There are so many good restaurants in Chinatown that picking one can be about as overwhelming as choosing a name for your firstborn child or deciding which jar of peanut butter to buy at the supermarket. 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, a hot pot place with a conveyor belt, or a second dinner at 2am. So just take a look at all 24 spots, pick one that looks good, and start planning a night out.
There are a lot of really good dim sum spots in Chinatown, but Dim Sum Garden is the one you should go to first. The food is great (we especially love the spicy pork soup dumplings and scallion pancakes), and everything is pretty inexpensive - as in, you won’t pay more than $20 per person for a meal here. It’s also a BYOB that offers some beer and wine - just in case you don’t feel like stopping at the wine store beforehand. They have a $15-per-table corkage fee, which is more than other places nearby, but that only discourages big groups from coming here only to pregame for a big night out.
Almost a carbon copy of Dim Sum Garden, Tom’s has a long menu of things we like - including their dumplings, rice plates, and pan-fried vegetables. The biggest difference, though, is that 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 generally 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.
For about $15, here are some of the best things you can get at Rangoon: a whole plate of lemongrass beef with a side of curry potatoes, or crispy thousand layer bread with curry chicken sauce and stir-fried noodles, or Asian tea leaf salad, chicken satay skewers with peanut sauce, and a beer. There’s pretty much no bad choice on their huge menu of Burmese food - unless you choose to not come here at all.
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 almost every day of the week (except Tuesdays), 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.
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 for an easy dim-sum lunch that costs less than your average chopped salad. We always come out spending under $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 payments.
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, with 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 would appreciate a perfect claypot curry chicken. Split that, an order of the Mee Siam (stir-fried rice vermicelli with tofu, shrimp, and bean sprouts in spicy Thai chili sauce), and be sure to try the homemade roti canai (a thin, crispy Indian pancake). It 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, almost pita-like bread, 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 10:30am-10:30pm 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 super-efficient. 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 (a salty preserved egg). The service is usually better and quicker at Ocean City as well, but otherwise, the two spots are essentially 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 inexpensive. 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 their pre-set menus are the best bet for groups. They come with around 10 courses of things like pad thai and beef rendang for less than $25 per person.
This spot on 10th Street has some great noodle dishes, particularly the shaved noodle soup with beef brisket or the shrimp jungle noodles. Both of these have tons of flavor with just the right amount of spice and cost under $10.
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 take-out meal. Anything from their pastry case will be worth the trip, including the pork buns, coconut tarts, and 90-cent 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 looks sort of bland and boring 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 $1.50 bacon-wrapped quail egg skewers.
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 it as a half or whole, and 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 with you 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 nice-looking 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 you get here 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.
If someone asks us where they should go for the best, spiciest Szechuan 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 an entire boiled barramundi fish that can feed at least four people for just $27. It’s also worth noting that they have a great lunch special, too. For just $8, you get a choice of any entree on the menu (we usually go with the garlic shrimp), plus soup and fried rice.
TT Skewer is tiny (so you likely won’t be eating in), it’s cash-only, and the only two things on the menu are hotpot and skewers. Your general game plan should be to walk in, order a few skewers of things like lamb and chicken gizzards, and then take them to go, eating them like savory popsicles while you walk around the city. It’s fast, easy, and the meat is always well-seasoned and delicious.