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The Best Restaurants In Chinatown

The 25 greatest restaurants in Philly’s Chinatown.

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There are lots of reasons to head to Chinatown—fun festivals near the Friendship Arch, mural tours that show the history of the neighborhood, and of course, all of the fantastic Cantonese, Fujianese, and Taiwanese restaurants in the area. With all of the classic and new spots, choosing the right place for a meal can get a little overwhelming. That's why we made this guide full of 25 spots to get some dim sum, noodle dishes, hot pot, sizzling meat on sticks, and more.

THE SPOTS

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Far East Descendant

Far East Descent specializes in Cantonese small plates like dim kam mini ribs, spicy chicken bites, and shrimp toast. While sitting on their rooftop deck or in their dining room, you’ll be surrounded by colorful walls covered in tigers, dragons, and lotus art. Come here with a group of friends and go for the “Five Beast Board,” which is not a secret sequel to Fantastic Beasts. It’s a family-style plate with tender meats like cha-siu beef rib, plum flower duck, fried sticky rice with chunks of shrimp and lap cheong, and lots of other things that will have you constantly changing your answer to your favorite thing on the tray. 


Chuan Kee is the place to go for BBQ and hotpot skewers like squid, New Orleans chicken, and spicy cray fish beef. Each one comes with smoky and char-grilled meat that’s drenched in just enough gingery glaze to make each bite super juicy. The casual spot also has fried rice, cucumber salads, and noodle dishes like stir-fried ramen to round out your meal. Stop by for a group hang before heading to Franklin Square for mini-golf, or just for nights when you’re uninterested in using a utensil.

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Heung Fa Chun Sweet House on 10th Street is where you can get steamed buns like red bean and Chinese sausage rolls, savory soups with black sesame paste, and flaky round fried dough bites. It’s open daily at 6:30am, which is great because they have a sticky zong zi packed with salty and sweet pork (for just $2.50) that’s a must-have to start your day. There’s only a handful of seats, so it works better for a quick grab-and-go situation. But you’ll usually leave with something like velvety sweet tofu pudding that will make your walk to work better with each spoonful.


When you walk up to the counter at Ray’s Cafe & Tea House, their intricate slow-drip display might remind you of high school chemistry class. But the whole setup is essential to what makes this one of the best coffee and tea spots in the neighborhood. They offer siphon coffee and a 12-hour slow-drip cold brew, with blends like Jamaican blue moon and sumiyaki, along with teas for every occasion like oolong and red bush. While you shouldn’t go out of your way for any of the food, dishes like kung pao shrimp, beef noodle soup, and curry chicken and dumplings go great with whatever caffeinated beverage you choose.


Tom’s has a long menu of things we like, including their dumplings, rice plates, and pan-fried vegetables. And unlike Dim Sum Garden, they don’t have the $15 corkage fee for bringing in booze. That means the crowds here tend to be younger and a bit more rowdy than at Dim Sum Garden. They don’t take reservations, but if you have a big enough group you can reserve their back room.


Vietnam is essentially a one-two-punch. The bottom floor is a Vietnamese restaurant with incredible dishes like vermicelli rice noodle bowls, papaya salad, and lime chicken. Once you and your friends have finished passing a bunch of huge plates around the table, head upstairs to Bar Saigon. The second-floor space is essentially a tiki bar, with flaming punch bowls and mai tais in colorful glasses. Hitting both in one night is one of our favorite birthday party moves, but each place is also great on its own.


When it’s 2am and you want broiled oysters, salt and pepper wings, duck bao buns, or huge plates of noodles, David’s is your answer. This place is open until 3am every day of the week, which means it has you covered for dinner, second dinner, and dinner after a few drinks. Be prepared for this place to get slammed when the bars close.


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If the line for a table at David’s is longer than you’re willing to wait (which is probably about 10 minutes if you’re coming from the bars), take yourself and all of your friends to Shiao Lan Kung. Like David’s, it’s open until 3am on weekends and has a long menu full of food that will soak up everything you drank earlier. But the service tends to be quicker here, and while the scene isn’t quite as fun, the crab lo mein and shredded-pork rice noodles more than make up for it.


Nom Wah should be your go-to place for an easy dim-sum lunch that costs less than your average chopped salad. We always come out spending around $10 on an order of soup dumplings, some scallion pancakes, and shrimp rice rolls. You order everything by checking off boxes on a little sheet of paper, and since everything in the dim sum section is around $5, you should circle the entire top half of the menu if you come here with a few friends.


If you’re looking for the best ramen in Chinatown, you’ll find it at Terakawa. The broths are all made in-house, and come filled with things like roast pork belly, mushrooms, and soy egg. There are also bigger dishes like curry platters and donburi rice bowls that are also great, as well as a long list of solid appetizers like pork buns and gyoza if for some reason you went to a ramen place but aren’t in the mood for soup.


Nan Zhou specializes in hand-pulled noodles, and that’s exactly what you should be ordering here. The spicy beef soup is the best—it comes in a salty broth, topped with cilantro, radish, and pickled greens. If you want something else besides noodles, you should also try the scallion pancakes or coconut chicken dumplings. It can get crowded in here, but the service is super fast. You should also know that they’re cash-only, but recently started accepting Venmo.


As far as hot pot goes, Chubby Cattle is the best in Philly. The broths are flavorful (get the tomato oxtail) and all the meat, seafood, and vegetable add-ins come in huge quantities. You order with a server for the main stuff, but there’s also a little conveyor belt that zips around the tables filled with bowls of extras in case you decide you’d like to add a handful of enoki mushrooms to your soup. This place can get incredibly busy (and doesn’t take reservations), so you should expect a long wait. Luckily, there’s usually no one in here during lunch hours, so that’s our favorite time to go.

The inside of Tai Lake looks like a combination between a hotel ballroom and a YMCA rec room, and it’s a place that works for a lot of occasions—from a weekday lunch to a birthday dinner. There are a lot of big round tables, and they have a long menu of delicious food that’s served family-style. Order a couple of standout dishes like the Peking duck, salted-fish fried rice, or ginger-scallion lobster.


Whenever we’re in the mood for something filling and delicious that doesn’t cost much more than $15, we go to Penang. It’s an excellent Malaysian spot right by the Chinatown Arch that’s great for a casual lunch or catch-up dinner with a friend who appreciates a perfect claypot curry chicken. Split that, an order of the stir-fried rice vermicelli with tofu, shrimp, and bean sprouts in spicy Thai chili sauce, and be sure to try the crispy roti canai. The thin Indian pancake comes with a side of curry chicken and potato dipping sauce, and it’s one of our single favorite dishes in Chinatown.


The best thing at Xi’an Sizzling Woks is actually their hamburger. There are three on the menu, all on warm and thin buns, and the most expensive one is only $4.50. Our favorite is the beef and green pepper burger spiced with chilies and cumin, but they’re all great. The rest of the menu is filled with tons of Western Chinese dishes like the excellent biang biang noodles and the spicy sour minced pork noodles.


Ocean Harbor is one of the best and most convenient places to have dim sum in Chinatown. It’s open from 10am-9pm every day of the week, which means you can eat wonton soup and fried seafood rolls for brunch, lunch, or dinner. It can get crowded, but it’s a super-efficient operation. You pick a number, wait a few minutes, and then spend the next hour or so grabbing whatever you want off of the carts as they speed by.


Ocean Harbor and Ocean City are both dim sum places, they both use carts, and they both have more seafood options than other Chinese places in the city. But the food at Ocean Harbor is slightly better—except for the congee, which is far superior at Ocean City. It’s salty, with savory pork and a century egg. The service is usually better and quicker at Ocean City as well, but otherwise, the two spots are basically interchangeable.


Chinatown is a gold mine for party BYOBs. They’re everywhere, almost none of them charge a corkage fee, and the food is generally really good and affordable. Banana Leaf fits all those categories, making it the perfect place to pregame or even post up for your entire night out. This small Malaysian spot has bamboo wallpaper and rows of tables that you can shove together if you have a big group. You have the option to order things like curry chicken roti and beef rendang a la carte, which are solid, but the mains on the chef specials menu are the best bet for groups. It’s full of dishes like chicken and scallion sauce and banana leaf-dried curry squid for less than $20 or less.


This classic cash-only Chinese bakery is small, with only a few tables and a counter, but it’s one of our favorite places to grab a quick takeout meal. Anything from their pastry case will be worth the trip, including the pork buns, coconut tarts, and chicken curry turnovers. Everything is made fresh daily, and make sure you ask them to heat up the pastries.


Chinatown only has one sports bar, and that’s Bar Ly. It doesn’t look super memorable from the outside, but if you’re trying to watch a game in the area, this is where you want to be. The bartenders are friendly, it’s never super crowded, and, most importantly, there’s always a full table available for the taking. On top of the almost 60 beers on tap and $4.75 Happy Hour cocktails, Bar Ly also has some solid food that ranges from tacos to pad thai to a half bánh mì hoagie.


The first thing you’ll see when you walk up to M Kee is a bunch of ducks hanging in the window. You want one of those ducks. You can order a half or whole bird, and can take it to go or eat it at one of the few tables inside. While you’re at it, order the beef with ginger and scallions, which is almost like a stew, and some fried dough to dip in the sauce. Make sure you bring cash since they don’t take cards.


Bread Top House is essentially a tiny corner cafeteria with things like lunch sandwiches, pastries, and loaves of bread lined up in containers against the wall. It’s cash-only, but everything is under $5, so come here when you want to get a quick, affordable lunch. And definitely don’t miss out on the pineapple sponge cake or the coffee swirl cake.


You won’t find much French food in Chinatown, but this French-Asian bakery is an exception. A La Mousse specializes in really pretty cakes and pastries as well as coffee and tea drinks. A couple of our favorites are the triple chocolate mousse and the Hokkaido cheesecake, but pretty much any mousse or custard-filled dessert will be excellent. There’s really no place to sit, so come here and pick up some food when you’re looking for something other than Dunkin to bring to the office party.


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E Mei Restaurant

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If someone asks us where they should go for the best, spiciest Sichaun food in the city, we always tell them E Mei. It’s big and spacious inside, with huge booths that can fit up to eight people, and the menu is full of shareable dishes like a crispy whole boneless seabass that can feed at least four people for just $33. It’s also worth noting that for under $10 you can get almost every soup on the menu, which is key when the weather forces you to bring out your big coat. 


When you want to end your day with something sweet, come to this huge spot on Cherry Street and order off their menu full of crepes, waffles, pancakes, and plenty of mango-themed treats. Open until midnight and 1am on the weekends, they’ve got a massive lounge area upstairs that’s great for your large group of friends who want to share a bunch of desserts at the end of the night. Mango Mango is a place that knows late-night snacks can satisfy a need we didn’t know existed until we tried some strawberry mochi at midnight. 


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