Eating History: Tommy Lasorda Special at Paul’s Kitchen

Remembering those Dodgers days with old-school Chinese food
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As the World Series comes to a dramatic close tonight, it provides yet another sad opportunity to reflect on why the Dodgers—despite a blockbuster payroll and star-studded lineup—aren’t a part of this year’s Fall Classic, yet again.

But it is important to remember that the Dodger’s 56-year history isn’t marked only by trophies, but also in rather unorthodox ways—like Chinese food.

Enter Paul’s Kitchen, a sleepy Cantonese diner that’s been open since 1946, located just northeast of L.A.’s Fashion District. One of the last remaining relics of City Market Chinatown, a community of Chinese business that operated in this area during the 1930s through 1970s, Paul’s Kitchen’s well-worn vinyl booth and faded pink wallpaper make it one of the Downtown’s most fascinating throwbacks. Despite it’s advanced age—or maybe because of it—lunch time at Paul’s still draws a crowd, mostly elderly folks and local workers who plunk down in one of the vintage diner swivel chairs and order egg foo young with cups of oolong tea.

The most popular item on the menu is the Tommy Lasorda Special, named after the legendary Dodgers manager who frequented Paul’s Kitchen with players and staff throughout the 70s. It’s even rumored that he used to order delivery to Dodger Stadium after day games. According to the waitstaff, he occasionally drops in for lunch once or twice a year.

The Tommy Lasorda Special, as you might guess, is worthy of man of Lasorda’s girth. It serves a minimum of two people ($11 per person) and includes wor wonton soup, egg rolls, chasu pork, spare ribs, asparagus with beef, kung pao chicken, and house special fried rice.

Are there better options 10 minutes north in L.A.’s real Chinatown? Maybe. But the somewhat greasy, sauce-heavy, old-school Chinese-American fare is certainly one of a kind. It’s hard to envision another place where you can dig into a plate of tomato chow fun while admiring the impressive collection of Dodger memorabilia that lines the counter wall. It’s a reminder that, if nothing else, there is always next year.

Paul’s Kitchen, 1012 S. San Pedro St., Downtown, 213-749-5004