The 22 Best Restaurants in Chinatown
According to the team at 12 Pell barbershop.
When it comes to where to eat in NYC’s Chinatown (during Lunar New Year, or anytime), there are literally hundreds of options. And in our experience, the best recommendations always come from the locals who know the neighborhood inside and out. Located on Pell Street in an area with a large concentration of decades-old hair salons and barbershops, 12 Pell first opened in 2018 and stands out as one of few Asian-American owned and operated barbershops in NYC with a stylish approach and strong social media presence.
While the pandemic forced many nearby small businesses to close, 12 Pell has steadily grown and currently operates as a 16-person team. In addition to their top-notch fades and services, the shop’s social media content has also helped it thrive, and now receives a majority of their clients via their Instagram and TikTok pages.
With many of the staff being native New Yorkers, 12 Pell aims to keep the heartbeat of Chinatown pulsing by bridging the generational gap between newer spots like theirs with other businesses in the closely knit community. This is especially true for all of the local eateries, and whether it’s through offering up local dining recommendations to clients, teaming up with nearby restaurants to create deals, or helping places build their online presence, the team actively works to uplift local businesses. “Everyone knows everyone in this historic neighborhood,” says barber and social media director, Peter Chen, “and we’re all willing to lend a helping hand to one another.”
Between cuts, we talked with Chen, Tim Hui, and Andy Nguyen of 12 Pell to discuss their favorite eats in the neighborhood. From must-try dishes to can’t-miss deals, take notes as the up-and-coming generation breaks down the best restaurants in Chinatown.
With over 700 branches worldwide, Ajisen is a hot spot for belly-warming bowls of ramen. The premise rests on the two main ingredients: pork bone white broth and wheat-flour noodles. Choose from 16 ramen variations ranging from Seafood Ramen packed with shrimp, squid, and crab, to the signature Ajisen Ramen topped with chashu. There’s also a myriad of appetizers to choose from like fried squid balls and pork belly buns, or take a different direction and explore the rice entrees list.
What the team says: “If you’re looking for a huge bowl of Tenderous Rib Ramen goodness, look no further. They have the best hospitality, and be sure to try their Japanese Fried Chicken paired with some warm sake.” -Tim
Open since 1989, Bánh Mì Saigon Bakery’s concise menu gets straight to the point with all of the Vietnamese offerings you could ever want (sans phở). Choose from 13 bánh mì selections including BBQ Pork, Grilled Chicken, and Ham & Pâté. Each is served with mayo, daikon, pickled carrot, cilantro, cucumber, and hot peppers on a toasted baguette and makes for delicious and portable eating anywhere. 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.
What the team says: “The bakery is always packed, but it's definitely worth the wait. Their BBQ Pork Bánh Mì is a great choice.” -Peter
On the corner of Bowery and Bayard, the green, yellow, and red awning of Great N.Y. Noodletown is an iconic, memory-triggering sight. NY Noodletown has been a neighborhood stalwart since 1981, serving 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.
What the team says: “Great spot for a quick delicious Cantonese meal and they never skimp out on portions. Try their Sam Bo Fan—barbecued pork, soy sauce chicken, roasted pig, and make sure to add a fried egg.” -Tim
Hay Hay Roasted
Specializing in a traditional Chinese menu centered around in-house roasted meats, at Hay Hay Roasted, order duck, chicken, and pork on its own or meal-style over rice. House specials take the prize for most popular orders, namely the Hay Hay Trio which consists of barbecued pork or cha siu, choi sum vegetables, and a fried egg atop rice. Other items include Bitter Melon with Black Bean Sauce; Char Siu with Scrambled Eggs; Guangzhou-Style Slow-Cooked Braised Pork; and Pan-Fried Pork Chop with Black Pepper. Vegetarian options, like Stir-Fry Eggplant and Deep-Fried Tofu, are available as well for a plant-forward meal.
What the team says: “My personal recommendation for my clients who are on the hunt for something filling, wallet friendly, and fast. This no-frills underground joint is a can’t-miss for barbecued pork over rice and pairs perfectly with their fresh haircut!” -Andy
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 and snails 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 last March (which brought heartache to many New Yorkers), this past December saw Jing Fong’s triumphant return to Chinatown with the debut of their new Centre Street restaurant. Now, diners can once again eat at what’s often been heralded as one of NYC’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.
Mee Sum Cafe
A simple and comforting aesthetic dating back more than 50 years greets visitors at Mee Sum Cafe. Serving up piping hot orders of dim sum over a lunch counter, the spot is a favorite of locals for its inexpensive and traditional dishes. Choose from a list of tried and true Dumplings, Baked Buns, and Congee. With limited seating, snag a seat at the counter, the tables in the back, or opt to take your goodies to go.
What the team says: “This is one of our popular spots for when we only have 20 minutes before our next client. Every dish is both affordable and packed with flavor. Try the Sam Bo Fan: three or four pieces of salted chicken, chinese sausage, and an egg for just under $6. The Salted Pork Fish over rice is also a favorite.” -Tim
Opened six months ago, Miss Du’s is the new kid on Pell Street but has made its mark by serving up low-sugar and -calorie teas, edging away from artificial sweeteners. Among the more than 70 beverages available, popular choices include a classic Brown Sugar Milk Tea; Coconut Sea Blue Latte; Watermelon Sparkling Water; and Red Dragon Fruit Milk Tea. Or, with suggestions from the staff, create your own combination like a red bean and purple taro slush or an avocado and mango milkshake.
What the team says: “I’m a huge fan of this shop because they use real ingredients in all of their drinks, which makes it less sweet. Definitely stop by for their Taro Sago Smoothie and the Fresh Grape Slushie.” -Tim
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 local delivery and nationwide shipping.
What the team says: “Nom Wah is a classic institution in Chinatown dating back a century. I’m a huge fan of the Siu Mai, Shrimp Rice Rolls, and Pan-Fried Dumplings.” -Tim
With its iconic dragon logo, this family-owned shop has been scooping up homemade ice cream since 1978. With locations now in the Lower East Side and Flushing, the second generation purveyors of Chinatown Ice Cream Factory have made it easier to enjoy its core flavors like Almond Cookie, Ginger, Lychee, Pandan, and more, in addition to a rotation of special appearances like Cherry Pistachio, Jelly Doughnut, and Banana Fudge.
What the team says: “I’ve been going here since high school. They’ve got a wide variety of flavors and the best part is taste testing everything before ordering. I personally opt for the Lychee favor because it's not too sweet.” -Peter
This popular restaurant on Mott St. has been open since 1998 and offers a Hong Kong dining experience in Downtown Manhattan. House Barbecue Roast Pork with a honey glaze, Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Abalone with Homemade Oyster Sauce, and Prawns & Scallops in Garlic Sauce are just a few of the dishes to enjoy with a bottle of Dom Perignon (no questions asked).
What the team says: “Their thick-cut Barbecued Pork is exceptional with a good ratio of fat and meat. People usually go to Golden Unicorn or Jing Fong for dim sum, but this is that lowkey spot that no one wants to share so they don’t have to wait extra long.” -Tim
Over the last few years, soup dumplings have received a much-deserved showering of attention through Instagram and TikTok fans. To score a truly authentic, broth-laden meal, Shanghai 21 is a destination for both Chinatown locals and its visitors. Orders of Crab and Pork; or Black Truffle and Pork are popular items. Fill up the rest of your table with other dim sum classics like Steamed Watercress and Shrimp Dumplings; Sweet Red Bean Pancakes; Fried Pork Buns; Pan-Fried Wontons; and Cold Sesame Noodles.
What the team says: “After a long day, order yourself some Pork Soup Dumplings with the meat sauce noodle and be prepared to knock it out swiftly. I’ve been recommending this spot for years, the food always reminds me of great conversations, tasty eats, and a full stomach.” -Peter
At Super Taste, go for hand-pulled noodles available in multiple selections that include Beef, Oxtail, Pork Bone, Eel, or Vegetable & Egg. Their Option #1—which you know is going to be great because every Chinese restaurant’s #1 is—comes in a house special soup with beef tendon, cow feet, beef stew, beef stomach, and egg. Additional items like dumplings (available for purchase frozen) and pork bao are also on the menu.
How to order: Storefront, call 646-283-0999 for takeout.
What the team says: “A majority of the items are $10 or under and honestly a steal. I order the House Pork Baos that are covered in peanut powder, some green onions, and a little bit of cilantro, honestly a burst of flavor. Don’t forget about the Sichuan-Style Dumplings either.” -Andy
For a Taiwanese meal on the fly, Taiwan Bear House offers cutlets and meats in convenient wooden bento boxes. Each comes with a choice of protein (Braised Pork Chop, Fried Chicken Leg, Scallion Oil Chicken Thigh, Minced Pork, and more), stir-fried cabbage, and a braised egg. If a snack better fits your appetite, grab any of the proteins as a side or a cabbage and rice combo by itself. A bubble milk tea or choice of flavored fruit teas will round out your meal on a sweet note.
What the team says: “They’re right across the street from us and it’s a great lunch spot, especially for some Popcorn Chicken. We also once collaborated on creating content to bring more traffic into Chinatown.” -Peter
Tasty Dumpling offers a no frills eating-on-the-go experience. The simple spot sports a concise and straightforward 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.
What the team says: “To show up to Tasty Dumpling, all you need is a $5 in your pocket. Order the $2 ready-to-go dumplings with a side of hot soup and you’re set. The restaurant is also centrally located in front of Columbus Park, where all the locals hang out.” -Peter
Among the many Vietnamese restaurant options on Baxter Street, Thai Son shines for its low-key setting 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 as Grilled Beef Lettuce Wraps; Water Spinach with Garlic Sauce; Chicken Lemongrass; and Spring Rolls and Summer Rolls. For limited time dishes, check out the specials wall.
What the team says: “This place is fast, delicious, and hits the spot. Personal faves are the Grilled Chicken with Rice with some extra green onions and fish sauce, and you can never go wrong with ther large-sized pho.” -Andy
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. Other menu items include snacks like Condensed Milk Toast and 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.
What the team says: “The portion size is ideal for curbing any rice roll cravings. I recommend the Three Combination Rice Noodles if you like a variety of textures.” -Peter
Join in on the long line of customers hungry at this popular takeout spot for Wah Fung No. 1’s roasted meats. Don’t worry, though, because the line moves fast, as their succinct menu includes Duck, Pork, or Chicken over rice. The quality and portions are a true value for its price, where a small order of the Roast Duck only costs $5.50. After you’ve gotten your food, head to Chrystie Street to enjoy your fare on a bench at Sarah D. Roosevelt park.
What the team says: “A staple when you’re in Chinatown. I don’t think there has ever been a time I stopped by when there wasn't a line. This place keeps it delicious and simple, for roughly $5, you can grab a hearty box of addicting Char Siu over Rice with Cabbage, but if you’re really hungry, you can make it a large box for $10.” -Andy
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.
How to order: Call 212-962-8617 for takeout.
What the team says: “If you’re looking for any seafood delicacy, this is your place. You must try their Clams, Oysters, Snails, and Salt and Pepper Squid with Egg Gravy dish. If seafood isn’t your thing, then grab Beef and Corn over Rice with Egg Gravy or the Beef Chow Fun. If you’re with a group, go family-style so you can have a variety of dishes that will fire up the taste buds.” -Tim
Wu's Wonton King
Wu’s Wonton King is a reliable spot for any occasion or degree of hunger. Looking for a great lunch special menu? They got you. In the mood for some Pork Wontons, Sesame Chicken, Suckling Pig, Jumbo Shrimp with Walnuts in Mayo Sauce, or Ginger Scallion Lobster? They also got you. As a favorite among many New York chefs and food professionals, this East Broadway restaurant is also popular for group dining with its communal-size bowls of wonton soup.
What the team says: “Best. Biggest. Wontons. Period. On a cold winter day, nothing beats a nice hot bowl of noodle soup with these wontons. If you’re looking to get some wild textures, throw in some tendons in your bowl.” -Tim
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.
What the team says: “I’ve tried almost everything on the menu but always crave the Lamb Cumin Noodle Soup over everything else.” -Tim