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Dim Sum and Then Some at Chicago's Best Chinese Restaurants



Sometimes, when the urge to have Chinese dim sum strikes, nothing satisfies until you get it. In Chicago, some of the best Chinese restaurants are located in the Chinatown neighborhood, just south of downtown, although many are also found throughout the city, too.

Whether you prefer well-known Chinese dishes like dim sum or if you're feeling more adventurous and want to try exotic foods (braised shark fin, anyone?) you'll find it all on the menu. And some hot tea to add to the experience.

A specialty of many of Chicago's Chinese restaurants is dim sum. This type of dining consists of bite-sized, steamed dumplings stuffed with a variety of fillings, brought to your table by little wheeled carts and served in small bamboo bowls. The food, almost like Chinese tapas, is placed on a circular, moving platter, so it's perfect for sharing with families or large groups.

The one challenge we often find when dining out for Chinese is that the menu descriptions in English are often lacking, so you'll need to rely on menu photos are use Google Translate to read the menu so you're not surprised with your order.

Chinatown is congested pretty much anytime of the day or week, so consider taking the Red Line L train. For a more scenic ride in the summer time, take the Water Taxi from downtown Chicago (near Ogilvie Transportation Center).


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If you're looking for familiar chicken dumplings or egg rolls, this is not your place. Instead, this is a completely different twist on Chinese food - as it's fused with other Asian and Portuguese influences. They call it "Macanese cuisine", and the result are some totally unique and tasty dishes. The signature dish, Arroz Gordo (fat rice) is sofrito rice topped with a variety of meats, including duck, Chinese pork liver sausage, linguica sausage, Macau spicy prawns, clams and a few hard boiled eggs. It's a huge portion, so consider splitting it. Tea lovers should take note of their interesting tea menu, plus don't skip their impressive desserts. This is a tiny restaurant with long communal tables, and it's hugely popular, so expect to wait for a table or be ready to eat at the bar.

Recommended for Chinese because: Fat Rice puts a creative twist to Chinese food.

Jamie's expert tip: The lines here are long. To avoid the wait, consider eating here at non-peak hours.

Read more about Fat Rice →


On Friendship's menu, a man identified as "Chop Suey Man" writes that the food served at Chinese buffets makes him "weep bitterly." That's because beautiful food and fine dining are at the heart of this restaurant, with locations along the lake and in Logan Square. The menu items are pretty familiar and pricier than most Chinese fare, but they're presented in an impressive, fusion style. Some of the most raved-about dishes include the crab Rangoon appetizer, the honey walnut shrimp, and the Hawaiian pineapple cake. If you're on a budget, go on Tuesday nights, when they offer $9.95 entrees. During the summer, on weekend nights, there is live jazz music and you can see the fireworks show at dusk from nearby Navy Pier.

Read more about Friendship Chinese Restaurant →




The menu at Ken Kee's does have some familiar items, like pepper beef in black bean sauce and fruit smoothies. But what makes this restaurant stand out among the others in Chinatown is its unusual menu items. That might mean fried spaghetti and sliced lotus root, pork intestine and duck tongue, or duck chins and goose intestines. So bring your most adventurous eaters, and try something you'd never normally eat (and may never eat again). Or, just stick to the sliced pork and watercress soups, or more conservative dishes, like the beef brisket and turnip, served in a mini wok.

Recommended for Chinese because: While many Chinatown restaurants offer dim sum and familiar Chinese dishes, this place has some of the most unique and exotic Chinese food.

Jamie's expert tip: Some of the most exotic Chinese food dishes, such as duck chins and goose intestines, is served here.

Read more about Ken Kee →


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Dee's Mandarin


This Lincoln Park restaurant offers the best of both worlds â€" Chinese cuisine and a great sushi bar in a more romantic and cozy setting than its Chinatown competitors. Dee's has live jazz music playing, dimmed lighting with candles, modern food presentation, a fireplace and comfortable booths. On warm evenings, you can dine in their lovely outdoor garden area. The menu's Mandarin and Szechuan entrees include both mild and spicy dishes. The Mongolian Beef gets rave reviews, but other good picks are the kung pao chicken, the crab rangoon, or the mooshu pork. The authentic sushi bar offers only the freshest fish.

Recommended for Chinese because: Can't decide between Chinese food and sushi? You can enjoy both here. You also get ambiance, including comfy booths and live music.

Jamie's expert tip: If you're looking for a more romantic spot to eat Chinese food, this is the place to go.

Read more about Dee's Mandarin →




MingHin Cuisine has some of the best dim sum in all of Chinatown and the very large restaurant accommodates small and large groups easily. Unlike other Chinese restaurants that serve dim sum, this one does not have a cart rolling around allowing you to pick and choose. Also, because it's so large, it lacks a bit of the coziness. The menu barely gives a good description of the dishes or their ingredients in English so be very clear with the waiter if you or your party has any dietary restrictions. Be sure to try the yellow spongey custard bread which is doughy and delicious.

Recommended for Chinese because: You'll definitely take home leftovers at this popular Cantonese restaurant, specializing in "salt and spice" flavored meats.

Megy's expert tip: Don't even bother to try to park in the small strip mall where the restaurant is located. Park along a nearby side street.

Read more about MingHin Cuisine →




This restaurant only knows one size: large! Even the menu is large, with 15 pages of dishes that come heaped high and full of tasty, spicy Szechuan flavors. When it comes to Chinese food in Chicago, this place is known for being "the real deal." Try the "chef's special," a dry chili chicken, or the Chengdu dumplings, crispy Chinese eggplant with ground pork. Other popular dishes are the twice-cooked pork, mapo tofu, sesame chicken and Szechuan prawns. Lao Sze Chuan has two other locations, in suburban Downers Grove, and in Chicago's north side Uptown neighborhood, at 4832 N. Broadway Ave.

Recommended for Chinese because: This old favorite is one of the best restaurants in the group owned by Tony Hu, a famed Chinatown restaurateur.

Megy's expert tip: Order one of their most raved-about dishes: the spicy three-chili chicken.

Read more about Lao Sze Chuan →


Joy Yee's Noodle Shop
Photo courtesy of www.parkwhiz.com


Chinatown restaurants can be a bit intimidating for those not familiar with Chinese food. That's why this bright, hip, low-priced restaurant is so popular. The menu is filled with authentic Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai dishes presented on a massive, photo-filled menu. Good bets are any of the noodle soups or entrees, such as Thai pad woon sen (glass noodles mixed with chicken, shrimp and vegetables), pork buns or chicken satay. Balance that with a fruity bubble tea with tapioca balls. Even if you don't want to trek to Chinatown - Joy Yee Noodles recently opened a few new locations around the city and suburbs.

Recommended for Chinese because: With bright, modern decor and picture-filled menu, this is a good spot for people who want Chinese food, but nothing too exotic.

Jamie's expert tip: If you like smoothies, order a fruity bubble tea filled with sweet tapioca balls.

Read more about Joy Yee's Noodle Shop →




It might not look like much from the outside, but this is the best spot for fresh Chinese seafood outside of Chinatown. Specialties from the massive menu include fried rice, sea bass, tilapia, Peking duck and crab. For a splurge, try the tasty shark fin soup with crab meat. Other popular dishes include Mongolian Chicken, or a heaping plate of delicious dungeonous crab that will have you licking your fingers. Because the menu varies so much, it can be a place for low-priced every day meals, or more a more gourmet experience. The restaurant can get a little loud, as it's a popular spot for large groups and families.

Recommended for Chinese because: With fresh food and a huge, inexpensive menu, Silver Seafood is one of the best Chinese restaurants outside of Chinatown.

Megy's expert tip: Be adventurous, and get a half-sized order of their pricey-but-delicious shark fin soup.

Read more about Silver Seafood →


Phoenix


Spy something on a rolling cart that intrigues you? Hail one of Phoenix's many servers, and you'll swiftly be in business. This popular restaurant includes upstairs rooms which are a bit more formal. The Cantonese-styled menu includes everything from traditional offerings, like shrimp dumplings and orange beef, to more innovative ones like shark fin soup and jellyfish. The BBQ pork buns and braised beef ribs are among its most popular dishes, and the wait staff will continuously refill your tea cups throughuot the meal. There can be long waits for tables on weekends, so weekdays are a better choice if your time is limited.

Recommended for Chinese because: Phoenix consistently ranks on the list of "Best Dim Sum in Chicago," and is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.

Megy's expert tip: When the dim sum carts roll by, don't ask to many questions about what's in it. Just eat it!

Read more about Phoenix →




Traditional, Hong Kong-styled dim sum is the specialty in this upscale second-floor restaurant overlooking the Chinatown Square Mall. The decor is not impressive, but the food is. That includes the well-made steamed dumplings filled with all sorts of fresh ingredients, including scallops. Other good choices are the shrimp rolls, the Congee (rice porridge with bits of pork or egg), the meaty Char Shio Bao (barbecue pork buns) and the sweet Dahn Tah (egg custard). No matter what you pick, it's made to order and brought to the table piping hot. Even though the dining room is large, expect waits during peak hours.

Recommended for Chinese because: This is among the top places for dim sum in Chicago, and the large open, second-floor space overlooks Chinatown Square mall.

Jamie's expert tip: Order the soft-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside BBQ Pork Buns, and the addictive Fried Taro Root Balls which come with dipping sauces.

Read more about Cai →


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Meet Jamie Bartosch

Jamie Bartosch is a lifelong Chicagoan who thinks her hometown is the greatest city in the world. She is an award-winning newspaper reporter, a freelance travel writer, and the mother of two great kids.

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