Alvin Cailan of Amboy Meats

Alvin Cailan of ’18

In May 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, Amboy Quality Meats & Delicious Burgers, a gourmet burger stand and butcher shop offering premium cuts sourced from small suppliers, opened in the Downtown Los Angeles Chinatown Far East Plaza.

Occupying the former space of Roy Choi’s Chego, the new entrant into the downtown culinary scene was launched by Cal State Fullerton management grad Alvin Cailan ’18. The name Amboy, his personal nickname, is a word for an American-born Filipino, and the business is intended to model a traditional Filipino steakhouse.

Cailan secured the spot in December 2019 prior to the arrival of coronavirus.

“Creating a butcher shop or what I like to call a ‘boutique steak shop’ was more important at the time because a lot of people were working at home and still are,” he says. “We wanted to provide a relatively affordable alternative to butcher shop quality meats. That’s what we ended up being, and it worked out.”

The Rise to Culinary Stardom

A lifelong resident of Pico Rivera, Cailan was first exposed to professional kitchens as a high school student, when he was a dishwasher at an Alhambra Catholic retreat center. He quickly developed an affinity for all things culinary and eventually led kitchen operations.

Later, Cailan would work as an account representative for a construction company. But when he was laid off and received a generous severance package, he used the funds to pursue his true passion: cooking.

After launching his successful egg-themed food truck in 2011, which eventually grew into a brick-and-mortar location in the Los Angeles Grand Central Market, the culinary profession would take Cailan to New York City, where his culinary acumen was noted in The New Yorker for his fried chicken.

By 2018, YouTube and Hulu were airing Cailan’s “The Burger Show” series, and his cookbook, Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

At Amboy in Chinatown

If you visit Amboy Quality Meats, you’ll notice a simple menu, though the selection of burgers is anything but simplistic. Thanks to relationships with small purveyors, Cailan offers prime-grade cuts, which are for sale in the shop’s window.

Burgers range from $7 to $14, while meat cuts range from $10 to $159.

Cailan says he’s excited to be in Chinatown. “I love Far East Plaza, what it stands for. A lot of great restaurants came out of that plaza. Working with [Far East Plaza’s] George Yu, who I consider a mentor, really gave us opportunities to fulfill our culinary dreams without breaking the bank. I’m really grateful for that. Chinatown for me ‒ culinarily ‒ is home,” he says.

Read more in this article in DT News.