traffic laws.
Years into his empire building, Choi now controls much more than just a few loncheros that sling short rib tacos. His multi-faceted ventures include a Chinatown rice bowl spot we love, a reclaimed IHOP that serves quick and dirty dinner plates, and a South Central juice and smoothie house that’s co-run by a giant food corporation. Indeed, Roy Choi is doing it all, while the rest of us just ride along through his twitter account @RidingShotgunLA.
So where do all of Choi’s varied interest rank? If you were only going to try one of Roy’s places during a long layover in Los Angeles, which should it be? Here, we take a look at each of his establishments, and offer a recommendation on which of his successes are his most important contribution to date.