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What's In The Chinatown Neighborhood?
Restaurants, Quick Eats, Shops & Arts In Philadelphia's Chinatown Neighborhood
Beyond the colorful Friendship Arch at 10th and Arch Streets lives Philly’s vibrant Asian enclave, settled in the mid-19th century by Cantonese immigrants. Stretching from Vine to Arch Streets between 9th and 12th Streets, the neighborhood is packed end to end with restaurants and stores that represent Hong Kong, Cantonese, Fujianese, Northern Sichuan and Taiwanese cultures, with a sprinkling of Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Burmese, Vietnamese and hipster thrown in for good measure. On any given day or night, Chinatown bustles with activity and authenticity, from the steaming platters of hand-stretched noodles to the seasonal street festivals to the locally guided tours and bubble tea. Here’s the scoop on the food, drinks, goods and culture that make Philadelphia’s Chinatown worth exploring.
- Banana Leaf – A casual but funky atmosphere complements the Malaysian cuisine with Thai and Indian accents. The deeply spiced specialties include roti canai, curried chicken over coconut rice and pad thai with basil noodles. 1009 Arch Street, (215) 592-8288, bananaleafphilly.com
- Bubblefish Bubble Tea & Sushi – This trendy spot among teens and twentysomethings stays open until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. on weekends. The forward-thinking menu includes Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine, along with bubble tea from a long list of flavor options. 909 Arch Street, (267) 930-7634, bubblefishphilly.com
- David’s Mai Lai Wah – Night-owl students, industry folks and those hankering for authentic Chinese eats take advantage of the late-night hours here. Top menu items include salt-and-pepper squid, dumplings in ginger-scallion sauce and beef with pickled mustard greens.
1001 Race Street, (215) 627-2610
- Dim Sum Garden – It may not exactly look like a garden, but the restaurant offers an abundant selection. The low-cost eats here include triple-steamed buns, pan-fried dumplings and pumpkin cakes. 1020 Race Street, (215) 873-0258, dimsumgardenphilly.com
- M Kee – A relative newcomer to the scene, this diminutive eatery beckons with its lacquered ducks hanging in the window. The temptation continues with traditional Chinese barbecue spareribs and roast pork, served over noodles, congee and rice. 1002 Race Street, (215) 238-8883
- Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House – Drawn in by the affordable prices, lunchtime visitors pack into this no-frills tables spot. The star feature: noodles, which come hand-drawn or shaved, fat or thin and swirled in rich broth, tossed with peanut sauce or stir-fried. 1022 Race Street, (215) 923-1550
- Oishii Poké – No app needed for this poke, man. The raw fish salad finds its root in Hawaiian cuisine at this newcomer where customers choose from signature dishes or a build their own bowl, burrito or salad before selecting ingredients. 938 Arch Street, first floor rear, (267) 909-8358, oishiipoke.com
- QT Vietnamese Sandwich – When the banh mi craving hits, this little luncheonette satisfies. The menu includes hoagies of both the meaty (house special includes barbecue pork, Vietnamese ham and Vietnamese meat) and vegetarian (lemongrass tofu, or tofu, onions and mushrooms) varieties, all layered with cilantro, fresh cucumbers, pickled carrots, mayo, pate and fresh jalapeños. 48 N. 10th Street, (267) 639-4520
- Rangoon – The city’s only Burmese restaurant has successfully hooked Philadelphians on Thousand Layer Bread, fresh ginger salad and fragrant stir-fry and noodle dishes—with plenty of vegetarian options. 112 N. 9th Street, (215) 829-8939, rangoonphilly.com
- Red Kings 2 – Late-night hours (until 4:00 a.m. on weekends; 3:00 a.m. during the week) and the irresistible lure of Szechuan peppercorns make this sequel restaurant a major draw. Loyal diners insist that the Dan Dan noodles, cumin lamb and spicy boiled fish are the best in town. 1006 Race Street, (215) 238-1392
- Sang Kee Peking Duck House – The flagship of a local empire, Sang Kee built its name on noodle soups, garlicky greens and, of course, roast duck. Patrons eagerly sample the Hong Kong fare on two floors of the restaurant. 238 N. 9th Street, (215) 925-7532, sangkeechinatown.com
- Sea Bar Restaurant – Once a seafood market, now a seafood restaurant, delivers custom-composed fare for Vietnamese and Chinese palates. At dinner, patrons choose a seafood protein, a sauce and a spice level (all come with corn on the cob, sausage and potatoes) and let the chefs take care of the rest. 140 N. 10th Street, (215) 627-4355, seabarrestaurant.com
- Spice C – With a flair for the dramatic, this Chinese noodle house lets patrons watch chefs turn dough into noodles. Lumps fly into the air, stretching, separating and transforming into savory soups and stir fries. 131 N. 10th Street, (215) 923-2222, spicecnoodle.com
- Tai Lake – The tanks of fish and frogs hint at the freshness of ingredients at this seafoodery. Diners choose from authentic delicacies such as crabmeat and asparagus soup, chili-baked shrimp and sautéed conch. 134 N. 10th Street, (215) 922-0698, tailakeseafoodrest.com
- Tasty Place – Hungry neighborhood dwellers head underground in the Chinatown Mall for a true taste of Hong Kong. For two decades, Chef Simon Sei has satisfied their cravings for salt-and-pepper wings, homey soups and spare ribs. 143 N. 11th Street, (215) 592-8990
- Terakawa Ramen – Japanese noodle bowls topped with roast pork, soft-boiled egg or soy-flavored chicken make up the main attractions at this sleek fast-service spot. The ramen-averse can sample platters with homemade curry, as well as a sandwich similar to a Japanese bun, with slowly braised pork, lettuce, tomato and spicy mayonnaise. 204 N. 9th Street, (267) 687-1355, terakawaramenphilly.com
- Vietnam – The food at this 11th Street hangout is impossibly quick, surprisingly inexpensive and deliciously authentic—and has been so since the early 1980s. Think crepes, broken rice platters and steaming bowls of pho. 221 N. 11th Street, (215) 592-1163, eatatvietnam.com
- Xi’an Sizzling Woks – The unadorned atmosphere here quickly recedes into the background when steaming platters of authentic Chinese fare arrive. Some of the specialties include Chinese hamburger made with braised pork, dumplings in spicy and sour soup and handmade east noodles. 902 Arch Street, (215) 925-1688, xian-sizzlingwoks.com
- Yamitsuki Ramen – Street food becomes elevated—but not pretentious—inside the modern Japanese restaurant, a standout for the full-sized Iron Man costume on display in the front window. Ramen finds space on the menu, as do steamed buns stuffed with pork or chicken, ethereal snow ice and tea bar beverages.1028 Arch Street, (215) 629-3888, yamitsukiramen.com
Quick Bites & Treats:
- Bread Top House – Breakfast here starts the day off right—and for a bargain. Freshly baked coconut buns, fruit smoothies and milk teas hit the spot, and most items are around a dollar. 1041 Race Street, (215) 925-3802Heung Fa Chun Sweet House – Quick, light meals are the specialty at this easy-to-miss snackery. Favorites include sweet or savory dou hua (tofu custard), sticky rice with Chinese sausage and fried sesame balls. 114 N. 10th Street, (215) 238-8968
- Lucky Chinese Cookie Factory – Chinatown’s main cookie supplier is open daily from morning until early evening. Visitors can purchase freshly baked fortune cookies by the bag—even X-rated options are available for those so inclined. 155 N. 9th Street, (215) 922-7288
- Mayflower Bakery and Café – A mainstay for cheap meals, Mayflower welcomes guests for breakfast or lunch. Behind the glass displays sit crispy, fresh-out-of-the-oven delicacies, such as taro and red-bean buns, coconut bread, egg tarts and even hot-dog buns. 1008 Race Street, (215) 629-5668
- Ray’s Café & Teahouse – Known for its siphoned specialty hot coffees and 12-hour drip cold-brew ice coffee with beans sourced from around the world, Ray’s attracts caffeine-starved connoisseurs. There’s also a full menu of imported Taiwanese tea leaves and bubble teas, smoothies and desserts such as coffee jelly made from the shop’s siphoned blend. 141 N. 9th Street, (215) 922-5122, rayscafe.com
- Tea Dó – This modern teahouse with a Chinese pedigree serves little snacks all day long. A full selection of teas—with or without bubbles—accompanies gyoza, fish balls and onigiri.
132 N. 10th Street, (215) 925-8889, tea-do.com
- Mr. Wish – For fruity tea and all-things creamy and sippable, this cheery drink shop delivers. Late-night hours make it a great place to hit before or after a concert at the Troc. 216 N. 10th Street, (267) 457-2650
- Asia Crafts, Inc. – The city’s best outlet for Hello Kitty and her Sanrio pals stocks its shelves to the brim. Shoppers can find just about any item stamped with their iconic images at this fun Japanese toy and novelty store. 124 N. 10th Street, (215) 925-3974
- Asia Supermarket – Set next to the Tasty Place restaurant, this food market offers a down-home shopping experience. Noodles, tea, condiments, cookware and a wide selection of herbal medicines line the aisles. 143 N. 11th Street, (215) 928-9888
- Ip Novelty – One of the neighborhood’s best-kept shopping secrets, this store encourages bargaining. Offerings include mahjong sets, Buddha sculptures, teapots and more—all at good prices. 126 N. 10th Street, (215) 928-1616
- Nagoya – Inside this small boutique lies an expansive collection of gently used women’s designer clothing, jewelry and accessories. Many high-end designer labels line the walls and a small selection of cosmetics ensure customers can leave ready to look their best. 125 N. 11th Street, (215) 925-3200, nagoyapa.com
- Tuck Hing – The stock varies from week to week at Chinatown’s longest-running grocer. However, shoppers can always count on superb Chinese sausage, dried oysters and other staples of the Asian kitchen. 218 N. 10th Street, (215) 627-2079
Bars & Nightlife:
- Bar.Ly – Forget flaming cocktails with colorful names—Chinatown is becoming a destination for serious beer and cocktail enthusiasts. With 60 beers on tap and a menu of global eats like cheesesteak spring rolls, Korean bulgogi sandwiches and kimchi pizza, this sports bar/gastropub is part of the neighborhood’s new generation. 101 N. 11th Street, (215) 922-2688, bar-ly.com
- Hop Sing Laundromat – Those in the know have caught on to the mysterious Lê and his bartending prowess. Chinatown’s quirky answer to a speakeasy hand-cracks its ice, freshly squeezes its fruit juice per order and serves only exquisitely crafted cocktails to well-heeled clientele (no sneakers allowed). 1029 Race Street, hopsinglaundromat.com
- Tango – Dinner and entertainment meet at this neon-lit combination noodle joint and karaoke bar. The menu features a wide range of Yakitori skewers, tempura rice bowls and luxe private singing suites. 1021 Arch Street, (215) 925-8100, tangophilly.com
- The Trocadero – The ever-versatile former burlesque theater gives fans the chance to attend shows both large and small—whether it’s international bands, hip-hop artists, indie rockers or the campy Movie Monday series. 1003 Arch Street, (215) 922-6888, thetroc.com
- Yakitori Boy – At this hotspot, the night starts with Yakitori, sushi or sake bombs and ends with karaoke. Those too shy for the crowd can show off their musical stylings to friends in a private lounge. 211 N. 11th Street, (215) 923-8088, yakitoriboy.com
Arts & Culture:
- 10th Street Plaza – Capped by a pergola and guardian lions, this cornerstone park flanks Chinatown’s north end. A statue of Lin Zexu honors the Fujian province. 10th & Vine Streets
- Asian Arts Initiative – This community‐based arts center engages people to create art that explores the diverse experiences of Asian-Americans, addresses social context and impacts the community in a positive way. The organization offers a full calendar of events, including exhibitions, public performances, an out-of-school youth program and more. 1219 Vine Street, (215) 557-0455, asianartsinitiative.org
- Chinese Zodiac Walk – The 95 bronze medallions embedded in the neighborhood’s sidewalks represent the Chinese calendar year. Look closely for all 12 animals, designed in a paper-cut style by Andrews/LeFevre Studios.
- Friendship Gate – Built by Chinese artisans in 1982, the dramatic gilt-painted entry symbolizes the connection between Philadelphia and its sister city Tianjin. Architect Sabrina Soong designed the structure to recreate a Qing Dynasty style with Tianjin tiles. 10th & Arch Streets
- Mural Arts Program – The walls of Chinatown depict the area’s rich history and its vision for the future thanks to larger-than-life works created by Mural Arts Program designers and painters. For example, How We Fish is part of a citywide project to engage workers, business leaders and residents in thinking about the role of work in the community. Tours depart from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Hamilton Building, 128 N. Broad Street, muralarts.org/tour
- Philly Food Adventures – Food writer and blogger Jamie Shanker welcomes groups of 4 to 20 for her 2.5-hour jaunt around the neighborhood. Meeting under the neighborhood’s arch, she offers insights into Asian populations before taking eaters to five spots (plus markets) for dumplings, noodles and under-the-radar street fare. phillyfoodadventures.com
- Space 1026 – Founded 19 years ago by a group of friends, this member-based collective includes a screen-printing shop, gallery and a growing community of artists. The gallery is by appointment and during openings on the first Friday of each month. 1026 Arch Street, 2nd floor, (215) 574-7630, space1026.com
- Wok ’n Walk Tours – Chef Joseph Poon’s private group tours are the stuff of legend. The Chinatown jaunts include a visit to the fortune-cookie company, an Asian grocery and a Chinese place of worship (among other stops) and end with a meal with Chef Poon at one of his favorite Chinatown restaurants. (215) 928-9333, josephpoon.com
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