DCGuide

Where To Get Chinese Food in Chinatown

We're talking dumplings, Szechuan beef, moon cakes. And General Tso's chicken for the basics.
Where To Get Chinese Food in Chinatown image

photo credit: Reema Desai

You walk into Chinatown, towards the enormous red and gold arches, and the world around you changes. The Potbelly across the street is now written in Chinese calligraphy and the Walgreens next door cosplays as a friendly neighborhood shop. And while commercial chains puppeteer as cultural landmarks, it's the people in Chinatown that make it so special. Once home to thousands of Chinese immigrants, less than 300 remain—and yet, the strip's culinary scene stands in defiance. There’s something here for everyone and to help you out, we’ve compiled a list of all the Chinese food you can still find in Chinatown.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Reema Desai

Chinese

Chinatown

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China Boy is a cash-only takeout restaurant that serves the kind of food you skip home to eat. Walk up to the cloistered storefront and you’ll find a window decorated in twinkling lights and a cartoonized version of the menu drawn in bright pastel colors. You’ll be tempted to order everything on site, but start with the garlic spicy wings, which pack a punch. They’re savory and fiery, the skin is crispy, and the meat is tender. And for those of you that don’t carry cash, you can make a pick-up order online where you can pay by card.

For solo diners, Reren is a quiet lunchtime pick with impeccable service, affordable options, and really great food. When you walk into the restaurant, there's a mural of mummified noodles boiling in a pot of soup that you kind of just have to see it to believe. Stare at it mindlessly as you eat your order of beef and broccoli with headphones on—or read a book as is customary for most of the diners inside. Service is quick and the staff is willing to walk you through the menu. That said, if you’re open to trying something new (we’re looking at you General Tso soldiers over there), we recommend the Crazy Fish. The lightly battered flounder tossed in a bed of garlic and freshly chopped onions. It’s aromatic, spicy and an all around great meal.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

$$$$Perfect For:LunchSerious Take-Out Operation

Most of the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown have been around for a long time, but TKK Fried Chicken is a very welcome recent addition. The fast-casual Taiwanese spot, located in Luna Hall, serves individual combo meals like the spicy chicken sandwich (get it deluxe if you want lettuce and tomato) for when you need a cheap on-the-go meal, and affordable family-sized chicken platters for when you really can’t cook dinner. Everything on the menu is worth trying—we particularly love the juicy, crunchy chicken tenders. Pair them with the seasoned curly fries or the buttery charred corn and a milk tea.

photo credit: Reema Desai

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Wok and Roll is a lunchtime dream, because while the price may be budget (lunch specials are under $10), the food isn’t. You’ll likely find high school kids spending their weekly savings here, and tourists who’ve wandered in after seeing the karaoke options through the window. And though we haven’t tried the karaoke yet (we need a few more drinks for that), their food is A-1.  There were no misses on the menu which includes classic Chinese dishes, so lo-mein, beef and broccoli, etc., AND sushi, hence the name. Thankfully, they do both really well.

photo credit: Reema Desai

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If you’re looking for something sweet, Joy Luck House is a great stop on your Chinatown crawl. And while the small shop serves breakfast, the desserts here really shine. There’s a silver counter out back where a small but mighty selection of pastries are encased in glass display. Depending on the time of day, they serve egg tarts and moon cakes that are warm, fluffy, and just the right balance of light and sweet. The shop also serves a selection of teas including a homemade ice tea and taro boba, which you can sit down and enjoy or slurp on your way back to the train.

Time stands still at Tony Cheng’s, which continues to serve tourists looking for a memorable dining experience. There’s an old-school, albeit caricatured, Chinatown feel to the place with golden arches, red calligraphy, and Buddha head statues. The felt seats that surround each circular table are so sunken in that you’ll plunge down on contact just like the lobsters in the tank sitting squarely in the center of the room. On the wall are photos of Tony’s friends, political dignitaries and big shots from Carter to Clinton who have dined here. That said, the food here is great—if you know what to order. Skip the crab rangoon, for example, and dig in to the black garlic scallop and shrimp instead.

photo credit: Reema Desai

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During the pandemic, Full Kee became one of those if you-know-you-know spots and that’s because their dumpling soup kept people sane. Back then, people took their order to go, but now it’s best to dine in and eat your meal right away. That way, you can enjoy the plump shrimp dumplings when they’re warm and slurp noodles that have been tenderized by the broth. The restaurant itself is bigger than it looks, with downstairs seating that’ll accommodate large groups of people around geometric wooden tables. The floors here are sticky and so are the menus, both signs that the food is worthwhile.

photo credit: Reema Desai

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Chinatown Garden is the go-to spot for groups trying to ditch the crowds (tourists) and sit down for a quick, quality meal. The restaurant offers a wide selection of communal-style tables, mostly booths that are great for families. Their retro menus take us way back. There are photos of each entree alongside bold black lettering. And luckily for us, the food tastes as good as it looks. The crab rangoon, right out the fryer, is crispy and is served with a sweet and sour sauce that pairs beautifully. Their spicy Szechuan beef is tender and will make your tongue tingle in all the right places.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

Some days, the dim sum at Dumpling District is worth traveling across town for. Other days, the Luna Hall stall is only good enough to cure your fatigue after going too long without eating. Stick with the soup dumplings and get the rainbow so you can try them all. You’ll sometimes see them being freshly pressed out and filled next to the cash register. Most folks take their dumplings to go, but food hall’s lounge area is a fun place to lean back, watch the news or a game, and spend a few extra minutes in the comfy chairs.

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