Philadelphia’s vibrant Chinatown area is a bustling, yet gritty neighborhood with a variety of great restaurants, most of which are unassuming. Located on the eastern side of Center City, Chinatown is a pocket of Philly that’s bordered to the north by Vine Street and to the south by Arch Street. It’s a fun dining destination all year long as there are plenty of diverse eateries that feature an array of specialties. Each restaurant offers a different choice of ambiance and offerings, and it’s not uncommon for this district to attract after-hours diners. Check out these favorites when you’re choosing a place for your next Chinatown meal.
Penang is a sprawling restaurant with an industrial feel and high-ceilings that serves up a wide variety of flavorful Malaysian-style specialties from the country’s northwest coast. With an open kitchen, lively crowd, and raucous ambiance, Penang is all about the quick service and sizzling hot food.
First-timers will appreciate the helpful servers who happily describe the different dishes and assist customers in making their meal decisions. A few popular items are the Penang fried chicken wings wrapped in pine leaves; beef satay; vegetable spring rolls; and their signature lobak, which features a succulent combination of spicy pork roll, shrimp, and tofu all in one dish.
As the only Burmese restaurant in Philadelphia, Rangoon attracts customers who return again and again for their unique, zesty, perfectly presented plates. Open for more than 25 years, this neighborhood staple has been serving up authentic dishes like their tangy firecracker lentil fritters, flavorful Burmese wontons, and overstuffed crabmeat dumplings. A big favorite that draws a lot of attention is their award-winning crispy watercress salad, which is tossed with a delectable dressing that intermingles flavors of Thai basil, fresh lemon juice, and coriander.
Sang Kee Peking Duck House
A mainstay in the Chinatown area since opening in 1980, Sang Kee Peking Duck House is known for creative Chinese dishes, including its famed namesake, Peking Duck, and it was the first restaurant in the city to serve this specialty. But you don’t need to order the duck to have a fantastic meal here—they serve an array of tasty seafood and meat dishes as well, along with a wide variety of all sorts of house-made noodle dishes.
Dim Sum Garden
When you’re craving some Shanghainese Dim Sum, be sure to head to this well-known foodie destination. Steeped in Chinese tradition, Dim Sum Garden opened in 2013 and is run by the talented chef Shizhou Da, a fifth-generation dim sum expert with more than 30 years of experience. Don’t miss her delicately textured shrimp and chicken dumplings, as well as her other flavorful and delightful offerings, including pork with noodle sauce, fried string beans, and of course those delicious Shanghai stir-fried noodles. There’s something for everyone here, including plenty of noodle dishes and a tasty vegetable selection, too.
Tai Lake Restaurant
Offering a selection of Cantonese specialties, Tai Lake Restaurant is a casual, BYOB in Chinatown with a robust menu that includes Beijing pork chops, walnut shrimp, sweet and sour pork, fried tofu, pepper steak, and mixed fried seafood. Those who enjoy late night dining will adore Tai Lake, as it’s open until 3 a.m. on weekends. It’s also a favorite of restaurant industry folks in Philadelphia as it’s not uncommon to see the staff at some of the city’s most upscale eateries enjoying a bite to eat after hours.
Chubby Cattle offers a special hot-pot dining experience and a menu inspired by Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese ingredients. Diners select their food via electronic tablet from the refrigerated conveyor belt that’s full of fresh delights. This restaurant promotes its fresh, high-quality meats, poultry, and seafood, and focuses on healthy dining options. Favorites are the original steaming hot pot soups, as well as a huge selection of noodles, meatballs, and skewers, all made fresh and in-house, of course.
Ramen fans adore Terakawa Ramen. This noodle house serves up traditional Kumamoto Kyushu style ramen, a Japanese specialty that’s notable because it’s simmered for two days. It’s also unique because it consists of a pork broth base and incorporates a different type of noodle that’s straight and cooked “al dente” instead of slightly wavy and soft. In addition to many kinds of ramen, Terakawa’s menu also has Japanese sausage, shrimp tempura shumai, Karaage chicken, seaweed salad, and several curry platters.
Named after one of China’s most majestic mountains, Emei serves an array of dishes from the Western part of the country. This Philadelphia eatery recreates authentic Szechuan cuisine, which is famous for its zesty and robust flavors. So if you love your food extra hot and spicy, you’re certain to become a fan. Several of Emei’s best-selling dishes combine the modern with traditional, such as Dan Dan noodles, Singapore noodles, as well as Chongqing spicy chicken (often referred to as “dry pepper chicken”) and pork dumplings. (But if you prefer your food to be on the mild side, be sure to let your server know and they will accommodate).
One of Chinatown’s newer and highly acclaimed additions, Good Harvest is situated in a sleek, modern dining room and specializes in Szechuan style cuisine (but also serves other Chinese dishes). A few of the house-made favorites include their distinctive hot and stir-fried pots, which are offered in a variety of styles, including the lobster, prime rib, steamed crabs (in season) and their shrimp with golden pepper pot. There are also plenty of vegetarian offerings, including thick slices of eggplant with garlic sauce. And if you’re a karaoke fan, you’re in luck—the musically inclined should definitely ask about the free karaoke room with a purchase.
Lee How Fook
A landmark in Philadelphia’s Chinatown for more than 30 years, the award-winning Lee How Fook restaurant is renowned for its massive Cantonese menu that’s especially budget-friendly. The menu at this BYOB is incredibly extensive and truly offers something for everyone from seafood and vegetarian to pork and beef. Just a few of the many dishes here include Chinese vegetables with shredded pork soup; steamed vegetable dumplings; scallops with cashew nuts; sea bass with black bean and hot peppers; and beef with mushrooms and bamboo shoots. It’s usually busy here, so be prepared to wait if you don’t have a reservation.