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The Best Chinese Restaurants In Chicago

20 great places for dim sum, hot pot, and Peking duck.
The Best Chinese Restaurants In Chicago image

photo credit: DLM Photography & Design

We’re lucky to live in a city with plenty of fantastic spots dedicated to Chinese food. Some are long-lasting staples serving traditional Chinese classics in areas with large immigrant communities like Chinatown, Bridgeport, or Uptown. Others are newer spots making creative dishes, like a speakeasy that serves mapo waffle fries, or a shared kitchen with salt and pepper chicken sandwiches. Whether you want a classic plate of chow fun or pineapple buns with truffle butter, a great meal is guaranteed at any of these 20 spots.

THE SPOTS

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Chinese

Chinatown

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerFirst/Early in the Game DatesLunchWalk-Ins
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This Chinatown spot has a whopping 120 dumpling options (if you want to check our math, that’s 40 different types that can either be fried, boiled, or steamed). Even more impressive is how each handmade dumpling has a satisfying juiciness. And everyone seems to agree—the bright wooden dining room is constantly busy, often leading to long wait times on the weekends. But an hour is a small price for perfectly seasoned beef and onion, lamb and coriander, or tomato and egg dumplings.

It’s common to see families at this small BYOB Chinatown spot sharing a bunch of Cantonese dishes as another table splits a 30-pack of Heineken doubling as the centerpiece. But though their massive menu has plenty of hits, one dish should always be included at the table: the claypot rice. The very hot bowl gives the rice a crispy crust, while soy sauce, juices from your protein of choice (the farmer’s chicken is our favorite), and Chinese sausage fold into sweet, savory (and also very hot) spoonfuls.

Chinatown’s Wentworth strip has tons of exceptional spots, but it’s worth venturing out to one of the side streets for Go 4 Food’s fusion Chinese dishes and seafood. Though this BYOB spot gets crowded quickly, the massive pile of dungeness crab smothered in a sweet chili sauce warrants an hour-long wait. The spicy beef bao “tacos” appetizer and dishes like juicy “French-style” beef tenderloin and salted egg yolk shrimp are all great, too—so make sure one (or all) of those make it to the iPad ordering queue.

We’re huge fans of this hot pot spot on the border of Pilsen and Chinatown. For one thing, Qiao Lin has date-friendly two tops, perfect for when you’re at the stage in the relationship when being a sweaty mess after eating fish balls drenched in spicy Chongqing broth is a non-issue. The menu also has cook times to help prevent arguments (between your date, friends, or family) about how long kobe beef should swim in boiling soup. Throw in a stocked dipping sauce station, the option to order up to three different broths (we like the spicy, mushroom, and pork ones), and tons of high-quality ingredients, and it all adds up to the best hot pot restaurant in Chicago.

photo credit: Sun Wah

$$$$Perfect For:Big Groups

Sun Wah in Uptown has been serving delicious Cantonese dishes and Hong Kong-style BBQ like roast pork, beef chow fun, and egg rolls since 1987. But the best dish here is the Peking duck that zips around on carts in their large dining space. At Sun Wah, duck dinner isn’t just a meal—it’s an experience. Servers carve the whole bird tableside before you stuff the crackly-skinned meat into baos. Carcasses flavor a light soup while extra duck meat makes its way into your choice of noodles or fried rice.

Dolo in Chinatown could pass as a sports bar, with TVs sprinkled around the dining room and a solid flow of beer bottles making their rounds. Even though there isn’t a parade of carts full of steamer baskets rolling by, this place still serves excellent dim sum. Everything on their large menu is made to order. But the creative dishes are what keep us coming back—get the clam shells stuffed with juicy shrimp and pork, and the crispy shrimp and leek dumplings that look like mini fried UFOs.

“Hey! Chiu Quon isn’t a restaurant!” We don’t care—the pastries and dim sum at this counter-service bakery are so good that technicalities don’t matter. This legendary cash-only Chinatown staple has been around for over 40 years, and there isn’t a better place in the city for steamed rice cakes with shrimp, soft and fluffy baked BBQ pork buns, and egg tarts so pleasantly flaky they should come with a vacuum. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacktime, Chiu Quon is a wise choice for any meal—just make sure you stop by an ATM first.

Ken Kee has been around Chinatown for decades, but under new ownership, it got a neon facelift with glowing signs straight out of a Wong Kar Wai movie. The Hong Kong-inspired menu has also been pared down to cart noodles, street food, and entrees like chow mein or salt and pepper pork chop. On weekdays from 2-5pm, they have an afternoon tea menu with less commonly found dishes like creamy toast dusted in Ovaltine and their collaboration with Chiu Quon, a sweet pineapple bun filled with truffle butter.

This small spot in Chinatown Square has shelves full of vinyl album covers and a chalkboard wall full of past diners’ signatures, Chinese characters, and sayings like “I Heart MCCB.” Well, it turns out we heart MCCB, too. Their specialty is Sichuan food, so expect tingly spice from dishes like grilled fish in a blazing red chili broth or salty twice-fried pork. The place can get busy and loud—but once you’re deep in a bowl of mala dry pot packed with seafood, meatballs, and lotus root, the euphoric numbing spice will be the only thing you’re focused on.

With four Chicago locations (Chinatown, Streeterville, South Loop, and Lakeshore East) plus two suburban ones, Minghin is deep in chain restaurant territory. But consistency is part of its DNA—starting with each location’s dim sum dishes like airy fried taro puffs, har gow full of plump shrimp, and sweet buns that might cause a molten custard explosion but are worth the risk. The restaurants all have a touch of flair, courtesy of crystals dangling from the ceiling. There’s also plenty of seating, so you can bring as many friends as you want for a group meal.

Richland Center's underground food court in Chinatown has plenty of outstanding stalls, but nowhere makes us more excited to eat in a basement than Szechuan Bistro. Everything from the long menu involving mouth-numbing peppers is pungent and a good reminder that we’re still capable of feeling something. Our favorite dish is the house special boiled fish. It's flaky and comes in a massive tray of bubbling scarlet broth, like a chili pepper jacuzzi. If you’re looking for more spice-induced endorphins, the frog, dan dan noodles, or the boneless chicken in chili sauce are also worth checking out.

Judging by the name and cute illustrated panels showing how to properly polish off a bowl of noodles, it’s obvious what this Chinatown spot is all about. When ordering at Slurp Slurp, you only have to think about two things: noodle shape (hand-pulled or shaved) and how you want them prepared (stir-fried or in a beef broth). Whatever your golden combination (ours is shaved and with soup), each bowl is satisfying, especially when topped with chicken, pork ribs, or brisket. Stop by for a low-key lunch or dinner, order some steamed buns to start, and get ready to slurp (slurp).

Chinatown’s first cocktail bar and speakeasy isn’t technically a restaurant, but since you can have a whole meal here and it’s part of an actual restaurant (it’s hiding behind Moon Palace Express’ “kitchen door”), we’re letting it slide. Check out Nine Bar for their spicy and tangy wings, crispy katsu sandwich, mapo hot waffle fries smothered in chili pork, and cocktails like an Old Fashioned with Chinese five spice. Some comfy couches and fun DJ sets also make this neon-tinged spot one of the best bars in the city.

We’re not really sure why there are cartoony bear-fish creatures on Yao Yao’s light blue walls, but we do know their specialty pickled fish is fantastic. This Chinatown Sichuan spot is often packed with friends and families digging through giant bowls of their vibrantly green signature dish. The pieces of bass filet are light, tender, and float in a tart and slightly spicy broth full of peppercorns and mustard greens. If you want more variety, split bowls let you order a second broth-filled dish like spicy boiled beef or fish in tomato broth. We also love the cold sides, like smacked cucumber salad and spicy chicken.

photo credit: The Peninsula Chicago

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Considering it’s inside the Mag Mile’s Peninsula Hotel, it makes sense that Shanghai Terrace feels luxurious. There are golden chopstick holders shaped like boats, and each meal starts with warm “ST" monogrammed towels. The Chinese food follows suit. At $21, the four pieces of lobster, chicken, and truffle dumplings can feel like “Just Got A Bonus” dumplings, but the umami from the truffle combined with the sweetness from the lobster is incredible. The Peking duck has glistening crispy skin and sides of julienned vegetables, hoisin, and sweet and sour sauce. Check out Shanghai Terrace when it’s warm and make chun bing duck wraps on their secluded, namesake terrace.

This casual, no-reservations spot in Ukrainian Village feels like a house party. It’s small, crowded, full of family photos, and hip-hop blasts in the background. And just like a party, you shouldn’t show up empty-handed—the place has a BYOB policy. Get the cold sesame noodles, spicy eggplant, and pork dumplings in a spicy sour broth. Most of the dishes are seasoned in what LPY calls “the holy trinity.” Get lost in the combination of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil, and pretend the nearby people waiting for you to finish your six-pack don’t exist.

Getting Chinese food from 3 Little Pigs used to involve ordering over Instagram and waiting for the chef to get back to you on availability. Now, they're operating out of Molly’s Cupcakes in South Loop with a delivery option, which means you can get their char siu, pork fried rice, orange chicken, and lemon pepper fried chicken whenever you want. And if your pick-up order becomes a dine-in situation, that just means you'll eat your crispy salt and pepper chicken sandwich while sitting next to a bunch of dessert options.

In addition to this original Lincoln Park location, the Chengdu Impression family has Sichuan spots in Wicker Park and Edgewater, plus Dongpo Impression in Chinatown. So, at any moment, you’re never too far from their incredible cold noodle salad, spicy wontons, mapo tofu, and mouth-numbing dry chili rabbit. And if you don’t want to leave the house, everything delivers well, too—even scallion pancakes stay crispy during a long car ride. 

Head to this small spot in Chinatown for a casual lunch or dinner with some excellent Xi’an food. Whether it’s a solo meal or you’re hanging with friends, start things off with some tender and smoky lamb skewers or rou jia mo. These flatbread burgers are stuffed with either beef, pork, or lamb, and always have a crispy crust and pillowy inside. But as tempting as it is to load up on appetizers, don’t. Save room for the main event: spicy, cumin biang biang noodles that are hand-pulled and have an incredibly bouncy chew that makes them fun to eat.

This Northern Chinese spot in Bridgeport does indeed make great potstickers. We always get the signature long, fried ones that look like crispy edible cigars. Curate your own dumpling feast with chili wontons and xiao long bao full of tender meat and broth while hanging in their dimly lit, low-ceilinged space with a few booths and larger tables for big groups. Want to branch out of dumplingville? Share some scallion pancakes and cumin lamb. And if you’re still hungry or just need your daily sugar fix, get the tang yuan for dessert. The tiny glutinous rice balls swimming in a light, herbal broth have a nutty black sesame paste and just enough sweetness to round out a meal.

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