The Best Restaurants In Chinatown guide image

NYCGuide

The Best Restaurants In Chinatown

Dim sum, hot pot, laksa, and more great things to eat around Canal Street.

There are so many good restaurants in Chinatown that picking one can be as overwhelming as choosing a name for your firstborn child or deciding which non-stick pan to buy at Bed Bath & Beyond (RIP). 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, humongous lazy susans, or a dim sum spot that’s older than your grandpa. Some of the places on this guide are technically a block or two outside of Chinatown—but much like alpacas and kiwis, borders are fuzzy, confusing, and not that important.

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THE SPOTS

Hwa Yuan

Hwa Yuan Szechuan is a reboot of a restaurant from the ’80s, but unlike the last Ninja Turtles movie, this is a rebirth we’re extremely down with. It takes up two huge floors, has very large round tables, and serves Chinatown’s best Peking duck. They also have really good sesame noodles, soup dumplings, steamed fish, crispy beef, and mapo tofu. Hwa Yuan is pricier and a bit more upscale than many of its neighbors, but it's absolutely worth it for the excellent food.

Imagine American diner classics, if American diner classics were going to prom and had a little more flair than usual. That’s the food at Golden Diner. This place is open all day, and serves the sort of stuff you want for an extravagant but casual lunch—like matzo ball soup and a vegan caesar salad. There are also a few things with Asian influences, like a Thai cobb salad and a very good chicken katsu club with purple slaw. Grab a table inside the little retro space with stained glass lamps and lace curtains, or sit on the sidewalk patio if it's nice out.

Shu Jiao Fu Zhou is located on the outside periphery of what most would consider Chinatown, which is a nice way of saying it’s not exactly in Chinatown, by like a block. But we’re including it in this guide because we reserve the right to reject labels and also because this place serves the best dumplings around. They only come steamed, but they’re incredibly juicy and chewy and always just right. The wheat noodles with peanut sauce are also not to be missed.

Wu’s is our go-to spot for a birthday dinner or any other sort of big group outing in Chinatown. It’s BYOB, so most groups have ice buckets next to them filled with everything from Alsatian riesling to American IPAs. Every large round table has a humongous lazy susan, which you’ll inevitably cover with shareable dishes like a huge bowl of wonton soup, fried Dungeness crab, and Peking duck served in bao buns. After you finish everything in your ice bucket, keep the night going at 169 Bar a few feet away.

Whenever we’re in the mood for something unique and delicious that doesn’t cost much more than $15, we go to Kopitiam. It’s an excellent Malaysian spot on the border of the Lower East Side that’s great for a casual brunch or catch-up dinner with a friend who would appreciate a perfect oyster omelette. Split that and an order of the nasi lemak—but above all else, try the pan mee soup with handmade noodles, anchovy broth, and ground pork. It’s the Sunday HBO programming of the Kopitiam menu, and you’ll feel left out if you miss it.


We miss the old Jing Fong with its mile-long escalators. Fortunately, the dim sum at the new-ish location on Centre Street is just as good. The space is smaller, but there are still roving carts with chicken feet, fried turnip cakes (our favorite), and egg tarts. You can also order tons of non-dim sum items like smoky and not-at-all-greasy beef chow fun and roast duck with some of the most fatty, flavorful, and crispy skin in Chinatown. If you don't get here by 11:30am on the weekends, prepare to wait outside for a while.


Another excellent choice for dim sum (especially if you're looking for something a little more festive), Golden Unicorn is ideal for both celebratory big-group meals and casual brunches. It’s a two-story space with huge round tables covered in white tablecloths, and there’s a decent chance you’ll be seated next to a birthday party or wedding reception when you come. Get some pork buns, rice rolls, and at least one order of har gow, and show up around 10am on weekends if you want to avoid a very long wait.

On the border of Chinatown and the LES, Potluck Club serves Cantonese-American food in a space that looks like a cross between a restaurant, a lounge, and the concessions area of a movie theater. The menu was inspired by Chinatown, with dishes like a jellyfish salad, Berkshire pork potstickers, and salt and pepper chicken that comes with chive biscuits, pickled jalapeños, and a chili crisp jam. Order that chicken, and don’t skip dessert. The Dole Whip soft serve topped with a bolo bao crumble is reason enough to visit. 

As the name suggests, Taiwan Pork Chop House serves pork chops, and while they’re enjoyable (especially for $2.50 each), our favorite things here are the fried rice cakes with shredded pork or the tender wontons drenched in spicy oil. Everything at this casual cafe is both shareable and under $10, so bring a group and order a lot (and bring cash). You should probably get two or three orders of the wontons, but we recommend ordering in stages, as all of the food comes out really quickly.

Dr. Clark is a dark, sceney restaurant where you can mingle with people who dabble in content creation. It’s exactly the sort of spot that might get a writeup in Vogue (which it did), and it’s one of the only places in NYC exclusively dedicated to serving food from Hokkaido. Order salmon jerky, fried squid, and jingisukan, a BBQ dish that involves thinly-sliced mutton or lamb cooked tableside on a skillet shaped like an upside-down bowl (said to mimic a warrior’s helmet).


If you want to impress anyone with excellent soup dumplings, take them to Deluxe Green Bo. In addition to the soup dumplings (which are incredibly meaty and come with a combo of crab and pork), we love the rice cakes with shredded pork and cabbage, as well as the hot and spicy wontons that come with peanut sauce, sesame seeds, and chili oil on top. The space isn’t huge, so we wouldn’t recommend bringing more than four people here with you, but it’s great for a few out-of-towners if you’re playing host.

Mei Li Wah is a Chinese bakery that makes some of the best pork buns in the city. The buns come steamed or baked, and there’s even one with chicken and egg in addition to pork. The baked ones with barbecue pork are the best, though. They're perfectly soft, with a golden brown top, and caramelized pieces of pork steaming on the inside. While there are plenty of people who come to Mei Li Wah to pick up buns and leave, you can also sit down and have a full meal here that involves some pretty good rice rolls and fried rice dishes with eggs, vegetables, and sausage mixed in.


Despite its name, you shouldn’t be coming to Noodle Village for noodles. You should be coming here for Chinatown’s best wonton soup (and you should get it without the noodles, which are confusingly not great). You should also come for their excellent soup dumplings, which we think are better than those from Joe’s Shanghai around the corner. While it can get busy here during the day on weekends, it’s usually a great bet for a weeknight dinner.


Royal Seafood is just one big carpeted room on Mott Street full of huge round tables, and it's our go-to spot for dim sum when we don't want to deal with a huge wait. This Cantonese restaurant serves some of the freshest dim sum around, and there usually isn't too big of a line on weekends. Once you get seated, cover your table in pork buns, rice rolls, and some especially flavorful chicken feet. When you’re ordering from the carts, make sure you get plenty of food. It sometimes takes a while for them to recirculate.

At Kono, a sleek, serious yakitori restaurant with a crown-to-tail approach to serving chicken, you can have an extremely memorable meal—but only if you make the right choices regarding à la carte add-ons. The only option here is a $165 omakase, and it includes cuts like knee, heart, liver, and inner thigh as well some impressive small dishes like a rice cracker sandwich with chicken liver and black truffle. If you’re willing to pay extra, you can also get additional skewers, like crown, kidney, and the signature one with fallopian tube, liver, and an unlaid egg. Try at least a few.


There are two things you need to know about Peking Duck House. You can probably guess the first: This place serves really good Peking duck. The long menu has lots of other options—like dim sum, mala chicken, and a giant plate of seafood with scallops and shrimp—but you come here for the juicy, crispy duck that’s carved tableside. The second thing to know about this Chinatown spot is that it’s BYOB. Combine the two, and you get a pretty ideal group dinner option. The two-floor space has a bunch of big tables for large parties, but it is very popular, so you should make a reservation by phone ahead of time.


Since it’s down an obscure alleyway on Bowery, you’re probably not going to stumble into West New Malaysia randomly. But you should make a point to come here for some excellent Malaysian curries, big bowls of soup filled with seafood, and shareable entrees like sauteed chicken that’s perfectly tender and covered in spicy shrimp paste. The menu is huge, but no matter what you order, make sure to get the crispy fried prawns with salted egg.


There are a lot of places selling rice rolls in Chinatown, and many of them are worth your time. The cheong fun cart at Hester and Elizabeth, for example, and the little takeout window at Sun Hing Lung. But our top pick is Yi Ji Shi Mo. The rice rolls here are exceedingly thin and delicate, like edible sheets of silk. There are a bunch of different varieties (starting around $3), but be sure to get the signature version with shrimp, pork, egg, and bits of chopped cilantro. It’s one of the top dishes in the neighborhood.


Even on a Monday night, you might find it difficult to get a table at Spicy Village. And there are several reasons for this. First off, the space about the size of a tollbooth. It’s also BYOB, and the noodle-heavy Henan food is very good and pretty inexpensive. The rich, brothy big tray chicken (with noodles) should always be on your table, and you should bring one or two people to split it with. For a quick, casual meal that won't cost more than $20 per person, it doesn't get much better.


It’s not hard to find regional Chinese food in New York City, but it is hard to find Hakka food. Fortunately, Hakka Cuisine exists, so there’s a place to go for homestyle dishes that are heavy on preserved meats and vegetables, like the braised pork belly with preserved vegetables and stuffed tofu. This is a great place to bring a big group when you forgot to make a reservation, since the dining room is spacious, sleek, and has lots of large tables—kind of like a hotel ballroom. The extensive menu is heavy on family-style dishes.

While the name might lead you to believe otherwise, Thái Son is a Vietnamese restaurant, and it’s a good spot for big family-style meals. It’s right near the courthouse on Baxter, and you'll walk in past a smoothie bar and a strong whiff of incense. Skip the phở and prioritize the summer rolls, banh xeo, and crispy chả giò. Stop by for a casual lunch, and get those crackly little spring rolls on a bed of rice noodles with grilled pork and crushed peanuts sprinkled over the top.


Hometown Hot Pot is an ideal place for a fun, big-group dinner when you want to know exactly how much you’ll spend and be certain of the fact that no one will leave hungry. It’s an all-you-can-eat hot pot place (that also does barbecue), and it’s an attractive space, with big round tables that can fit groups of 12. There are some very good broths (like ma la, curry, and tom yum), and the ingredients are high quality. Get a lot of beef to throw in your hot pot, and make a reservation if you’re eating with six or more people. This place gets busy.


For $1.25, you could get a ride on the subway in 1992. In present day, that amount could get you a steamed pumpkin bun at Golden Steamer. The price has actually gone up from under a dollar in recent years, but it’s still a highly reasonable amount to pay for something that tastes this good. This little bakery on Mott Street serves plenty of bun varieties, from pork to egg yolk, but they’re most famous for the one filled with pumpkin custard. They always come out piping hot, and after eating one, you’ll want Golden Steamer to become a tutor for every place and product that's part of the Pumpkin Spice Industrial Complex.


If you're vegetarian and tired of subsisting on custard buns every time you and your friends go out for dim sum, allow us to introduce you to Buddha Bodai. All of the dim sum at this restaurant on Mott Street is kosher and plant-based. It doesn’t get insanely busy, and most dishes here cost less than $15, so it’s a very useful place to know about—especially because it’s BYOB. There’s a long menu of things like dumplings, spring rolls, and various noodle dishes, as well as some pretty solid vegetarian versions of chicken, duck, and lamb.


Unfortunately, Wo Hop isn't open late anymore. (The hours are pretty standard now.) But even though you can no longer stop by at 3am for a plate of noodles, this restaurant is still an NYC institution. It's been around since 1938, and it's the kind of place where you'll see lawyers from the DA’s office and ’80s headshots of former broadway stars. Head down the stairs to eat some fried dumplings that are intensely crispy, and big plates of chow fun, orange chicken, and beef and broccoli.

On Pell Street, House of Joy tends to get all the attention. But right next door to that huge Cantonese restaurant, there’s a tiny spot that’s also worthwhile. It’s called Mee Sum Cafe, and, as evidenced by its old-timey cash registers and ancient urns of steaming water, it’s been around for over half a century. The menu consists of dim sum, soup, congee, and other breakfast and lunch items, and nothing costs more than $12. Get some salted chicken over rice (around $6), or try some Toisan-style joong with pork, egg yolk, and dried shrimp.

The original Nom Wah location on Doyers Street has been serving dim sum since 1920, and it’s not unusual to see lines of people waiting to eat in this Americana-diner-like space. We can’t say Nom Wah serves the best dim sum in Chinatown, but between its constant busyness and long history in the neighborhood, it’s a cool place to take friends for lunch.

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photo credit: Emily Schindler

The Best Restaurants In Chinatown guide image