photo credit: Jack Li
The Best Restaurants In Chinatown
The greatest restaurants in Chicago’s Chinatown.
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.
As the only vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, Veggie House is a must-visit. The menu is long, with a lot of vegan options, too. To help you narrow things down, our favorite dishes at this casual spot are the orange chicken (mushrooms fried in an everlastingly crispy batter and drizzled with a sweet and tangy glaze) and the Mongolian beef, which layers a savory soy sauce on top of plant-based strips acting as tender beef doppelgängers.
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Monkey King Jianbing
This carryout spot is hidden on the second floor of an office building, and specializes in jiangbing that they make in their windowless suite. Our go-to order is the minced pork version, a thin pancake wrapped around minced pork, a beef hot dog, pork floss, pickles, and crunchy wonton strips. It fills a meaty crepe-sized hole in our heart that we didn’t know needed filling. Plus, it comes with plastic gloves that are handy if you’re eating this messy masterpiece in your car.
3 Sauces Hainam Chicken Rice
3 Sauces Hainam Chicken Rice is a stall in the Richland Center food court, located in the basement of the mall. Unsurprisingly, the reason to come here is for their specialty: Hainan chicken rice. The poached chicken is soft and chewy perfection, served atop rich rice that’s been flavored with chicken fat. It comes with three tasty sauces (chili, soy, and garlic) that should be used liberally, and a light chicken broth. We can’t think of a more comforting (or satisfying) way to spend $12.
Jiang Niu BBQ House
This big, bright ACYE fusion spot in Chinatown specializes in Dongbei-style BBQ. It’s similar to Korean, but the marinade doesn’t include doenjang, so it’s a little lighter. Plus, Jiang Niu’s long menu also has options to throw on the gas grill—like enoki mushrooms, sweet potato, lettuces, and pineapple to name a few. Everything comes with suggested cook times, so you don’t have to worry about the structural integrity of your cabbage. This place is also a little silly: you’ll find robot servers, and ridiculous add-ons like a ferris wheel full of ingredients, and a raw meat cake which sounds terrifying but we promise is kind of cute.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Qiao Lin Hotpot
We’re big fans of this hot pot spot on the border of Chinatown and Pilsen. For one thing, this restaurant in the 88 Marketplace building has tables designed for just two people, which is nice. And the menu has suggested cooking times, which is not only helpful, but can help avoid potential arguments about how long you should leave the fish balls in the spicy broth (five minutes, by the way). They have a robust condiment station, where you can mix your own hot pot sauce with ingredients like chili oil, garlic, vinegar, sesame paste, and more. Plus, you can order pots with either one, two, or three-way broth dividers, and they’re all delicious. Come here on a date or with a small group, and plan to try everything.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
312 Fish Market
This casual sushi spot is located in 88 Marketplace on the border of Chinatown and Pilsen. There are several restaurants inside this giant supermarket, but 312 is the only one that has its own seating, which includes a sushi counter. And considering that this place is from a former chef of Sushi-san, it’s not surprising that all their maki, sashimi, and nigiri are really good. Like the konbujime medai—the cured snapper has a ton of rich seaweed flavor and is topped with a pop of citrus to round the bite out. Order one of their platters that has an assortment of everything for takeout, or just sit down and grab a bite during the middle of your weekly grocery shopping.
Rounding out the 88 Marketplace trifecta is Holu, a steakhouse inspired by Korean BBQ. Each table at Holu has a grill where the server (or you, if you like throwing caution to the wind and/or are a control freak) cooks your steak. And the main reason we like this place is the incredible quality of the meat. Most of it is aged in-house (you can say hi to the impressive selection displayed in the window while you have a drink at the bar), with everything from ribeye and zabuton, to wagyu tongue and A5 Japanese Kobe. It comes with a portion of everything, along with some banchan-style sides, and a dessert.
Liuyishou is one of the many Chinese hot pot chains that have opened in Chicago recently. What we really like about this particular spot is that their Chioungqiung soup base is very spicy—to the point where servers warn every table. They’re not exaggerating. The cute bear-shaped broth block that melts into the pot is foreshadowing. But the non-spicy broths, like the wild mushroom, are also flavorful. Our strategy is to get a two-flavor pot and take turns cooking in both. The large dining room is pretty minimal, with TVs and booths good for groups of all sizes. Another thing we really like about Liuyishou? They have a robust condiment station with a bunch of dipping sauce recommendations. Plus, it has sweets like sesame balls, which make a fantastic snack when your mouth is numb.
Go 4 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.
From the team behind Lao Sze Chuan (and its many offspring) comes Hunan Cuisine. This large spot on the first floor of Chinatown Square focuses on spicy Hunan food. So while you won’t get the mouth-tinglingness of Sichuan food, you will still experience incredible levels of heat here. Order dishes like the steamed whole fish covered in peppers, fish head stew with silky pieces of tofu, and the sweet and spicy Hunan-style duck. The restaurant is great for groups, there are tables with lazy susans, and projections of dancing teddy bears on the wall to stare at in case the conversation hits a lull.
When it’s 1am 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 4pm-2am almost every day of the week, which means it has you covered for 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 another stall in the Richland Center food court. 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.
Happy Lamb Hot Pot
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.
Qing Xiang Yuan Dumpling
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 Restaurant & Bar
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.
Daebak Korean BBQ
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.
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.
photo credit: Sandy Noto
Strings Ramen Shop
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.
Triple Crown Restaurant
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.
photo credit: Kim Kovacik
Chiu Quon Bakery
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 Restaurant
This 20-year-old Chinatown staple was recently bought by the owner of Strings Ramen, and both the space and menu have been overhauled. Now the two-story restaurant is full of neon signs and pop art, and the menu has been pared-down to Hong Kong-style cart noodles, street food, and entrees like chow mein. One of their specialties is congee, and their rice porridge is an excellent choice when you’re here for brunch. They have about eleven different kinds, ranging from pork with preserved egg, beef with egg, and fried dough.
Sze Chuan Cuisine
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.
东坡印象 Dongpo Impression
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.
Chef Xiong Taste of Szechuan
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. Chef Xiong also serves 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.
Yummy Yummy Noodles
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.
Hing Kee Restaurant
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 Restaurant
Moon Palace is an ideal spot for a quick meal. This takeout-only spot has great soup dumplings, along with must-order dishes like beef lo mein and dong po pork.
Hidden behind Moon Palace Express" “kitchen door” is Nine Bar. It's Chinatown's first speakeasy and has a dark, neon-lit interior with lots of couches. This spot has a variety of great Asian-inspired drinks with ingredients like Chinese five spice or Thai basil. And if you want something to eat, their small food menu has great options like crispy hot mapo fries or a juicy fried pork sandwich with tangy tonkatsu sauce.
Lao Sze Chuan
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's Noodles
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.
Another great option, with a short menu compared to Joy Yee and Bingo. Get the matcha milk cap or the red bean slush.