Northern Cafe

I found it so interesting to write about this place was because it had opened up a location that wasn’t  in their usual area of San Gabriel Valley where Chinese immigrants dominated. They have two other locations in Hacienda Heights and Cerritos and recently opened one up in Los Angeles, smack dab in the middle of USC’s college students and Greek society life. It was a stunning and very bold move on their part because one doesn’t usually find Chinese restaurants around USC. At least relatively authentic ones, the only Chinese food restaurant they have is Panda Express.

I’ve been to their Hacienda Heights locations and found their food pretty good (only ordered sauteed vegetables, tomato eggs and kung pao chicken, although the latter wasn’t that good). It was nice that they opened this one up in place of Wokano because my boyfriend works next door and it’s very convenient to have a Chinese restaurant within walking distance. Not to mention they’re also opened late which is FANTASTIC. Most suburban city restaurants close at 8:00PM-9:00PM which I find to be a little early when I tend to stay up late on weekends and always looking for other Chinese places besides the late night HK style ones located in the SGV (i.e. ABC Cafe, Tasty Garden, Garden Cafe).

Now, are they down and dirty home cooked Chinese food? Not particularly, but it’s really the only legit Chinese place that isn’t Panda Express within the USC area which definitely gives people more option now and especially since USA has so many international students from Asia, it’s also nice that there’s a similar taste of home.


I’ve ordered to-go as well as dined in before, it’s actually pretty cool that the servers are Chinese and bilingual enough to speak English as well. Sometimes it’s easier to just inquire about a Chinese dish in Chinese rather than English because that’s what the cuisine originated from and some cooking methods and ingredients are easier to explain in their original language that one grew up with. Upon walking in, it’s very open space which allows for room to walk around, albeit I found the restaurant lacked seating (they ended up more popular than expected). They have a food service to the right where you can order cold dishes like marinated seaweed, bean curd, pork ears, etc. first before ordering the rest at the cash register.

We’ve ordered their green onion pancake, XLB, string bean with minced meat, beef rolls, cold sliced chicken in spicy chili oil, dan dan mian and orange chicken before. Everything was good, but not the best dishes we’ve had. Boyfriend found the XLB shells were a little too thick in ratio to the inside pork filling. The orange chicken is more similar to American orange chicken where it’s heavy in sauce, not my favorite. I do like their string beans, it’s wok’ed with onions and fresh black soybeans (黑豆豆豉), very delicious although not as much minced meat as I thought. Their dan dan mian is a variation of the southwest Sichuan style rather than the Taiwanese style that’s more similar to ma jiang mian of utilizing sesame/peanut sauce. Although Northern Cafe’s was not soupy like Sichuan’s, instead it was a thick spicy minced meat over noodles type. Which was a surprise since my boyfriend always ordered dan dan mian from Taiwan restaurants so he was more familiar with that style of dan dan mian.

It’s self-seating so you order upfront and seat yourself after, utensils and napkins are at the side table next to the cash register as well as water cups. Seating will be hard to find during peak hours that people will start fighting for seats!

Rating: ★★★★☆
Address: 6547 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, Hollywood, CA 90038

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