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Explore NYC's Chinatown Through These 10 Restaurants



Home to the largest population of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere, Manhattan's Chinatown can be daunting. Hurried shopkeepers peek out from windows while children play ball in the streets. In terms of food? Well, buckle up. To find the good stuff takes a little time and a whole lot of patience. If clean and tidy floors are on your list of musts, well...let's just say you may be better suited to grab grub somewhere else. 

But if you're open for culinary adventure and looking for it on the cheap, there's few better places in the city to get your fill. From old-standbys-turned-neighborhood-hotspots like the dim sum restaurant Nom Wah Tea Parlor to fresh fusion newcomers like Japanese-Hawaiian-Korean-inspired Chikarashi, Chinatown is brimming with possibilities old and new. 

If it's simply low costs and high value you're after, you'd be remiss to visit New York and not pass through Chinatown for a bite at Tasty Dumpling, or swing by Canal Street Market for a mini-food tour all under one roof. Another option that's not as often documented are the food carts dotting the streets, so you can forget halal and skip right to the rice noodles. 

Below, we dive into the 10 best restaurants in Chinatown. 


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Canal Street Market
Photo courtesy of Mason Wilkes/CSM


Due to inflated rents and high fail rates for new restaurants, food halls are quickly replacing singular brick-and-mortar joints. Sometimes this is good, sometimes...not so good. In the case of Canal Street Market, this is very, very good.

Effortlessly chic and cool with clean lines and boundless natural light, CSM is the antithesis to the rest of grungy Canal Street. And the food vendor game? It's strong.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Ilili Box and the Boba Guys have all set up shop here, among a smattering of others, including a juice bar, sushi stand and a rotating cast of pop-ups. One word to the wise: "seating" is mostly standing room only in the back.


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Chikarashi


Chinatown isn't often associated with high-quality ingredients or a focus on sustainability. The newest player on the block, Chikarashi, hopes to change that. Inspired by Hawaiian cuisine like poke (fish salad) and Japanese chirashi (essentially a rice-based mish-mash of goodness in one bowl), this spot is elevating Chinatown's reputation.

Helmed by Chef Michael Jong Lim who's done time at hotspots including Marea, Aldea, and Aureole, this is Asian fusion taken to the extreme â€" and at a price point that won't come close to breaking the bank. If you're on the hunt for a taste of the East, with the innovation of the West, Chikarashi should be on your list.




The stylish, contemporary digs at this ever-popular Chinatown joint are a refreshing departure from the other, more ho-hum alternatives in the area. As the name suggests, the star of the menu here is the delicious duck.

Prepared by pumping the fowl full of air, soaking it with boiled water and then slowly oven-roasting it until it's perfectly crisp, this main is served and carved table-side with the speed and flair of a chef at Benihana - but better.

If duck doesn't do it for you, the restaurant also delivers a number of other tasty morsels including salt and pepper prawns, Peking-style lobster, fried sea bass and orange chicken.


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Chinatown


French-Malaysian may not sound like it belongs in Chinatown, but this neighborhood gem is worth a serious look if you're in the area. With great lunch specials and counter service (they also offer dine-in), Aux Epices nails the cheap-delicious criteria that makes Chinatown special.

Regulars say you can't miss the curry puff with potatoes and minced chicken, or the seafood laksa, a medley of shrimp, mussels, salmon, squid, tofu and eggplant in a coconut curry broth. This is also one of the only spots in the 'hood that serves up a curated selection of wines with drops from France, Argentina, Italy and Germany.




Dim sum minus the push cart might seem like a crime to some, but Nom Wah Tea Parlor has perfected push-less patronage. Famous for its homemade lotus paste and red bean filling for moon cake, in addition to its almond cookie, you'll find bakery treats here alongside more traditional and savory dim sum offerings. You'll also find gluten-free designations on the menu, which is typically unheard of for this type of cuisine.

The restaurant saw updates in 2010, but the food here has remained the same for decades. While it's true that this is a tourist haunt in every sense of the word, the history makes it a don't miss if you're in this part of the woods.


Nha Trang


Though not much to look at on the outside, this Vietnamese restaurant remains popular thanks to its excellent dishes and reasonable prices. Among the regulars, favorites include staples like banh mi cary ga (curried chicken), the steamed fish for two, fried spring rolls, and barbecued pork chops.

And of course, what Vietnamese hotspot would be complete without a decent version of pho? You'll find that here, though aficionados will tell you it lacks a bit of the je ne sais quoi of the pho in Queens. Make sure you head here early at lunchtime, as they tend to pack quickly.


Joe's Shanghai


There's a bit of debate amongst dumpling aficionados about where to best indulge around Canal Street, but plenty of people hand over their hard-earned cash to Joe. Long lines often form in anticipation of stuffing these steamed soup dumplings with pork or crabmeat into hungry mouths. And while the decor and ambiance isn't anything special, Joe's Shanghai makes up for it with their other food, warranting high marks for their Hong Kong-style delicacies, such as shredded turnip shortcake, braised duck and spicy yellow fish. Our advice? Go early or prepare to wait, as the crowds can get thick during prime times.


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Xi'an Famous
Photo courtesy of Xi'an Famous Foods


The original location is in Flushing, but the guys running the show recognized that if they wanted to get Xi'an cuisine out to the masses, they needed a Manhattan-based location. Enter the Bayard Street outpost of this mini-chain, which 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.


Tasty Dumpling
Photo courtesy of Taste Trekker


Aptly named for their bite-sized morsels of doughy goodness, Tasty Dumpling has amassed a steady flow of regulars. A hole in the wall joint of epic proportions, don't expect to find pristine conditions or top notch service inside.

But we're in Chinatown - chances are you came for the cheap eats, not for the Michelin stars. The thing to order here are the fried pork and chive dumplings, which pack a good meat to dumpling ratio for a nominal fee ($1.25 for 5 of these bad boys).

Unlike some of the other spots around, you'll also find a few tables, so you can sit back and relax instead of scarfing down your goods on the go.


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Lalito
Photo courtesy of Lalito


Lalito is Mexican food. Kind of. It's also vegan. Kind of. One thing it's certainly not is Chinese, though they do fry whole fish, which could fall into nearly any ethnic category. Regardless of how it's classified, all you need to know is that it's good. It's even better if you have vegan friends but don't want to eat at a vegan restaurant. Alongside a vegan caesar salad with dulse and vegan chicharrones, you'll find juicy pork carnitas, birria-style chili cumin lamb, and baby steak, a 30-day dry aged NY strip with salsa macha and cilantro. They're also open for weekend brunch, where you can load up on goodies like coconut grits and bread pudding French toast.


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Meet 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...  More About Andrea

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