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What's In The Chinatown Neighborhood?
Restaurants, Quick Eats, Shops & Arts In Chinatown
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 the 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 complement the Malaysian cuisine with Thai and Indian accents. The deeply spiced specialties include roti canai, achat (pickled vegetables) and curried chicken over coconut rice. 1009 Arch Street, (215) 592-8288, bananaleafphilly.com
- David’s Mai Lai Wah – Post-party students, industry folks and those hankering for “real” 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 unassuming spot under the railroad trestle by the Reading Terminal Market offers an abundant selection. The low-cost, tempting eats here include Shanghai juicy buns, pan-fried dumplings and pumpkin cakes. 59 N. 11th Street, (215) 627-0218
- Joy Tsin Lau – Affordable dumplings, shrimp balls and chicken feet are served in plentitude at the dim-sum banquets. Arrive early; this Chinatown institution brings in a hectic weekend business. 1026 Race Street, (215) 592-7227, joytsinlauchineserestaurant.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 BBQ spareribs and roast pork, served over noodles, congee and rice. 1002 Race Street, (215) 238-8883
- Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House – Drawn by the affordable prices, lunchtime visitors pack into the no-frills tables here. The star feature is the 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
- QT Vietnamese Sandwich – When the banh mi craving hits, this little luncheonette has it covered. The menu includes hoagies of both meaty (house special includes BBQ pork, Vietnamese ham and Vietnamese meat) and vegetarian (lemongrass tofu, mushrooms) varieties, all layered with cilantro, fresh cucumbers pickled veggies and fresh jalapeños. 48 N. 10th Street, (267) 639-4520
- Rangoon – The city’s only Burmese restaurant successfully hooked Philadelphians on Thousand Layer Bread, fresh ginger salad and fragrant stir-fried and noodle dishes. Vegetarian options abound. 112 N. 9th Street, (215) 829-8939, rangoonrestaurant.com
- Sammy Chon’s KTown BBQ – Tofu stews, grilled galbi and fried chicken are just a few of the treats at Chinatown’s newest Korean hotspot. Patrons also go there for the signature Koagie, a Korean barbecue hoagie topped with sesame slaw. 911 Race Street, (215) 574-1778, ktownbbq.com
- 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 sampling the Hong Kong cuisine throughout the three floors of dining rooms. 239 N. 9th Street, (215) 925-7532, sangkeechinatown.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 clam and Chinese okra 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 with preserved vegetables. 143 N. 11th Street, (215) 592-8990
- Terakawa Ramen – Japanese noodle bowls topped with roast pork, hardboiled 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 and the Japanese sandwich, with slowly braised pork, lettuce, tomato and spicy mayonnaise on a tasty bun. 204 N. 9th Street, (267) 687-1355, terakawaramenphilly.com
- Vietnam – Impossibly quick, surprisingly inexpensive and deliciously authentic, this 11th Street hangout has been offering traditional fare such as crispy crepes, broken rice platters and steaming bowls of pho since the early 1980s. 221 N. 11th Street, (215) 592-1163, eatatvietnam.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 less than a dollar. 1041 Race Street, (215) 925-3802
- Heung Fa Chun Sweet House – A quick, light meal calls for a visit to this easy-to-miss snackery. House specialties include sweet or savory dou hua (tofu custard), sticky rice with Chinese sausage and fried sesame pancakes. 112 N. 10th Street, (215) 238-8968
- I-Green Frozen Yogurt and Kitchen – The tart fro-yo craze has hit Chinatown, hard. The self-serve options include dairy-free varieties and plenty of exotic fruit flavors (taro, mango). In the back are vegan American and Chinese savory snacks. 1028 Arch Street, (267) 519-2742
- Lucky Chinese Cookie Factory – Chinatown’s main cookie supplier is open daily from morning until early evening. Visitors can purchase freshly baked fortune cookies available 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 invites guests for breakfast or lunch. Behind the glass displays lurk 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 coffees from around the world, Ray’s attracts the caffeine-starved connoisseur. There’s also a full menu of Taiwanese and bubble teas, smoothies and desserts like the iced jelly cappuccino. 141 N. 9th Street, (215) 922-5122, rayscafe.com
- Tea Dó – This modern teahouse with a Japanese 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
- Tea Talk – For bubble tea, milk teas and all-things creamy and sippable, this cheery boba shop delivers. Late-night hours make it a great place to hit before or after a concert at the Troc. 216 N. 10th Street, (215) 925-1581
- Abakus Takeout – This hipster clothing store takes on the style of a quick-service eatery, but the goods include an original collection of logo T-shirts and hats instead of roast duck and wontons. 227 N. 10th Street, (215) 351-7978, abakustakeout.com
- Asia Crafts Co., 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. 123 N. 10th Street, (215) 925-3974
- Asia Supermarket – Set beneath the Tasty Place restaurant, this food market offers a down-home shopping experience. Noodles, tea, Asian condiments and cookware, as well as a wide selection of herbal medicines, line the aisles. 143 N. 11th Street, (215) 928-9888
- Chinese Arts and Crafts – One of the neighborhood’s best-kept shopping secrets, this indoor flea market encourages bargaining. Whether it’s a mahjong set, a Buddha sculpture or a teapot, the gift bazaar is likely to have it—and for a good price. 124 N. 10th Street
- 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:
- Hop Sing Laundromat – Hipsters have caught on to the mysterious Lêe and his bartending prowess. Chinatown’s quirky answer to a speakeasy hand-cracks its ice, freshly squeezes its grape juice and serves only exquisitely crafted cocktails. 1029 Race Street, hopsinglaundromat.com
- The Trocadero – The onetime burlesque theater serves as a storied venue for rock, hip-hop and DJ acts. Upstairs, the smaller venue called The Balcony welcomes local and emerging artists. The Troc also hosts a campy Movie Monday series. 1003 Arch Street, (215) 922-6888, thetroc.com
- Yakitori Boy – At this hotspot, the night starts with grilled meats and bar snacks and ends with karaoke. Those too shy for the crowd can show off their music stylings to their friends in one of the coveted private lounges. 211 N. 11th Street, (215) 923-8088, yakitoriboy.com
Arts & Culture:
- 10th Street Plaza – Capped by a pergola and foo-dog 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 operates a gallery, conducts workshops and children’s afterschool programs and hosts performances with an Asian theme and monthly movie nights. It also installs works around Chinatown that promote cultural exchange, including murals with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. 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 twelve animals, designed in a paper-cut style by Andrews/LeFevre Studios.
- Friendship Gate – Built by Chinese artisans in 1982 and recently refurbished, the dramatic gilt-painted entry symbolizes the connection between Philadelphia and its sister city Tianjin. Designed by architect Sabrina Soong, the structure recreates 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 designers and painters. The latest, entitled 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. 10th & Winter Streets, 9th & Race Streets, 12th & Vine Streets, 125 N. 8th Street, muralarts.org
- Space 1026 – Started 15 years ago by a group of friends, this member-based collective that includes a screen-printing shop, gallery and growing community of artists. The public is welcome to attend the space for monthly gallery exhibitions, film screenings, a yearly fundraising auction and other events. 1026 Arch Street, 2nd floor, (215) 574-7630, space1026.com
- Wok ’n Walk Tours – Chef Joseph Poon’s tours are the stuff of legend. The jaunts include a visit to the fortune cookie factory, an Asian grocery and a Chinese place of worship (among other stops) and end with a meal cooked by Poon himself. (215) 928-9333, josephpoon.com
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Restaurants & Bars:
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