Where to Eat in Chinatown

From Cantonese barbecue spots to late-night karaoke hangs, these are our 24 favorite restaurants in Chinatown.

Tai Lake / Photograph by Michael Persico

There are so many good restaurants in Chinatown that it’s easy to feel like a tiny child in a giant candy shop, trying to choose just one piece. Some are stacked on second floors or hidden under a bridge next to a Hilton. Some are only open in the morning. A few stay open past midnight. And many of them showcase regional specialties that can be 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 very 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 the scope of Chinatown’s cuisine over the past few decades, these are the best restaurants in Chinatown right now. We list just a handful of places in a neighborhood that boasts dozens, but these 24 spots 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 chilies 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: Takeout or delivery
David’s used to be a favorite late-night spot for the city’s night owls and restaurant crews, because the kitchen served food until at least 1 a.m. These days they only do takeout, but it’s still worth a visit to pick up  salt-and-pepper wings, wonton soup and simple dumplings. 1001 Race Street.

chinatown szechuan

Photograph courtesy of EMei

Best For: Sichuan food — any way you want it.
EMei has been open for just over a decade, and it still consistently serves some of our favorite Sichuan food in the neighborhood. Come here for numbing Sichuan-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 under $40. 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.

Ocean Harbor
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 dumplings, buns and chicken feet (a customer favorite). 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. 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 (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 chili paste added in. If you need something green, though, the snow peas with garlic are also very good. Remember: Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House only accepts cash or Venmo payments. Conveniently, there’s an ATM right in the restaurant. 1022 Race Street.

Tai Lake
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 excellent salt-baked shrimp with chilies, Chinese casseroles, jellyfish served seven different ways, lobster with minced pork — and pretty much any other Hong Kong-style 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.

chinatown penang

Photograph courtesy of Penang

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 meat and potato curry for dipping. Go with a group, and fill the table with roti, Malaysian noodles and satay. Or go on a date and drink a couple of Tsingtaos with someone special. 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 midday date or solo breakfast with a good book.
Ray’s is one of those restaurants in Philadelphia that people don’t talk about enough. This daytime cafe serves a wide variety of handmade Taiwanese dumplings, beef noodle soup, and excellent slow-drip coffee made in siphons. Go for breakfast on one visit, then come again for lunch or an afternoon snack. 141 North 9th Street.

Yi Pin
Best for: Late-night dining, karaoke, strangers belting their hearts out.
Yi Pin serves Sichuan specialties like a 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. Plus, 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 single day. But for whatever reason, there aren’t usually any lines at all here, so you can almost always get a seat. Cantonese and Shanghainese dim sum is only part of what they do 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 can eat anywhere in Philadelphia, but we’re totally confident about that bridge thing.) 59 North 11th Street.

Dae Bak
Best for: 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 tofu stews. If you want something classic, stick to the dolsot bibim bap. 1016 Race Street.

Chubby Cattle
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 “Hellish Spicy,” plus Wagyu beef tongue that’s shaped like a rose, handmade noodles galore, and hot pot available in sizes for sharing … or not-sharing. Chubby Cattle — which has locations in other cities, including Vegas and Denver — might be a preview of the way we’ll all be eating in the future, but aren’t we lucky we can get a preview right now? 146 North 10th Street.

Terakawa Ramen
Best For: …Ramen. You know the vibe.
Remember that ramen craze that swept through Philly over 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 in Reading Terminal. But the 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, trust that they know what they’re doing. 238 North 9th Street.

M Kee
Best for: Congee breakfast, a 2 p.m. whole duck. 
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 have a BYO 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.

Photograph courtesy of Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Nom Wah
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 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 siu mai and rice rolls wrapped around fried dough to come fresh from 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 1960s, the restaurant’s space was 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 results in Northwestern Chinese dishes like cumin-laden burgers, chive pie, biang biang noodles, and thick pita bread soaked in lamb soup. If it’s a hot day, order the xi’an liang pi, which arrives cold, slippery, and starchy with wheat noodles. 902 Arch Street.

Spice C
Best for: Soup moods. 
Spice C serves killer Sichuan 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 Sichuan 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.

Banana Leaf
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 onion, plus stir-fried noodle dishes full of seafood and chilies. 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.

Cily Chicken Rice and Thai Food
Best for: Comforting takeout or a quick dinner.
They serve other things at Cily, but we recommend exploring their menu of chicken rice, a.k.a. khao man gai — an incredibly comforting dish of gently poached chicken served over gingery rice alongside chicken broth and a salty, savory dipping sauce. You can get a few different variations on it as well as noodles, dumplings and other dishes, but the chicken is silky and incredibly tender, and the rice is addictive enough that we recommend getting extra. 933 Race Street.

Lee How Fook
Best for: Salt-baked squid. 
Since 1978, Lee How Fook has been serving Cantonese and Chinese-American dishes to the hungry people of Philadelphia. It’s now in its second generation of family ownership, and not much has changed except for a small face-lift. Regulars go for salt-baked squid, orange beef, handmade dumplings, and the knowledge that even as everything changes, Lee How Fook remains comfortingly consistent. 219 North 11th Street.

Kung Fu Hotpot
Best for: Hot pot
Look for the big sign for Kung Fu Hotpot, then take an elevator to the restaurant, where you’ll find one of the best all-you-can-eat hot pot spots in the city. Opt for the premium option, which includes a lobster for every three people at the table. You’ll order your meat selections off an iPad, then head to a refrigerated wall to select your other add-ins. Ingredients are fresh and plentiful, and the staff is friendly and helpful. 1008 Cherry Street, third floor.

Mango Mango
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 afterward, head to Mango Mango. This Hong Kong-style sweet shop puts its namesake fruit, mangos, 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 for lighter options. 1013 Cherry Street.