Yee Mee Loo’s used to be my favorite drinking spot, back when I lived in downtown LA’s Loft District. I always took my friends to Chinatown and Yee Mee Loo’s since it was such a crazy place. They had a huge altar behind the bar with a statue of Hotei, the fat-bellied laughing buddha. The bartenders burned huge amounts of incense on the altar and the air was always thick and smoky with a strange fragrance. The establishment prided itself on having never ever cleaned the interior. Cobwebs covered with clumps of dust drooped from the light fixtures. Every wall surface was brown from smoke residue. Yee Mee Loo’s was also famous for their clock that ran backwards, I don’t wear a watch so their clock was always a torment after a few drinks.

But mostly I liked to take people to Yee Mee Loo’s because it was near a live poultry shop. All my friends liked to see the chickens and other small fowl stacked in cages by the windows. One day I took a friend out for a drink and we went by the poultry shop. As we approached, I saw about 30 cats standing around the back of the store, yowling, scrambling around by a fence, keeping them from the dumpster which was overflowing with waste. I’d never seen anything like it. We tried to avoid that scene, I told my friend to peek in the front window. He looked through the grimy window and started screaming and freaking out. He asked me if it was always like this. I said, “what? It’s just some chickens in cages.” He said no, I should take a look for myself.

I looked but I couldn’t see anything. It was just a dimly lit shop with some cages of chickens and quail. They seemed to be awake and flapping around agitatedly, which was odd because they’re usually asleep at this time of the evening. My friend said “no, look at the floor. I thought it was just a grey floor, I couldn’t really see it through the window grime. He insisted I should look closer, and wait. And then I freaked out. The floor was grey because it was a wall-to-wall carpet of rats. Some of the chickens got out of their cages and were being chased around the room. I told my friend we’re getting the hell out of here, and we ran back past the dumpster area. Now our eyes were more accustomed to the light, we could see what was happening. There was a huge battle between the cats and the rats swarming over the dumpster.

I never ate at a restaurant in Chinatown again.

3 thoughts on “Chinatown”

  1. No, look at the floor

    Charles Eicher at Disinfotainment has a wonderful story about the fauna of LA’s Chinatown. As we approached, I saw about 30 cats standing around the back of the store, yowling, scrambling around by a fence, keeping them from the dumpster…

  2. I should clarify that this incident took place around 1986, at the old Yee Mee Loo’s. It closed and someone bought all the old fixtures, I heard that a bar in Glendale set it all up and tried to recreate the old atmosphere. Recreating that decrepit old dive would be impossible, if not illegal.
    Apparently there is a new Yee Mee Loo restaurant but it is in a different spot and I have no idea if it’s associated with the old place. For all I know, it could be a very fine restaurant, but I sure as hell wouldn’t ever eat there, or any other place in Chinatown.

  3. I was a regular at Yee Mee Loos for years. Would love to talk to some old “Regulars” remember the place as it was in the 80’s

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