When it comes to the makings of a stellar Chinatown, there are a few key ingredients: bustling streets, lacquered ducks hanging in windows and just enough of a feeling of unfamiliarity to make for meals with a side of adventure. Here’s a look at some of the best eats in Philly’s Chinatown.
This recent New York import might not have ladies wheeling around carts of dim sum, but with its checklist menus (and convenient golf pencils), the dumpling game here is strong. The majority of the menu falls within the $4 to $7 dollar range, but if you’re a newcomer to the dim sum scene, there are steamed and fried samplers geared toward getting a taste of what this place has to offer. Bonus points for the dumpling-themed wallpaper lining the bathroom walls.
218 N. 13th St.; 267-519-2889
Philadelphians are ride or die for this soup dumpling destination. The service and decor has been ramped up since the says when it was situated next to the Chinatown bus depot, but the dumplings are on point. Scallion pancakes, beef and potato cakes and chilled marinated cucumbers round out a sharable meal.
1020 Race St.; 215-873-0258
In a place where post-last-call meals generally fall into two categories (diners and cheesesteaks), this open-until-4-AM-on-weekends corner is a welcome change of pace. Salt-and-pepper wings and fried dumplings with extra ginger scallion sauce are must orders, and if you get there before 2 AM there are tiki drinks and plenty of icy Tsingtaos.
1001 Race St.; 215-627-2610
This narrow Chinatown ramen spot has a menu of Japanese standards that goes beyond noodles. Takoyaki are studded with chunks of octopus and topped with Kewpie mayo and wavy bonito flakes and the karaage (Japanese fried chicken) is reason enough to bring at least a six-pack of Sapporo. But if you’re going to do ramen, go with the "Whopper-style," a massive bowl of heritage pork bone broth with charshu, leek and crushed garlic oil, loads of veggies and two soft-boiled eggs.
204 N. Ninth St.; 267-687-1355
South Philly is Vietnamese food central, but this Chinatown stalwart does things right with tropical Southeast Asian decor, a killer cocktail menu and venerable versions of classics. For an optimal experience start by ordering a drink or two from the Polynesian cocktail menu (the Flaming Volcano or the Bachelor’s Downfall are solid picks) and then choose a few sections from the appetizer menu like Vietnamese stuffed grape leaves and a beef jerky green papaya salad.
221 N. 11th St.; 215-592-1163
Located within close proximity to both India and Thailand, the cuisine of Burma is full of intriguing curries, rice dishes and salads. Any of the thousand-layer bread apps are great starters along with salads with tea leaves and crispy watercress, and when it comes to entrees the spareribs and pork in pickled mango curry don’t disappoint.
112 N. Ninth St.; 215-829-8939
Cheap, satisfying and lightning fast, this housemade noodle specialist is an ideal place to lunch. House special meatball noodle soup is a great introduction to the world of hand-pulled noodles, but if you’re in the market for a meatier (and more chopstick-intensive) experience, the oxtail or sparerib soups are the way to go.
1022 Race St.; 215-923-1550