Where to Eat in Chinatown
From Cantonese barbecue spots to late-night karaoke hangs, these are our 21 favorite restaurants in Chinatown.
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There are so many good restaurants in Chinatown, it’s easy to feel like a tiny child in a giant candy shop trying to choose just one. Some are stacked on second floors or hidden under a bridge next to a Hilton; a couple stay open past midnight; and many of them showcase regional specialties that are hard to find elsewhere in Philly. Let this guide help you forge your own path while you’re in the neighborhood (our preferred method is to spend an afternoon jumping around from spot to spot, ignoring the concept of three-meals-a-day). From Chinese restaurants serving Mongolian-influenced hot pot, cumin-heavy Northwestern dishes, or big plates of Cantonese seafood to Malaysian, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean spots that have broadened Chinatown’s cuisine scope over the last few decades, these 21 places will show you exactly why Philly’s Chinatown is such a gift to this city.
Chuan Kee Skewer
Best For: Hot pot lovers, skewer lovers, hot pot and skewer lovers.
At Chuan Kee Skewer, you dip skewers of meats and vegetables into bubbling vats of hot pot sitting in the middle of the table — which is not only awesome, but less common than other types of hot pot around Philly. Make sure to order some barbecued skewers, too (they’re coated in a dry-rub of cumin and chiles, and not meant for dipping) These skewers — called chuan — originated as a street snack in the Xinjiang region in Northwestern, China. Chuan Kee also serves dishes like fried soft-shell crabs, bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, lamb soup, pickled chicken feet, and fried bananas or fried rice cakes covered in brown sugar for dessert, but you’re really here for the skewers. 927 Race Street.
David’s Mai Lai Wah
Best For: Big groups, late-night dining, soaking up alcohol.
If you’re often out late in Philly, you’re already aware that David’s is an institution. This old-school Cantonese restaurant acts as a last-call destination for chefs, bar crews, insomniacs, and anyone drinking nearby at 1 a.m. who wants salt-and-pepper wings. We once heard a rumor that David’s Mai Lai Wah is open during daylight hours as well, but we’ve never actually seen this in action. 1001 Race Street.
Best For: Szechuan food — any way you want it.
EMei has been open for about a decade, and they still consistently serve some of our favorite Szechuan food in the neighborhood. Come for numbing, Szechuan peppercorn-laden dishes like crispy Chongqing chicken or mapo tofu (that can easily be made vegetarian). If you’re with a group, order the whole fish in a cabbage-based stew with pickled peppers for about $35. EMei also sells deluxe Chinese liquors by the bottle, if that’s the kind of Thursday night you’re looking to have (invite us?). 915 Arch Street.
Best For: Dim sum, birthdays, weekend meals with your entire family.
There are plenty of great dim sum spots in Philly, but we particularly love the energy in Ocean Harbor, where dim sum carts roll through the huge dining room and you have to make intense eye contact with servers if you want more food. (It’s part of the joy here, we promise). You’ll hear a bell dinging from the kitchen throughout the course of your meal, and that’s because this restaurant churns out so much dim sim, they’re constantly making fresh plates of har gow, turnip cakes, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. If you’re only eating with a couple other people, you might have to share your big round table with another party. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll seat you on the stage. Alternatively, come back for dinner and order big plates of fried seafood and rice dishes. You can always BYOB for $5 per bottle. 1023 Race Street.
Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House
Best For: Impressing out-of-town visitors, casual group dinners.
Whenever we go to Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House (which is precisely as often as possible), we always order the same thing: Oxtail noodle soup and the shredded pork stir-fry noodles with a little chile paste added in. If you need something green, though, the snow peas with garlic are also very good. Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House only accepts cash or Venmo payments. Conveniently, there’s an ATM in the restaurant. 1022 Race Street.
Best For: A BYO birthday party where you splurge on a whole Dungeness crab.
Tai Lake feels a little bit like a bunker: it’s long, windowless, and decorated like a Midwestern Hilton ballroom. Only this bunker serves a Stinger at the bar, plus salt-baked shrimp with chiles, Chinese casseroles, jellyfish prepared five different ways, lobster with minced pork — and pretty much any other Cantonese seafood dish imaginable. The staff is always friendly, the beer is always cheap, and the Peking duck is always excellent. That’s reason enough to check it out. 134 North 10th Street.
Best For: Group dinners, date night, great Malaysian food.
People who know Penang on North 10th Street love it, and so will you. One reason? Penang’s roti canai will alter the course of your Philadelphia dining life: it’s crisp and chewy at the same time, hot from its frying oil, thin as a tissue, and served with a chunky, caramel-colored chicken and potato curry for dipping. Go with a group and fill the table with roti, Malaysian noodles, and grilled-sticky satay; or go on a date and drink a couple of Tsing Taos with someone you want to sleep with. The menu is big, and there are no wrong orders, so go now and go often. 117 North 10th Street.
Ray’s Cafe & Tea House
Best For: A mid-day date or solo breakfast with a good book.
Ray’s is one of those restaurants in Philadelphia that people don’t talk enough about. This daytime cafe serves a wide variety of handmade Taiwanese dumplings alongside excellent slow-drip coffee made in siphons. Go for breakfast on one visit and then come again for lunch or dinner. 141 North 9th Street.
Best For: Late night dining, karaoke, strangers belting their hearts out.
Yi Pin serves Szechuan specialties, like some solid dry pepper fish as well as hot pot and Northwestern-style barbecued skewers. But what makes this restaurant stand out is the fact that Yi Pin stays open until midnight every night. They have a stage in the middle of the dining room for karaoke and live performances. As long as you’re not set on having a quiet, intimate dinner, you’re in for a good time here. 1026 Race Street.
Tom’s Dim Sum
Best For: A quick snack near the Convention Center, scallion pancake cravings.
Tom’s Dim Sum serves xiao long bao that are so plump and filled with steamy broth, the restaurant ought to have lines of people waiting every day. But, for whatever reason, there aren’t usually any lines here (so you can almost always get a seat). Cantonese and Shanghainese dim sum is only part of what they do here at Tom’s; the family-style dishes and daily specials are worth looking into as well. Regardless of your approach, make sure to order the scallion pancake — they’re the best scallion pancakes you’ll ever eat under a bridge. (Well, actually, they might be the best scallion pancakes you might eat anywhere in Philadelphia, but we’re confident about the bridge statement). 59 North 11th Street.
Best For: Soondubu, a casual date.
To get to this Korean spot, you have to go into Chinatown Square — the food hall on Race Street where you can get poke, bao buns, and ice cream all in the same place — and walk upstairs to the second floor. Dae Bak’s menu has an entire section dedicated to soft, savory soondubu. Customize yours by picking a spice level (options range from “plain” to “very spicy”) and various protein toppings. If you want something classic, stick to the kimchi soondubu jjigae. Dae Bak also serves naengmyun, which is ideal for a hot, sticky day and can be tricky to find outside of Olney — where most of the city’s great Korean food is located. 1016 Race Street.
Best For: Hot pot, group dinners, someone who wants an activity to go with their meal.
At this sleek hot pot restaurant, you order via iPad, pick your ingredients from a refrigerated conveyor belt, and grab your meal from a magnetic train system. The broths have poetic names like “Beautiful Tomato” and “Deepest Hell,” plus wagyu beef tongue that’s shaped like a rose, hand-made noodles galore, and hot pot available in sizes for sharing or not-sharing. Chubby Cattle — which has locations in other cities like Vegas and Denver — might be a preview of the way that we’ll all be eating at some point in the future. 146 North 10th Street.
Best For: …Ramen. You know the vibe.
Remember that ramen craze that swept through Philly a decade ago? It turns out that Terakawa — with its Kyushu-style ramen (referring to one of Japan’s southernmost islands) made with thin, stick-straight noodles and pork bones simmered in broth for two days — is still just as exciting. Add on some gyoza or charshu onigiri if you want to start with something before your ramen. 204 North 9th Street.
Sang Kee Peking Duck House
Best For: Great takeout for a crowd, a classic Philly spot.
Yes, there’s a Sang Kee located in Reading Terminal. But their original restaurant has way more options than the RTM stall (plus a ton of Hong Kong-style barbecued meats hanging in the window). You could very well come here for a big group meal featuring roast pork, ribs and whole ducks, but the restaurant’s takeout travels well, too. And considering they’ve been roasting ducks in Philly for over 40 years now, trust that they know what they’re doing. 238 North 9th Street.
Best For: Congee breakfast, a 2 p.m. duck craving.
Another good option for Peking duck and old-school Cantonese dishes. M Kee serves Hong Kong-style pan fried noodles that some people swear by, but we think this restaurant is best for breakfast (they open at 8 a.m.). Their comprehensive congee menu includes everything from chicken, shrimp, and beef varieties, to versions made with frog, pork blood, or abalone. Bring cash, and know that M Kee is only offering takeout right now. 1002 Race Street.
Dim Sum Garden
Best For: Xiao long bao, picking up frozen dumplings for later.
Is this the most popular spot in Chinatown? It might be. Diners come here for the wide selection of handmade dumplings, of which the pork-and-crab xiao long bao should be the primary draw. During the pandemic Dim Sum Garden also added a selection of frozen dumplings, which means you can bring their great soup dumplings into the comfort of your home. Dim Sum Garden used to offer a BYOB policy but now they sell beer and wine (and charge a corkage fee of $15 per bottle). Fun fact: if you scrounge up more than 10 people for a meal, you can order from their group dining menu and eat for around $30 per person. 1020 Race Street.
Best For: Dim sum, dinner at the bar.
Nom Wah is an expansion of the NYC original, which opened in Manhattan’s Chinatown in 1920. There are no roving carts here, but the menu has all of the classic dim sum staples. Fill out your ordering card with a tiny Nom Wah-branded pencil, drink some tea, and wait for plates of har gow and rice rolls wrapped around fried dough to come fresh out of the kitchen. There’s a bar up front with a big TV in the middle, in case you’re in the neighborhood and looking for a place to eat sticky rice with sweet Chinese sausage by yourself (Nom Wah sells alcohol, FYI). You can always mention this weird tidbit to make friends while you’re sitting there: back in the 1960’s, the restaurant’s space used to be a film production office for Barnard L. Sackett, who made sexploitation movies. 218 North 13th Street.
Xi’an Sizzling Woks
Best For: A quick lunch, solo dining, prioritizing noodles.
Shaanxi cuisine is the focus here — a combination of Sichuan pepper heat and Silk Road spices that result in Northwestern Chinese dishes like cumin-laden burgers, chive pie, biang biang noodles, and thick bread soaked in lamb soup. If it’s a hot day, order their xi’an liang pi, which arrives cold, slippery, and starchy with wheat noodles. 902 Arch Street.
Best For: Soup moods.
Spice C serves killer Szechuan soups with hand-drawn and shaved noodles made to order. Here’s how things will work when you’re there: pick your noodle variety (thin and long hand-drawn noodles vs. shaved noodles — which are short and wide like rice cakes), then choose between spicy Szechuan or mild broth bases. As long as there are noodles involved, you really can’t go wrong with any of the dishes here. But if you’re looking for some ordering guidance, try the curry-flavored Singaporean rice noodles hidden all the way at the bottom of the chef’s specials section, or opt for the “dragon and phoenix” soup that combines shrimp and chicken. 131 North 10th Street.
Best For: Group dining, BYOB, Penn Law students (for whatever reason).
This Malaysian BYO on Arch Street serves dishes like crispy-thick martabak stuffed with beef, egg, and onions, plus stir-fried noodle dishes full of seafood and chiles. We love their sweet-and-nutty nasi lemak (the national dish of Malaysia, which is just as delicious at 11 a.m. as it is for dinner) and always recommend sticking with the Malaysian dishes rather than opting for the menu’s Thai specials. 1009 Arch Street.
Best For: Dessert, a quick snack, a date when you don’t want to sit down and eat somewhere.
We could write an entire guide to sweet shops and bakeries in Chinatown (stay tuned). Until then, if you’re going to Chinatown for dinner and want a quick dessert afterwards, head to Mango Mango. This Hong Kong-style sweets shop puts its namesake fruit — the Ataulfo variety of mangos, to be specific — into as many of its desserts as possible. Try the sundaes and pillow-shaped pancakes for something hefty, and the snow-white juices, fruit bowls, and coconut-based sago soups for a lighter option. 1013 Cherry Street.