The Best Restaurants in NYC’s Chinatown
Institutions and TikTok favorites for Lunar New Year and all-year round.
Since the 1870s, Manhattan’s downtown neighborhood of Chinatown has served as a hub of community, love, and culture in New York City. And when walking these Lower Manhattan streets, one thing is abundantly clear: The area’s restaurants are a key part of what keeps the heartbeat of Chinatown pulsing.
Famous across the world and as one the the last remaining international enclaves in Manhattan, even after all of the challenges it faced throughout the pandemic, the historic district continues to thrive as one of the city’s most sought after dining destinations in town. So this year, as we excitedly prepare for Lunar New Year (which celebrates The Year of the Rabbit on Sunday, January 22), there’s no better place to seek out traditional holiday bites like dumplings, whole steamed fish, longevity noodles, and more.
From legendary institutions like Nom Wah Tea Parlor to hot new viral favorites drawing lines around the block like Mei Lai Wah, here are the best restaurants to eat at in NYC’s Chinatown.
Mei Lai Wah
Famous for its baked buns, Mei Lai Wah is one of the area’s most beloved institutions and now regularly draws lines wrapping around the block since going viral on TikTok. In operation since 1968 and run by the Chen family, the business commands a sizable fan base that keeps coming back for their signature offerings like Baked Roast Pork Bun, Pineapple Bun with Roast Pork, and Plain Famous Bun, which are economically priced for $1.75 each. On the menu, guests can also order up a variety of dim sum, congee, and rice noodle rolls. Additionally, the next generation of the owner’s descendants are behind the newest late night hotspot for Japanese street food-inspired bites in Greenwich Village called Munchiez.
Open since 1989, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery’s concise menu gets straight to the point with all of the Vietnamese offerings you could ever want (sans pho). Making the ideal portable meal, choose from 13 banh mi selections including BBQ Pork, Grilled Chicken, and Ham & Pâté, which are each served with mayo, daikon, pickled carrot, cilantro, cucumber, and hot peppers on a toasted baguette. A selection of the proteins are also available over vermicelli noodles, and the spot’s must-try Summer Rolls come with three sizable pieces per order.
Open since 1981 and located on the corner of Bowery and Bayard, after a 6-month hiatus for interior renovations in fall of 2022, the iconic Great N.Y. Noodletown reopened for business. Here, the team serves up Cantonese food with a wide-ranging menu that includes noodle soups, seafood, roast meats, fried rice, Cantonese-style wide noodles, rice plates, and much more. And not to worry, although the dining room has been revamped, all the aforementioned guest favorites dishes have remained the same.
Located at the corner of Mott and Mosco St., Hop Kee is a treasured institution open since 1968. With some of the wait staff offering a friendly presence for the past 15-20 years, for many regulars, the restaurant’s signature Cantonese-American dishes like Crabs or Snails Cantonese Style offer much comfort and nostalgia. When walking down Mott Street, you’ll know you’re close when spotting its trademark red and white signage.
After the closure of its original Elizabeth Street location in early 2021 (which brought heartache to many New Yorkers), Jing Fong made a triumphant return to the neighborhood a few months later with the debut of their Centre Street restaurant. Now, diners can once again eat at what’s often been heralded as one of New York City’s ultimate dim sum experiences for Cantonese-style favorites on roving carts. Feast on Siu mai, Har Gow, Spare Ribs, Barbecue Roast Pork Buns, Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf, and more.
Chef Kyo Pang’s Chinese and Malay-inspired family recipes at Kopitiam made her a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef in 2019. At this fast-casual cafe, there’s plenty of small plates and mains—both sweet and savory—to choose from, in addition to drinks and snacks. Thick-cut Kaya Butter Toast with pandan coconut jam; Nasi Lemak (the national dish of Malaysia); Penang-Style Hand Rolled Muah Chee; and Pandan Chicken with Sweet Chili Sauce are just a few.
Established in 1920 and now helmed by first generation New Yorker, Wilson Tang, Manhattan’s oldest dim sum parlor now has locations across Manhattan in addition to Philadelphia and Shenzhen. Expect all of the classics like Siu Mai, Har Gow, Turnip Cakes, and Pork Buns, and be sure to add on the famous “O.G.” eggroll (which actually contains egg!). Packages of Nom Wah’s frozen dumplings are also available for nationwide shipping.
With its iconic dragon logo, this family-owned shop has been scooping up homemade ice cream since 1978. With locations on the Lower East Side and Flushing, the second generation purveyors of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory have made it easier for fans to enjoy its core flavors like Almond Cookie, Red Bean, Thai Iced Tea, and more, in addition to rotating specials like Banana and Pumpkin Pie.
A collaborative project created by a lifelong friend group of native New Yorkers, Potluck Club is a Cantonese American restaurant located at the cross section of Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Nolita. Homages to their shared childhood memories spent growing up in Chinatown are evident throughout the space’s decor as well as on the food program, which was designed in collaboration with brother-duo chefs Peter and Zhan Chen. Meant to be enjoyed family-style, the menu spotlights reimagined classics like Endive with Dragon Fruit; Salt & Pepper Chicken (served with scallion biscuits and spicy chili plum jam); and Braised Short Ribs (kabocha squash).
Over the last few years, soup dumplings have received a much-deserved showering of attention through viral Instagram and TikTok posts. And Shanghai 21 on Mott Street is one of the top spots to enjoy them for both Chinatown locals and visitors. Popular orders include the Crab and Pork or Black Truffle and Pork, alongside dim sum classics like Steamed Watercress and Shrimp Dumplings; Sweet Red Bean Pancakes; Fried Pork Buns; Pan-Fried Wontons; and Cold Sesame Noodles.
Tasty Dumpling offers a no frills eating-on-the-go experience. The straightforward spot sports a concise menu of dumplings, soups, and starters. Pair an order of Chive and Pork Dumplings with Scallion Pancakes and Wonton Soup for a filling meal that won’t break the bank.
Among the many Vietnamese restaurant options on Baxter Street, Thai Son shines for its low-key ambiance and quality food. Along with plenty of pho options like the Combination Extra Big Bowl that’s loaded up with six different cuts of beef, the lengthy menu of traditional Vietnamese favorites include Grilled Beef Lettuce Wraps; Water Spinach with Garlic Sauce; Chicken Lemongrass; and Summer Rolls. For limited-time dishes, we recommend always checking out the specials wall.
As the name suggests, Tonii’s Rice Noodles is a hub for fresh rice rolls. Alongside their sister bakery, Kam Hing, owner Liz Yee serves up a large list of steamed rice noodle rolls such as Beef, Dry Shrimp, Roast Duck, and Crab alongside an assortment of toppings. Additional menu items include dishes like Condensed Milk Toast, Spam Sandwiches, Congee, and the famous Sponge Cakes that Kam Hing is known for. Sip down a hot mug of Ovaltine or an Iced Thai Tea to accompany your selections.
Owned by neighborhood local Louis Wong and specializing in Cantonese cuisine, Uncle Lou encompasses all of our favorite elements for dining out both in Chinatown and at must-try NYC restaurants: great food, a fun space, and large tables with lazy susans that encourage family-style eating. With ingredients sourced from nearby grocers, fishmongers, and butchers, the eatery’s menu is inspired by dishes from first-generation Cantonese immigrants. Signature offerings include the Eggplant in Yuxiang Garlic Sauce, Braised Pork Belly with Mui-Choy, Steamed Buffalo Fish with Ginger & Scallion, and the fantastic Homestyle Chenpi Duck.
Making your way through the long line of customers craving the stellar roasted meats is part of the experience at this popular takeout spot. Not to worry though, here, the line moves fast and you’ll have your Duck, Pork, or Chicken over rice sooner than you’d expect. The quality and portions are a true value for its price, where a small order of the Roast Duck only costs about $6. After you’ve gotten your food, head to Chrystie Street to enjoy your fare on a bench at Sarah D. Roosevelt park.
Owned and operated by the same family since 1938, this NYC institution is one of the neighborhood’s most iconic eateries and has a loyal clientele of both New Yorkers and out-of-towners. Located in a basement off Mott St. and accessible through a flight of stairs with its signature red tiles, what you’re there for is Wo Hop’s Cantonese menu. On the roster, classics include Egg Foo Young, Roast Pork Chow Mein, Egg Rolls, and much more.
Wu's Wonton King
Wu’s Wonton King is a reliable spot for any occasion or degree of hunger. Known for its extensive menu, patrons can choose from offerings like Pork Wontons, Sesame Chicken, Suckling Pig, Jumbo Shrimp with Walnuts in Mayo Sauce, Ginger Scallion Lobster, and more. As a favorite among many New York chefs and food professionals, this East Broadway restaurant is also a hotspot for group dining with its communal-size bowls of wonton soup.
A single location in the basement of a Flushing mall launched the Xi’an Famous Foods empire, which now has reopened locations in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Taste the flavors of Xi’an, the northwestern Chinese province of Shaanxi’s capital city, in signature dishes like Cold-Skin Noodles, Spicy Cucumber Salad, Spicy & Sour Spinach Dumplings, and Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles in Soup, many of which are favorites among New Yorkers of all appetites.