Restaurants in Chicago Chinatown: Dim Sum, Dumplings, Noodles,
Published August 10, 2021
Chicago is truly a foodie’s paradise, with each neighborhood offering its own unique specialties. Many of these delightful dishes come from all over the world, and aren’t necessarily easy to find in other American cities. That’s especially true of Chicago’s Chinatown, which offers a stunning variety of foods that come from individual cities and provinces in China!
No matter how long or short your visit to Chicago is (or if you’re a local), you should visit Chinatown for an unforgettable dining experience! This post is organized first into regional cuisines first, then individual dishes. Skip down to the bottom for drinks and dessert suggestions, as well as other Asian dining options in the neighborhood!
- Dim Sum
- Other Cantonese Food
- Sichuanese Food
- Xi’an Cuisine
- Hunan Cuisine
- Noodle Dishes
- Drinks and Desserts
- Other Options in Chinatown
1. Dim Sum
Restaurants that specialize in dim sum typically have huge menus with dozens of varieties of dumplings, pastries, and other small plates. This delicacy from Guangdong and Hong Kong is probably what I’d recommend if you only have time to eat one meal in Chinatown, which is why it’s at the top of my list!
This was the very first dim sum restaurant I tried in Chinatown. I love everything about it, from the golden, regal dining room to the fresh steamed siu mai and hā gáau (shrimp dumplings). They also make really delicious chicken feet for anyone who likes them as much as I do!
Triple Crown Restaurant
With a second floor dining space that overlooks South Wentworth Avenue, Triple Crown is another great place to get as much dim sum as you can eat! Everything I’ve had there is full of flavor and the service is great.
This dim sum hall can be found on the second floor of the Chinatown Square outdoor shopping mall near the north entrance. If you can, I would recommend going on a weekday. That’s because Imperial gets absolutely packed on weekends!
Since I eat dim sum so often, I decided to try a couple of new dishes at Imperial, including sponge cake and curry octopus. They were so good, as were some of my other favorites like chicken feet and ginger tripe.
2. Other Cantonese
Keep in mind that Cantonese food is so much more than dim sum! In fact, all the places mentioned above also serve family-style plates (larger portions). But if you want to branch out a bit, consider these other great places below.
MingHin has a dim sum menu, but I think they market themselves more broadly as a Cantonese restaurant. Their dumplings and pastries are good, and so are their rice and noodles. Cantonese food can absolutely be enjoyed by only one or two people, but if you can get a big group together to go eat in Chinatown, do it! It’s best when you can share lots of different dishes and try a bit of everything.
Ken Kee Restaurant
This is such a cool restaurant that’s sure to capture the attention of anyone who walks by it in the Chinatown Square outdoor mall. That’s because it’s got a bunch of neon signs both inside and out! They offer a lot of different things, but their specialty is Hong Kong-style cart noodles in soup. There are about a half dozen combos that you can choose from, or you can build your own and choose the kinds of meats, veggies, and broth that you want to add.
3. Sichuanese Food
If you’re a lover of spicy food, you need to try one of the Sichuanese restaurants in Chinatown! Known for its use of red pepper, chili oil, garlic, and a type of numbing peppercorn, Sichuan-style food is basically the polar opposite of Cantonese cuisine, which is defined by lighter flavors.
Lao Sze Chuan
This local chain with multiple restaurants around Chicago is probably where I would recommend for anyone who wants to try Sichuanese for the first time. They have a large menu with the spicy dishes clearly marked as well as a section featuring their signature items.
I ordered their Chef’s Special Dry Chili Chicken, which their menu lists as their top seller. It was excellent, especially with a bowl of white rice to offset some of the spice! I can’t wait to go back and try some of their lamb dishes, and I’d also love to try one of their spicy frog delicacies!
Chef Xiong – Taste of Szechuan
As far as I know, this Sichuanese restaurant is not a chain, but don’t let that stop you from visiting! It’s a cozy place with great service, and the food is amazing. I tried their beef noodle soup, and it was about as spicy as I could handle!
4. Xi'an Cuisine
Xi’an is a city in China most famous for being home to the Terracotta Army. But a ton of delicious dishes also come from the city, which is the capital of Shaanxi Province in Central China. Dishes from Xi’an tend to incorporate lamb, spices like cumin, flatbreads, and noodles. They are full of flavor and can be spicy, but generally not as spicy as Sichuan peppers.
Xi'an Cuisine Restaurant
This restaurant is one of my favorites in Chinatown. I highly recommend trying their delicious and flat biang biang noodles and lamb skewers. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, consider ordering one or two ròujiāmó (肉夾饃), a flatbread pouch with your choice of meat filling.
Shan Shaan Taste
Address: Richland Center Chinatown Food Court (basement), 2002 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616
Head to the Richland Center Chinatown Food Court to find this small shop that serves Xi’an-style noodles and more. I went with their lamb noodle soup and will definitely be back for more in the coming months!
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5. Hunan Cuisine
Food from Hunan Province is not nearly as popular in the US as Cantonese or Sichuanese food, but that’s all the more reason foodies should try it! Hunan cooking uses a lot of onions and garlic, but it’s not as spicy and oily as Sichuan cuisine. Some common ingredients include pork, steamed fish, and green pepper.
Hunan Cuisine Restaurant
This is Chinatown’s most prominent Hunanese restaurant. I ordered their sautéed pork with green veggies and white rice, but their extensive menu had a lot of other tempting choices! The pork was juicy, and the peas, peppers, and onions made it both a healthy and filling meal.
6. Noodle Dishes
The last few sections have all featured various regional cuisines, but if you know exactly what you want to eat, check out these next sections for ideas! This one will feature a couple different noodle houses.
Slurp Slurp Noodles (Lanzhou-Style Ramen)
The type of noodles that you’ll find here come from a city called Lanzhou in Northwest China’s Gansu Province. They have a couple different noodle and soup options, but I recommend trying the hand pulled noodles either in the house special bowl or the slurp slurp big bowl if you’re really hungry!
Even though the Chinese word lāmiàn is related to the Japanese word ramen (both mean pulled noodles), the Lanzhou-style soup is quite different from Japanese ramen. It’s definitely worth trying if you’ve never had it before. These bowls are also served with bok choy and a couple different cuts of beef and pork.
Daguan Noodle (Yunnan-Style Mǐxiàn)
Mǐxiàn is a rice noodle served in a light and clear broth with your choice of toppings. This soup dish comes from Yunnan Province in Southwest China, and it’s one dish I was honestly surprised to find in Chinatown! My very first trip to China in 2008 was to Yunnan, so mǐxiàn is a special treat for me that reminds me those days. I highly recommend it!
Yummy Yummy Noodles
This restaurant definitely has a hole-in-the-wall vibe, but that’s all the more reason to check it out! The entrance is technically on West 23rd Place, so you won’t see the storefront along Wentworth Avenue.
If you order a noodle soup dish here (which you should), you’ll get your choice of five different types of noodles: thin egg noodles, wide egg noodles, thin rice noodles, wide rice noodles, or ramen. Pictured above is their thin egg noodles. You also get your choice of meat, and the BBQ cuts I had were so juicy and tender!
J's Snack House Potato Noodles
Have you ever had Chinese potato noodles (土豆粉) before? I don’t think I had, but they were delicious at J’s Snack House! They remind me a little bit of udon, but they’re much lighter and a bit chewier. If you order the House Special Potato Noodle Soup, you get your choice of broth. Their málà (麻辣) soup was amazingly spicy, but their milder soup bases sound equally good!
While dumplings are a major component of dim sum (a Southern Chinese cuisine), there are other varieties you can get in Chinatown, including Northern-style ones. Check out some of my favorites below!
Hing Kee Restaurant (Shanghai-Style Xiǎolóngbāo)
Hing Kee serves a lot of different things, but their signature item is xiǎolóngbāo, or steamed soup dumplings. Originally from Shanghai and neighboring Jiangsu Province, xiǎolóngbāo require you to use chopsticks in one hand and a spoon in the other to prevent the soup from making a mess. Be careful too, because they can be piping hot!
The default filling for xiǎolóngbāo is pork, but Hing Kee also makes a delicious crab and pork option. They’re typically served in steamed baskets that contain eight, and one or two of those is enough for a meal depending on how hungry you are.
Qing Xiang Yuan
Qing Xiang Yuan is listed as a must-try on so many different Chicago food and restaurant guides, and I can confirm that it really is an excellent dumpling house. If you place one order, you can request a combination of two different flavors, which I suggest. They offer pork, beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, and veggie fillings.
A Family in the Northeast
This little stall can be found in the Richland Center Chinatown Food Court. They specialize in Northeast-style dumplings, which are filling and hearty. You can get an order of twelve for less than ten dollars (as of 2021), which is a price that can’t be beat!
8. Hot Pot
Hot pot is a great option if you have a large group, especially since some places offer all you can eat deals. For those who’ve never had it before, hot pot is essentially a large vat of broth that’s heated directly on the dining table. Meat, veggies, and noodles are dipped into the boiling broth to cook and soak up flavor.
The flavor of the broth as well as the dipped items can vary depending on what regional style of hot pot you’re trying. Here are a couple places to consider!
Happy Lamb Hot Pot (Mongolian-Style)
Happy Lamb might be Chinatown’s most popular hot pot restaurant. It’s Mongolian-style, which our waiter explained is characterized by lighter broth flavor. (Even though half of our broth was spicy, it was fairly mild, at least to me.) We tried their lamb and beef, which was cut into really thin strips for quick cooking. Make sure to also check out their complimentary topping bar!
Legend Tasty House
Rolled ice cream is Chicago Chinatown’s newest food trend, but as far as I know, Legend Tasty House was the original. They have lots of different flavors, and you can even watch them make it at the counter! This place also serves bubble tea, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
10. Other Options in Chinatown
There are a couple of good phở restaurants in Chinatown. To see my favorites, check out my Chicago Phở Guide!
Chinese Wraps from Monkey King Jianbing
I’ll admit, this little store is in an odd location (on the second floor of Canal Plaza, a mostly vacant mall that is a little far from the heart of Chinatown). But if you’re willing to walk over and find it, Monkey King Jianbing is worth a try. Their main offering is jianbing, a type of flat rolled crepe-like breakfast wrap. But I actually went to try their shǒuzhuābǐng (手抓餅), another type of wrap that I used to order for breakfast as a study abroad student in Shanghai.
And let me tell you, the shǒuzhuābǐng from Monkey King was on point! It’s so good because the dough is both crispy and chewy after being cooked, and you can order a variety of fillings such as ham or a hot dog. They have just a little bit of cheese and lettuce, which come together to make the perfect combination for a fresh yet filling wrap. Give them a visit if you’re on Chinatown’s western edge!
Plant-Based Treats at Veggie House
Veggie House is a really interesting restaurant located in the Chinatown Square outdoor mall. Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, go try them out! For an appetizer, I tried their four-color veggie dumplings, which were fine. But what I really loved here was their Mongolian soy beef. As far as plant-based meat substitutes go, this dish was really as good as the original! It was full of flavor and just the right amount of spice. Plus, it was really filling!
Japanese & Korean Food
This new ramen place is my top recommendation for Japanese food in Chinatown. Their broth and noodles are on point, with just the right amount of spice and garlic. Their pork chashu was super tender and literally melted in my mouth! For good ramen, look no further than Daifuku.
Ahjoomah’s Apron is Chinatown’s most prominent Korean restaurant, serving traditional dishes. If you go, prepare for a feast: Korean food is often served with many small plates of appetizers or side dishes known as banchan (반찬). At Ahjoomah’s, the banchan I had were a wide variety of pickled and fresh veggies. Their bibimbap is also great if you’re craving a filling rice dish with lots of protein.
What Do You Have a Taste For?
Well, there you have it: my food guide to Chicago Chinatown! What do you think? If this all seems overwhelming, head over to the neighborhood and check it out on foot before deciding. Keep in mind that this list isn’t even complete! There are still so many places I need to try, and I’ll be updating this post if I find any other restaurants worth sharing. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to leave a comment below if you try a place on the list!
This post was published on Aug 10, 2021