By 10:30 p.m. on opening night at Chego, the crowds had thinned, enough so that late-to-the-party stragglers could walk up to the cashier at Roy Choi’s new Chinatown hub and immediately order the Beefy-T or Chubby Pork Belly rice bowls and easily find a spot at one of the picnic tables outside.
Earlier in the evening, the line of customers had extended all the way to the end of Far East Plaza, an open two-level Chinatown shopping mall on Broadway, which also houses Wing Hop Fung Ginseng and Pho 97, directly across the plaza from Chego.
Chego is tucked into a corner spot in the center of Far East Plaza on the ground floor and has a patio that serves as an en-plein-air dining room, dominated by a pretty light-strung tree and flanked by coin-operated kiddie rides. Choi, in black T-shirt and Dodgers hat, pointed to a spinning Winnie the Pooh ride that might fit a few (slender) adults and said, "I’m going to make that my private dining room."
Diners ordered from a letter board menu and took numbers to their seats. Inside the diminutive space, there are a dozen or so red bar stools at counters. The walls are painted with a gray and chartreuse border that recalls '80s new wave album covers. But outside, a DJ on the mezzanine played a set heavy on 2 Chainz and ASAP Rocky. There were ping-pong tables up there too, but no late-night takers.
A young couple -- he in plaid and she sporting outsize eyeglasses -- at one of the al fresco tables finished off their Ooey Gooey Fries, beer battered French fries topped with sour cream sambal, Monterey Jack, cheddar and cotija cheese, chiles, cilantro and pickled garlic. They considered dessert, but the kitchen had run out of Sriracha Bars, a candy bar featuring crisped rice, caramel and Sriracha ganache.
Choi himself passed around free beer and enthused about his new location. "In most cities, Chinatown is perceived as kind of closed” to outsiders, he said, “but I think they’re just waiting for people to move in. Neighbors have brought by Buddhas and flowers. I’ve been so welcomed here."
727 N. Broadway, No. 117, Los Angeles, (323) 380-8680, www.eatchego.com.