As the melting pot of the United States, New York is home to immigrant populations from around the globe. Luckily for New Yorkers and visitors, that also means a myriad of delicious ethnic cuisine is available on nearly every corner of the city. In Astoria, Greece and Italy reign supreme. In Jackson Heights, Little India is alive and well. And if you take a walk down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, there's a chance you'll mistakenly think you've crossed over the water to Jamaica.
But today, we're talking Chinese food - from hot pot to dumplings, Sichuan to Xi'an, and everything delicious in between. As you make your way through this list of the 10 best Chinese spots in the city, we'll take you up to Flushing, Queens to try the famous cumin-crusted lamb chops at Fu Run, over to Brooklyn's Chinatown to indulge in a little geoduck and sliced meat at Mister Hotpot, and of course, to Manhattan for cheap pan-fried eats at Prosperity Dumpling and hipster-loving Sichuan-inspired fare at Mission Chinese.
So ditch the sub-par Styrofoam, kick up the spice factor, and join us on a trip around the Big Apple for a taste of Asia's finest. Now enough with all the chit-chat, let's get started.
Mission Chinese Food
Now re-opened on East Broadway in the Lower East Side, Mission Chinese has battled its way back after a rather rough couple of years. Shuttered after troubles with the landlord, the restaurant was forced to pack its bags in 2014, though it continued serving spice hungry hipsters through a series of successful pop-ups all year. Now, David Bowien is back in permanent digs and ready to rival the city's top Chinese spots for a shot at the title of best. With Sichuan-inspired dishes like thrice cooked bacon and salted cod fried rice with Chinese sausage, it looks like he's already faring pretty well. (212-529-8800)
Royal Seafood landed itself on Eater's list of 38 Essential Restaurants in the fall of 2014, and for good reason. Not only has Royal earned its place among Chinatown's haunts, but it's also reasonably priced, which automatically gives it a leg up on some of its other Manhattan competition. Dim sum is served here all day, and the best way – scratch that, the only way – to order is family-style. Favorites include snails in black bean sauce, crispy chicken, pan-fried noodles and the salt and pepper squid. Be warned: weekends are a madhouse, so come early or prepare to battle the (sometimes slow-eating) crowds. (212-219-2338)
Known for its high-end dim sum and cocktail pairings, Red Egg's menu is an amalgamation of Cantonese comfort food - think fried wontons and pork dumplings - and more exotic dishes like cold sesame jelly fish with smoked pork knuckles. While the restaurant serves main course meals, the star of its offerings is the dim sum. Served daily from 10am until close, the menu switches over at 4pm, though be warned that the evening menu is significantly shorter. All items are made fresh to order, so don't expect a rolling cart to cruise by during dining, as is traditional in a dim sum joint. Nevermind - the food is fresh, the prices are right and the regulars sing Red Egg's praises as one of the best dim sum spots downtown. (212-966-1123)
Legend Bar & Restaurant
New to Chelsea in 2011, Legend is one of the only Sichuan spots in the neighborhood, immediately earning it bonus points with locals. Along with a solid hot pot offering - a fiery soup made spicy by numbing Sichuan peppercorns and chilies - the restaurant also excels with their mains and starters. Favorites include beef and ox tripe in chili sauce and the tears in eye - bean cake in roasted chili and black fermented soy bean sauce. If the name is any indication, this is not the place for the ill-hearted or light stomached, though you'll fare well if you're scouring the city for reasonably priced eats. While the hot pot runs $30/person, you'll save by ordering off the menu - most mains fall in the $13 -$15 range. (212-929-1778)
Xi'an Famous Foods
Slink down a staircase into an unkempt basement and enter the family-run dungeon of Xi'an cuisine, Xi'an Famous. This 200-square-foot basement stall in Flushing is the original location of this recognized mini-chain, and was one of the first New York restaurants to serve food from the Xi'an region of China. Specialties include spicy & tingly beef and "burgers" on flatbread, though regulars swear by the hand-pulled noodles with cumin lamb. While purists argue that Xi'an lacks a certain level of authenticity, culinary royalty and media (including Anthony Bourdain and Zagat) have crowned Xi'an a shining star in New York's Chinese food scene.
Run, don't walk, to Fu Run in Flushing and order the Muslim lamb chops. Covered in a cumin-chili powder-sesame seed combo, these fragrant chops have made a name for themselves throughout the five boroughs, and they're reason enough to include Fu Run on our list. Luckily for your belly, they're not the only reason. Other must-try dishes include the green bean sheet jelly, a slippery starter fit for sharing, and the deep fried pork knuckles. Debating whether the trek on the 7 train is really worth it right now? Put down your phone, pick up your Metrocard and don't waste another minute pondering the answer. Just go. (718-321-1363)
Little Pepper, located in Flushing (are you starting to see a trend?), is the spot for hot pot. While other mains, including the dan dan noodles, score high marks with locals, you're doing yourself a disservice if you skip the hot pot. Opt for the half-and-half broth and load up on a wide selection of meats and veggies fit for dunking. The side sauces are also highly recommended. So, why would you come all the way to College Point for grub? For one, Little Pepper's ingredients are better and cheaper than what many in Manhattan offer. Number two, Spa Castle is close by, so go sauna, then go Sichuan for the ultimate evening. (718-939-7788)
Rice Noodle Cart
You generally won't find many street carts on "best of" lists, but the rice noodle rolls on Elizabeth at Hester deserve time in the spotlight. Interestingly, there are two carts directly opposite one another – both delicious, both viable options.
English is an afterthought here, so don't go armed with questions. Here's all you need to know: you want the minced pork roll, add the egg, and slather on the Sriracha and soy.
Don't even think about skipping the cilantro and onion, or traveling more than a block before popping open your Styrofoam box of yum. These gelatinous beauties lose their luster by the minute, so order and eat. Also, take note that the times listed are approximates – the rice carts don't play by traditional time rules, making them even more desirable to foodie fiends. (No Phone)
Located in Brooklyn's Chinatown, Mister Hotpot is the king of the outstandingly unique ingredients. Among them are geoduck, tenderized beef with egg and fried fish skin, along with a laundry list of other fresh meats and rarely seen sides. Both broths – a fiery peppercorn one and a non-spicy milky white one made of pork marrow and spices – score high marks with diners. The vibe leans more toward club than Chinese restaurant, so don't go if you're more interested in quiet conversation than fist-pumping beats. That said, the food here outweighs any annoyance over the auditory atmosphere. Plus, if you're looking for a place to have a party, Mister Hotpot hits all the right notes. (718-633-5197)
About Andrea Wien
Andrea Wien was bitten by the travel bug from an early age, and has lived in New York, Seattle, Cleveland and Sydney, Australia since 2007.
When she's not traveling or planning a trip, you'll likely find her eating tacos while throwing darts and watching the Cleveland Browns.
Read more about Andrea Wien here.
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