There are so many restaurants in Chinatown that picking one can be about as overwhelming as choosing a name for your firstborn child or deciding which nonstick pan to buy at Bed Bath & Beyond. Fortunately, you now have this guide. It’ll help you figure out exactly where you should be eating, whether you’re looking for hand-pulled noodles, dim sum, fantastic food court stalls, or a hot pot place that also has self-serve ice cream.
JMC is small and gets crowded, but waiting for a table here is well worth it. Everything on this Szechuan menu - from the excellent shrimp dry hot pot to the fatty beef to the chili wontons - has the perfect amount of mouth-numbing spice. Plus, their take on chongqing chicken, which includes french fries, is currently edging out Athenian Room for the most delicious chicken and fries in the city. Dine-in solo, or with a friend who won’t bother you while you focus on the delicious food.
Situated on a side street off Wentworth, this place seems small, but there’s an upstairs that can be used for private parties. They’re known for their fresh seafood (there’s a tank filled with lobster and crab right in the back of the dining room), and there are always some specials that shouldn’t be overlooked. The bao “taco” is a great appetizer, and the slightly sweet walnut shrimp and the chili spiced dungeness crab are standout entrees.
When it’s 3am and you want sizzling beef, salt and pepper squid, congee, or just about anything else, Chi Cafe in Chinatown Square is your answer. This place is open 8am-4am almost every day of the week and stays open 24 hours on weekends, which means it has you covered for breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, dinner, second dinner, drunk dinner, and hangover. The menu is long, so make sure your friend you’ve been out with all night doesn’t fall asleep while deciding what to order. Be prepared for this place to get slammed when the bars close.
Memoir is a stall in the Richland Center food court in Chinatown. It’s a dry hot pot operation, and the Szechuan flavors happening here are incredible. You pick your ingredients from the counter (things like rice cakes, noodles, meat, seafood, and veggies), put them in your bucket, and hand it over. It will come back to you as a delicious and perfectly cooked platter of food. The level of heat is adjustable, and the dish comes with rice to balance out the spice. No matter what meal you create, you’ll think about it for days after eating here.
Listen up, because this is very important: we’re talking about Happy Lamb Hot Pot farther south on Wentworth, not - we repeat - not Little Lamb Hot Pot on the southeast corner of Cermak and Wentworth. Happy Lamb is where you want to be. This large restaurant has fantastic hot pot with flavorful broths (get the combo of original and spicy Szechuan) and high-quality meat, seafood, and vegetables. You can go AYCE for $21.99, but we prefer ordering a la carte because the menu is longer. This place gets incredibly busy and only takes reservations for 10 or more, so you can expect a long wait. Luckily they have a self-serve ice cream machine and free bags of chips to help with that.
QXY specializes in handmade broth-filled dumplings (different from xiao long bao), which are available steamed, boiled, or fried. You can choose fillings like pork and pickled cabbage, shrimp and leek, or egg and pepper. The interior of the restaurant looks a little like a fancy wooden shoebox out of a design magazine, and you can see the kitchen making everything to order. Bring a group of friends and order as many combinations as possible.
It’s been scientifically proven that things on a stick taste better, but the food at Friend BBQ would be great even without the skewer. This small spot has a long menu of various grilled items like fatty beef, lamb, chicken heart, and tendon that you order by the piece, all seasoned with cumin and chili. It’s reasonably priced enough that you can try lots of different pieces, and this place is open till 2am, because science has proven that stuff on sticks also makes superior drunk food.
You probably know MingHin. You might even be reading this list from your table at MingHin right now. And it’s a great place to know about - it’s large, has several locations, and is open 365 days a year. It also happens to have the most consistent dim sum in Chicago. Just don’t come here if you’re an irresponsible online shopper, because instead of carts or paper menus, you use iPads at the table to place your order, and it’s easy to lose track of all the food you’ve put in your cart. You can get tasty entrees like lo mein and rice dishes, but we recommend focusing on the dim sum, especially the pork buns and dumplings.
Dolo stands out from other dim sum spots in the neighborhood by having a full bar and a shorter, concise dim sum menu. But don’t let the latter discourage you - you’ll find a lot of the usual suspects, including pork buns, shu mai, and sesame balls. Everything is made to order, so the food takes a little longer to get to your table, but it tastes more delicious that way.
Cai is a dim sum place on the upper level of Chinatown Square. The space is huge, the servers wear jackets, and there’s plenty of lazy Susan tables for groups of all sizes. The all-day dim sum menu here is gigantic (both in terms of its length and its actual physical size) and everything is pretty good, especially the pork pastry and the beef and enoki rice noodle. Cai is also great for a big group dinner, where you can share the Peking duck carved tableside.
Also on the second floor of Chinatown Square is Daebak, a solid Korean barbecue spot. This place is only a few years old, and feels like it - it has an industrial atmosphere and K-pop music videos projected all over the walls. The attentive servers are very good about turning your meat over the gas grill and refilling your banchan - and refills are very important, because everything is fantastic. Don’t leave without ordering a kimchi pancake.
BBQ King House
If you’ve walked through Chinatown Square, you’ve definitely noticed the ducks hanging in the window at BBQ King House. This place indeed specializes in barbecue duck, though all the juicy roasted meats here are fantastic. While the duck is a must order, you can’t go wrong with pork or chicken, either - just get here early, because they tend to run out of the most popular stuff at night.
We don’t usually include this kind of fast casual chain on our guides, but Bonchon is worth knowing about if you’re in the neighborhood. It’s right in the center of Chinatown Square, and while the sauces don’t quite measure up to the ones at Crisp or Dak, the food here is consistently tasty. Get a half-and-half order of the spicy and garlic wings and some beer.
This is a classic dim sum spot with hit-or-miss food. But when it’s a hit, the food is great. Phoenix used to have the little carts rolling around the dining room, but they’ve switched over to the same kind of checkbox paper menu you find at Cai. Stick with the classics like pork buns, shu mai with juicy shrimp, and salted egg buns. The dim sum is served all day, but you should hit it up earlier on the weekends when everything is being made fresh.
The best place for ramen in Chinatown. They serve four different types of broth (shoyu, miso, shio, and tonkotsu), and the tonkotsu super premium (with pork belly, loin, shoulder, beef tongue, clams, and duck) is the best thing on the menu. If you like things extra spicy, the “Hell Ramen” has five different spice levels, the highest of which is hot enough to warrant an “eat this and get a T-shirt” challenge. Also worth noting: unlike the Lakeview location, this one does not do takeout.
This spot completes the old-school dim sum trifecta. Like Phoenix and Cai, Triple Crown’s food can be pretty average, but when you want dim sum in a classic space in the old part of Chinatown, it does the trick. Also like Phoenix, the quality can really vary depending on the time of day you’re here. Earlier in the weekend when the restaurant is at its busiest, the dim sum is made more frequently and tends to be fresher.
This is the original location of this classic Chinese bakery (the other is in Uptown), though we love them both. Anything from their pastry case will be worth the trip, such as the pork buns, sponge cakes, sesame balls, egg custards, and much more. Everything is made fresh daily, and there are plenty of tables. It’s affordable and cash only.
Ken Kee is a Chinatown utility player that works for a lot of occasions. It’s casual but still manages to feel special enough for date night, with a full bar and a long menu of consistently great food. Order standout dishes like the fried noodles, tender short ribs in a savory XO sauce, or fish in black bean sauce, then finish up with the man tao (fried bread with condensed milk).
This place serves reliable Szechuan food in an upscale, trendy environment. Everything here is tingly and spicy the way you expect it to be, and their chongqing chicken and mala fish fillet are particularly great. But if you’re not into those options, this place also has some solid hot pot, and you can get a combo of up to three broths.
There are so many restaurants in Chinatown, you’ll occasionally come across a good one that seems eerily deserted when you walk in. We’ve been the only people eating at Dongpo a few times, but don’t let that deter you - this place is great. Come here for dishes like spicy wontons, chili rabbit, and yu-shiang pork. The space is casual and BYOB.
This spot on Cermak has some great noodle dishes, and that’s what you should focus on when you’re here. Particularly the lamb soup with hand-stretched noodles or the biang biang noodles with pork, tomato, egg, and beef, both of which have a lot of flavor and just the right amount of spice.
A sleek and bar-like Szechuan spot in Chinatown Square with a busy, upbeat atmosphere. The food here is salty and aggressively seasoned (we mean this in a good way), so BYOB plenty of drinks. They have really great twice-fried pork, cumin lamb, and dan dan noodles.
Having opened in 2019, Chef Xiong is the newest spot on our guide. This upscale BYOB restaurant has a very long menu, but highlights include the cold jelly noodles in a spicy black bean sauce, the grilled pork ribs, and the wontons in chili sauce. They also serve their popcorn chicken in little chicken-shaped wicker baskets, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s important information.
There are two main decisions you need to make at this brightly lit spot on Wentworth: whether to order hand-pulled noodles or shaved, and whether you want them stir-fried or in a soup. Our go-to order here is a plate of the thick and chewy shaved noodles, fried with thinly sliced beef and vegetables. While you’re at it, get an order of steamed pork buns.
Besides both having names that are fun to say, another thing that Slurp Slurp and Yummy Yummy have in common is hand-pulled noodles. When it comes to noodle soup, though, we prefer Yummy Yummy. This place got its start in the Richland Center food court, but now it has its own space farther south on Wentworth, the only downside of which is that you might get distracted by the other equally great spots on the walk over. Order the beef tendon and fish ball soup, and be prepared for leftovers - the portions are huge.
This place has an interesting twist on hot pot: you pick out a type of noodle (we prefer the rice), a broth flavor (they’re all very good), and some sort of meat (meat’s always nice). You’ll receive your noodles, meat, and broth separately, with a bunch of tiny dishes of various veggies and mix-ins. Then, in an incredible plot twist, it’s the servers who toss all the ingredients into the boiling broth in front of you. So it’s like hot pot, but without the crushing fear of cooking everything into oblivion.
You should go to Hing Kee for one reason: the handmade xiao long bao. Sure, this casual spot has other stuff on the menu, but don’t worry about that. It’s the XLBs you can see being carefully made in the front window that need to be on the table. Get the pork, or pork with crab, and throw in a scallion pancake, too.
Moon Palace is an upscale spot ideal for date night or a small group dinner. This place has great soup dumplings, along with must-order dishes like beef lo mein and dong po pork. The space is quiet and dimly lit, which is perfect for a relaxing evening when you don’t want your date to see your enlarged pores.
This restaurant in Chinatown Square is like your uncle who you really love, but just can’t count on. Despite his ups and downs, you still invite him to family gatherings and hope he shows up reasonably sober. Right now, Lao Sze Chuan is on an upswing, and we’re choosing to believe it will stay that way. Come here for Tony’s chicken with three chili, Szechuan string beans, and any variety of the hot pot.
Joy Yee has food, but you don’t need to concern yourself with that. This is one of the most popular boba spots in Chinatown, and during the summer there’s always a crowd standing in front of the takeout window in Chinatown Square. Get the sweet rose with vanilla ice cream and strawberry jelly.
We prefer the milk teas at Bingo over Joy Yee. The boba are large and chewy, and there’s just the right amount of tea flavor. The brown sugar is best, followed closely by the rose oolong.
Kung Fu Tea
Another great option, with a short menu compared to Joy Yee and Bingo. Get the matcha milk cap or the red bean slush.