Food & Drink

The Everyman’s Guide to the Best Chinese Food in NYC

Published On 12/11/2015 Published On 12/11/2015
Courtesy of Decoy

Chinese food has been a staple in New York City for decades, and the selection has only gotten better -- and more diverse -- in recent years. But an overwhelming number of options can make it difficult to know where to go, so we've created this guide to the absolute best Chinese in NYC, broken down by must-have dishes. From spicy Sichuan fare in Midtown to a must-try dumpling dive in Flushing, this is where to go when you’re craving serious Chinese cooking.

Dumplings

Tianjin Dumpling House

Address and Info

Flushing

Located in the basement of Flushing’s Golden Mall, this subterranean stall is arguably New York’s most creative dumpling joint, cranking out unconventional flavors like the incredibly juicy lamb with green squash. You can also get the goods at owner Helen You’s spiffed-up Dumpling Galaxy, but there’s something charming about the no-frills original.

Courtesy of Han Dynasty

Dan dan noodles

Han Dynasty

Address and Info

East Village

The staff tosses this exceptional bowl of dan dan noodles tableside so you can watch as every strand is equally coated in the house-made sauce (part chili oil, sweet soy, and sesame paste) along with bits of ground pork, preserved vegetables, and scallions.

Courtesy of Xi’an Famous Foods

Rou jia mo (meat “burger”)

Xi’an Famous Foods

Address and Info

Flushing

Think of this as a Chinese hamburger, only better. In place of a patty, there are pieces of cumin-scented lamb, and instead of a soft bun, there’s a slightly crispy flatbread. It’s seriously one of the best sandwiches in town.

Xiao long bao (soup dumplings)

Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao

Address and Info

Flushing

Making the perfect soup dumpling is no easy feat, but Kung Fu has achieved XLB greatness with astonishingly thin-skinned pockets that burst with a rich pork stock-and-meat filling. The ones punched up by crab roe are especially decadent and a definite must-try.

Patty Lee/Thrillist

Hand-pulled noodles

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles

Address and Info

Chinatown

Jostling with fellow noodle-slurpers is the norm at this hole-in-the-wall shop, where you can get hand-pulled noodles in multiple forms. Select your preferred thickness (normal, wide, or fat) and whether you want them pan-fried or dunked in a bubbling bowl of beef broth (or both).

Da pan ji (big tray of chicken)

Uncle Zhou

Address and Info

Elmhurst

Make no mistake, when they call this a big tray of chicken, they mean business. Best for a group, the platter is made up of bone-in chicken, chunks of potatoes, and wavy wide noodles that soak up all of the amazing chili-spiked sauce.

Courtesy of Decoy

Peking duck

Decoy

Address and Info

West Village

Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng’s Peking large-format duck dinner is a feast to remember. Not only does the prix-fixe meal come with a succulent, crispy-skinned bird, but it also includes a range of shareable small plates, fried rice, and even other meaty entrees -- be prepared to take home leftovers.

Patty Lee/Thrillist

Mapo tofu

Szechuan Gourmet

Address and Info

Midtown

The bright-red sauce covering giant chunks of soft tofu and ground pork says it all -- this is definitely a dish for spice-lovers. And somehow, the mouth-numbing heat only makes you want to eat more.

Flickr/Chun Yip So

Egg tart

New Flushing Bakery

Address and Info

Flushing

With a buttery, flaky crust cradling a luscious vanilla-scented custard, a good egg tart is truly a magical pastry. And no place in New York City does it better than this Queens bakery, which has a standalone shop on Prince St, plus a stall inside New World Mall. There are plenty of unique riffs -- like peanut butter or green tea -- but the original Portuguese tart is the one to get.

Fried rice

Mission Chinese

Address and Info

Lower East Side

The fried rice at Danny Bowien’s perpetually packed restaurant is anything but basic. Laced with lumps of confit mackerel, Chinese sausage, and scrambled egg, the stir-fry packs a umami hit with every bite.

Courtesy of Patty Lee

Char siu (barbecued pork)

Lucky Eight

Address and Info

Sunset Park

No hard-to-chew meat here. Sunset Park’s premier Cantonese restaurant does this Hong Kong BBQ staple justice, striking the perfect balance between sweet and savory and tough and tender. Get the lacquered slabs by the pound or over rice with vegetables as the ultimate lunchbox.

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Patty Lee is a reporter and editor who has written for Zagat, Time Out New York, New York Daily News, and Cooking Channel. She can easily eat her weight in dumplings and noodles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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1. Tianjin Dumpling House 41-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11355 (Flushing)

Between her two restaurants (Dumpling Galaxy being the other), dumpling maven Helen You churns out more than 100 varieties of dumplings. But it’s this must-order classic -- tender pockets filled with gingery minced lamb and sweet summer squash -- that remains tops in our book.

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2. Han Dynasty 90 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

Han Dynasty is an East Village haven for Sichuan fare that ranges from mild to fiery and maintains a reasonable price range. The wooden tables are brightly polished and adorned with chopsticks in red paper, and the dining counter has lucky coins embedded in its top. There's a vibrant, homestyle feel to the food and diners are clued into the cooking process with certain menu items like the dan dan noodles, which are tossed tableside.

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3. Xi'an Famous Foods 67 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013 (Chinatown)

Named after the resting place of the famous terra cotta soldiers, the Chinatown satellite of this New York City chain boasts incredible fast/casual (but nonetheless authentic) Northern Chinese dishes. Xi'an Famous Foods is also a family-owned chain that, one day at a time, is reintroducing the rich cuisine of their homeland, which includes cold and hand-pulled noodles, soup, and flat bun burgers.

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4. Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao 59-16 Main St, Flushing, NY 11355 (Queens)

This OG bao house in Flushing has been slinging soup dumplings since Shanghainese was a nascent food trend. Check out their lunch specials, all for under $10 apiece. Score!

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5. Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles 1 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013 (Chinatown)

This humble, no-frills noodle spot in the heart of Chinatown is small in size, but the hole-in-wall seating means that diners get a view of the open kitchen where the eponymous hand-pulled noodles are made. Most dishes feature the soft and chewy noodles which come in multiple forms (normal, wide, or fat), and pan-fried or dunked in a bubbling bowl of broth.

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6. Uncle Zhou 83-29 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (Queens)

Owner Steven Zhou draws from his roots to serve up traditional Henan-style eats at this pint-sized Elmhurst restaurant. All of Zhou's specialties are spicy, savory, complex and far from the run-of-the-mill Americanized Chinese dishes. The regional da pan ji (big tray of chicken), a stew-like dish with bone-in chunks and potatoes doused in chile, star anise, and peppercorn seasoned sauce, is a must-try. Note: Uncle Zhou's is cash-only.

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7. Decoy 529 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014 (West Village)

Located just below its sibling restaurant Red Farm, Decoy can be a tight fit, but the Decoy Chips -- which are actually fried branzino skin with black garlic dip (they're usually offered for free to start the meal) -- help immediately. Follow those with the main star; only 24 ducks are served each night , and the flavors mix traditional with fusions thanks to the sauces, including hoisin, sesame, and cranberry, and the pancakes manage to hold up to stuffing despite being incredibly thin.

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8. Szechuan Gourmet 21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018 (Midtown)

On the menu at this Midtown fave you'll find over 100 items to choose from, running the gamut from stir-fried frogs to classics like deep-fried diced chicken with chili peppers. The softly lit restaurant decorated with red paper lanterns and cushiony seating is the perfect place to enjoy a comforting meal.

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9. New Flushing Bakery 40-21 Main St, Flushing, NY 11354 (Queens)

The magical puff pastry egg tarts at this Queens bakery are not to be underestimated-- life changing. Trust us.

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10. Mission Chinese Food 171 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002 (Lower East Side)

The New York outpost of Danny Bowien's buzzy Chinese restaurant had a shaky start in the city -- after opening on Orchard Street in 2012, the restaurant closed down due to landlord issues and relocated to East Broadway. The Lower East Side spot is a destination for trendy and original Chinese food, far different from what you'll find at the family-owned banquet halls in Chinatown. Some dishes are spicy Szechuan, but for the most part, the menu draws from all over China and just about everywhere else (there's pizza on the menu). Make sure you get the fried rice, it's unbelievable.

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11. Lucky Eight 5204 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220 (Sunset Park)

A longtime favorite in Brooklyn's Chinatown, this Borough Park Cantonese specializes in juicy and crispy meat dishes. Tables are teeming with families sharing orders of roasted suckling pig, Peking duck, and Hong Kong-style barbecue pork, plus lo mein and stir fried staples. The place is pretty bare bones but lazy Susan-equipped round tables and cheap prices make it a good group dinner spot.

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