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Food is at the heart of the community in Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood. The tempting smells wafting onto the street and savory meats hanging in store windows have drawn hungry patrons into restaurants since the neighborhood was founded in the mid-19th century.
Inside Chinatown’s many eateries, family cooks and acclaimed chefs pile on the flavor for a multisensory experience at tiny takeout-only operations and spacious family-style restaurants.
In the small, highly walkable Chinatown area — located between Eighth and 11th streets and Vine and Arch streets — the menus offer tastes of Hong Kong, Cantonese, Fujianese, Sichuan and Taiwanese, as well as Korean, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Indonesian, Malaysian and Burmese cultures.
Dining out (or in) in Philadelphia is a bit different in 2021. Many restaurants are take-out only, while some offer delivery and others have limited indoor or outdoor seating. Your best bet is to call ahead to determine the best way to support each restaurant. Remember your mask and read more about Greater Philadelphia and COVID-19 here.
Check out our guide below to 25 fantastic restaurants in Chinatown, compiled with help from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, a non-profit group devoted to promoting and protecting the unique cultural treasure that is Philadelphia’s Chinatown.
Try the soup dumplings at BAI WEI (formerly Sakura Mandarin), where the staff specializes in Szechuan and Hunan cuisines and dim sum. Pan-fried or steamed, the dumplings come filled with pork, chicken, shrimp or vegetables. Also on the menu: stir-fry and smelly pots, dry pots, and plenty of spicy dishes.
Where: BAI WEI, 1038 Race Street
A bar full of beer taps and a food menu full of Asian American pub fare make Bar-Ly the perfect game-watching spot to catch up with friends. Pours are local, national and international, which means there’s always something to pair with your meal, whether you opt for a noodle-based bún dish, a bowl of pho, lo mein, nachos or chicken wings.
Where: Bar-Ly, 101 N. 11th Street
The name is in the menu at this modern Arch Street restaurant. More than 60 tea varieties (mint chocolate milk tea, honeydew green tea, taro milk tea, guava oolong tea …) come hot and cold, while milkshakes, smoothies and fresh juices round out the robust drink menu. To eat? Tuna tacos, shrimp tempura and a seemingly endless list of sushi.
Where: Bubblefish, 909 Arch Street
Dine in or take out at Canto House, where the menu is extensive and there’s always something on special. Meat, meatless, noodle-based and barbecue dishes are on rotation, as is a variety of congee. The chef recommends goose feet with mushrooms, the lamb clay pot and clams with black bean sauce.
Where: Canto House 嘉旺大饭店, 941 Race Street
Singapore rice noodles, curry chicken with onions, salt & pepper squid and mapo tofu are among the fiery offerings at Chu Shang Spicy, which certainly lives up to its name. More reserved palates can find just as many delicious options, starting with egg drop soup at the top of the menu all the way down to green tea ice cream. In between: pad thai, stir-fried eggplant and egg foo young.
Where: Chu Shang Spicy 厨尚麻辣, 925 Arch Street
Refrigerated Mongolian food served via a conveyor belt makes for a fun dining experience at Chubby Cattle. Start with a broth-based pot and watch as the options pass you by. Shrimp, mushroom and other skewers come first, followed by a choice of sauces. Heat it up according to the restaurant’s instructions and enjoy! Pro tip: Have the phone ready for those Instagram snaps.
Where: Chubby Cattle, 146 N. 10th Street
Modern decor and pop art greet patrons at Cily Chicken Rice, where it’s all about Thai street food. Fill up on appetizers like tom yum soup, veggie spring rolls, fish cakes and the potato-pumpkin golden bag, or save room for a platter of chicken over ginger rice and an iced green tea.
Where: Cily Chicken Rice, 933 Race Street
Fifth-generation chef Shizhou Da brought her Xiao Long Bao recipe to Philadelphia in 2013 when she opened Dim Sum Garden. Now the steamed dumplings fill customers every day, and come stuffed with crab meat, pork, chicken, vegetables and more. DIYers can even order batches of frozen dumplings to cook up at home.
Where: Dim Sum Garden, 1020 Race Street
Spicy Szechuan is served family-style at EMei Restaurant, where the large round tables have plenty of room for passing and sharing. You won’t find Americanized cuisine here — chef Zhao pledges to keep things authentic with fiery flavors from chili oils and peppercorns familiar to those with roots in Western China.
Where: EMei Restaurant, 915 Arch Street
Please the palate with flavors from Southeast Asia and Japan with Kurry Korner’s family curry recipe. More than 30 ingredients go into pork-, chicken-, shrimp-, fish filet- and veggie-based dishes, with sides of rice, fried eggs and more. Balance the savory plates with a mango tapioca smoothie.
Where: Kurry Korner, 1016 Race Street
A well-known spot for Philly’s post-shift restaurant workers for years, David’s Mai Lai Wah offers budget-friendly eats. While the experience is no-frills, the salt and pepper chicken wings, roast pork noodle bowls and walnut shrimp provide tasty sustenance.
Where: David's Mai Lai Wah, 1001 Race Street
This spacious restaurant half a block from Chinatown’s iconic Friendship Gate specializes in dishes from the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The best way to enjoy the offerings is to ask your server for advice, as the menu indicates on many dishes. Start with a Penang rojak (a fruit salad served with shrimp paste) before moving onto noodle-, meat- and tofu-based entrees.
Where: Penang, 117 N. 10th Street
Hawaiian-style raw fish salads fill the menu at this spot inside the Chinatown Square food hall. While sushi and hot dishes are among the offerings, a signature bowl is the surest way to get a real sense of what the restaurant does best. Add toppings, protein and sauces of your choice to the rice-based bowl for a custom experience.
Where: Philly Poké, 1016 Race Street
Find yourself craving a hoagie in Chinatown? Head to QT Vietnamese Sandwich for bahn mi for a delicious take on Philly’s second-most famous sandwich. Made with mayo, pâté, cucumber, pickled carrots cilantro, jalapeño and your choice of protein, these satisfying sandwiches go great with a boba tea or one of many canned Asian drinks on offer. QT also has a food truck in University City.
Where: QT Vietnamese Sandwich, 48 N. 10th Street
Serving Chinatown since 1993, this woman-owned restaurant brings tastes of Burma to the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan recommends the spicy lentil patties, thousand-layer bread, while the chef suggests spicy curry dishes and chicken and shrimp plates with okra or pumpkin.
Where: Rangoon, 112 N. 9th Street
Coffee might not be in the name, but it’s a big part of the business at Ray’s. An elaborate slow-drip setup on the counter serves customers in-house and to-go. The strong, smooth blend is the perfect cap to any meal here, and is often served with a diner-style cookie.
Where: Ray's Cafe & Tea House, 141 N. 9th Street
Sang Kee has been a Philadelphia staple since 1980 and, as the name suggests, Peking duck is the star of the menu. Served half or whole, the boneless duck is also available for takeout or delivery with hoisin sauce and pancakes or buns, as well as reheating instructions.
Where: Sang Kee Peking Duck House, 238 N. 9th Street
Dim sum, noodles and casseroles round out the offerings at ShangHai-1, which focuses on Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines. The paneer casseroles are served with beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, frog and other proteins that complement the cheesy base.
Where: ShangHai-1, 123 N. 10th Street
Rice noodle soups from Shimiaodao are a great all-weather treat and the platters are both filling and affordable. The original crossing bridge rice noodle with lamb, first on the menu, is a pork-and-chicken-bone soup served with lamb, quail egg, ham, marinated chicken wing, ground pork, corn, black fungus, pickled cabbage, chives, scallions, cilantro, tofu skin and lettuce. Whew!
Where: Shimiaodao 十秒到云南过桥米线, 901 Race Street
Honey barbecue pork, roast pig, scallion chicken and, of course, a variety of duck dishes (roast, Peking, tongue and more) are on the menu at Siu Kee.
Where: Siu Kee Duck House, 111 N. 10th Street
Tai Lake has been filling customers up with Hong Kong-style Cantonese seafood since 1988. Fish tanks greet patrons in the spacious dining room, hinting at what to expect on the menu. Though there are plenty of land-based dishes to enjoy, skipping seafood here would be a mistake. Squid, shark, flounder, lobster, grouper and more are among the offerings.
Where: Tai Lake, 134 N. 10th Street
The hand-drawn noodles at Terakawa fill bowls of Kyushu-style broth at this Japanese restaurant, where the servers are happy to advise on the flavor profile of the broth, which simmers for two days before making its way to your bowl. The signature dish comes with roast pork, bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms, red ginger, scallions and a boiled egg. Terakawa’s other Philly location is in University City.
Where: Terakawa Ramen, 204 N. 9th Street
Located near the northern border of Chinatown, TT Skewer is all about hotpots and, you guessed it, skewers. Lamb, beef, cauliflower, chicken gizzard and other skewer varieties are easy to-go options while you explore the neighborhood.
Where: TT Skewer, 225 N. 11th Street
Chef Benny Lai continues the legacy his family established at Vietnam Restaurant in 1984 — a companion to West Philadelphia’s Fu Wah Market and Vietnam Cafe. The restaurant dishes out 10 varieties of vermicelli noodle bowls, protein-based entrees and claypots, and drinks from the upstairs bar, including a selection of Polynesian cocktails.
Where: Vietnam Restaurant, 221 N. 11th Street
Come for the sushi, stay for the karaoke. Or vice versa. Whichever order you choose, both are an integral part of the experience at Yakitori Boy. Before or after you belt out your favorite tune (or three), order japas (Japanese tapas) of tempura, teriyaki and sushi dishes, and one of the bar’s specialty cocktails. Feeling adventurous? A sake bomb is sure to loosen up the vocal cords before your performance.
Where: Yakitori Boy, 211 N. 11th Street
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for a rewarding getaway in one of 2021’s top destinations, per Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Esquire and more.
The exclusive deal — booked more than 175,000 times since 2001 — includes buy-one-get-one-free attraction tickets purchased at the Independence Visitor Center to 33 of Philly’s iconic museums and attractions and free hotel parking (worth up to $100 in Center City Philadelphia).
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