Welcoming locals and tourists alike via the ornate gateway at Wentworth Avenue and Cermak Road, Chicago is home to one of the largest Chinatown neighborhoods in the country. Couple this with the fact that the Windy City has a sprawling restaurant scene elsewhere and choosing a Chinese restaurant gets a little daunting. Have no fear, we’ve taken on the workload for you.
Here are seven exceptional Chinese eateries to hit up in Chicago.
What It Is: This sleek Chinatown restaurant features a full modern bar (not common for the area) as well as on-site parking.
What Our Inspectors Say: “While there's delicious dim sum to be had, diners would do well to try their hand at the impressive specialty menu. Jellyfish is cut into tiny slivers and laced with a heavenly blend of chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns. Following this, creamy, steamed sea bass may be paired with pickled peppers, fragrant ginger, scallions and cilantro. For dinner, the tea-flavored chicken brined for two whole days, is the very essence of tenderness.”
What It Is: Open for lunch and dinner daily, the Chinatown eatery on South Wentworth Avenue specializes in noodle soups.
What Our Inspectors Say: “The broth is prepared daily and whether you choose sour or spicy, or even the pig intestine and oxtail version, it tastes like liquid gold. Consuming this creation is great fun too, with a tray of vegetables and choice of protein—perhaps Chinese potted meats or flaky shrimp cake? Then, drop those bouncy rice noodles into the bubbling pot and wait for the magic to unfold.”
What It Is: A family-run favorite in Bridgeport.
What Our Inspectors Say: “Though the lengthy menu offers plenty of usual suspects (think scallion pancakes and mapo tofu), it’s also chock-full of Chinese dishes that will make any offal lover’s day. Thin slices of lamb kidney are stir-fried, their mild flavor boosted by copious amounts of cumin and red chilies. Then, a sweet and sour sauce offsets the funky flavor of quick-fried intestine, tripe and liver; while pickled cabbage and pork meatball soup, boosted by tofu and noodles, is a welcome warmer on cold days.”
What It Is: Modern Chinese Cookbook is the explanation behind the acronym of this modern retreat, tucked inside the sprawling Chinatown Square.
What Our Inspectors Say: “You’ll understand the name once you catch sight of their menu—it’s a bible brimming with delicious selections leaning toward spicy Sichuan flavors. Meat or fish cooked over applewood charcoal originated as a street food in Chongqing. But here it's one of the more unique items, and may be tailed by the equal parts spicy and sour pickle- and fish-soup, which packs a wallop for such a wee bowl.”
What It Is: Enjoy a grand view of the Chicago skyline while partaking in dim sum at this South Archer Avenue favorite.
What Our Inspectors Say: “Here, stacks of bamboo baskets are wheeled to tables on signature silver trolleys for a classic experience—yet each diner’s selection is cooked to order for fresh and steaming-hot bites. The proof is in the soft and poppable shrimp-and-chive dumplings and the fluffy white buns stuffed with chunks of barbecue pork. Those looking for larger portions will appreciate the meandering menu, which also boasts Hong Kong-style stir-fry and clay pot dishes alongside Americanized Chinese classics.”
What It Is: A stylish Chinatown standby conveniently located on the ground floor of Chinatown Square.
What Our Inspectors Say: "Dim sum is a popular choice even on weekdays, with diners making selections from photographic menus rather than waiting for a passing cart. Among the numerous options, juicy har gao, stuffed with plump seasoned shrimp, always hits the spot. Pan-fried turnip cakes are simultaneously crispy and creamy, studded with bits of pork and mushroom. Fluffy and subtly sweet Malay steamed egg cake is a rare find for dessert.
What It Is: The same father-daughter team that once owned Phoenix in nearby Chinatown now runs this Cantonese kitchen.
What Our Inspectors Say: “The large carte features an impressive variety of dim sum and casseroles; while blazing-hot woks turn out black bean and garlic stir-fries as well as sizzling hot plates that arrive brimming with seafood. And although most dishes come as small portions, they can still feed a group at a fraction of the price.”
Hero image courtesy of Daguan Noodle.