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Char Siu & Wonton at Imperial Lamian
Photograph: Jeff Schear Char Siu & Wonton at Imperial Lamian

The best Chinese restaurants in Chicago

For excellent dim sum, Peking duck and chow mein, book it to one of Chicago's best Chinese restaurants

By Morgan Olsen and Elizabeth Atkinson

Whether you're searching for a legit dim sum brunch or you've got a hankering for char siu, the best Chinese restaurants in Chicago will send you home with a full belly. From Chinatown to West Loop to Uptown, it's not hard to find authentic Chinese dishes in Chicago if you know where to look. With the help of our guide, you'll be slurping Singapore rice noodles, sampling dry-chili rabbit and ordering another round of shrimp toast for the table. Go beyond sweet and sour chicken with our list of the best Chinese restaurants in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Chicago

Best Chinese restaurants in Chicago

1. Cai

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

Xi Xin Lin, the chef at this ornate dinner and dim sum spot, has a mystical way with creamy egg-yolk buns, delicate free-form dumplings stuffed with shrimp and dried scallop and steamed rice-noodle crêpes paired with crunchy bits of celery. This is classed-up dim sum at its most traditional, mirrored by the over-the-top, glitzy, gilded look of the second-story restaurant, making it a favorite pick for Chinese wedding banquets.

Photograph: Nick Murway

2. Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

When we need a dumpling fix, we flock to Qing Xiang Yuan, a sleek sliver of a restaurant that was birthed from a subterranean food court in Chinatown. There you'll find delicious dumplings stuffed with chicken and coriander, shrimp and pork, lamb and dill and tomato and egg. Bring a friend (or three) so that you can make a dent in the lengthy menu.


3. Sun Wah BBQ Restaurant

Restaurants Chinese Uptown

This no-frills joint tempts passersby with lacquer-skinned roast ducks hanging by their necks in the steamed-up window. The menu is expansive but inexpensive: The Pei Par BBQ duck and the Hong-Kong–style barbecued pig are sublime in their simplicity, savory and slick with fat. Chinese broccoli arrives jade-green and crisp, and the beef chow fun comes out charred and tasting of the properly smoking wok. Even the egg rolls are notable, dotted with bits of roasted pork. Our advice? Order lots and eat the leftovers at home.

4. MingHin Cuisine

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

The crackly skin attached to a juicy barbecue duck and a slab of “Macau” pork belly is like a primal call to fans of Cantonese-style roasted meats, and we’d recommend both, along with the perfectly cooked beans in the string bean “casserole” and the chubby rice noodles pan-fried in a lightly spicy XO sauce. But with extensive seafood offerings and an interesting dim sum lineup offered from early in the day to late in the evening, what we really recommend is going to the slick, contemporary dining room and choosing your own favorites.

Xi'an Cuisine
Photograph: Courtesy Xi'an Cuisine

5. Xi’an Cuisine

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

At this Xi’an-centric spot, order an array of small dishes to share with the table. Start with super thin slices of raw potato, soaking in sour and spicy sauce; hand-stretched noodles with lamb in a gamy broth; and tofu skin with celery in white vinegar sauce. But everyone at the table should order their own lamb flatbread—stuffed with tender, cumin-spiced lamb and tucked into seared, crisp bread (it's the one dish you won't want to share).

Photograph: Huge Galdones

6. Duck Duck Goat

Restaurants Chinese West Loop

Cheflebrity Stephanie Izard has a growing empire of restaurants in Chicago, but none is more adventurous than her homage to Chinese food at Duck Duck Goat. The West Loop eatery offers a smattering of familiar dishes (like the crab rangoon), but guests are better off asking for recommendations so that they might sample Izard's creative takes on wood-fired duck hearts, ham sui gok (rice dumplings with goat), Sichuan eggplant and hongshao rou (fatty red braised pork belly).


7. MCCB Chicago

Restaurants Armour Square

MCCB, which stands for Modern Chinese Cook Book, specializes in Sichuan- and Canton-style cuisines, which means guests are treated to an in-depth menu that appropriately represents several regions of China. Holding down the "Modern" end of things are dishes like the Philly steak egg roll and dry chili fantail shrimp, which is served in a small fryer basket. The Chinatown restaurant’s signature dish is the charcoal-grilled whole fish, which is soaked in hot chili broth before it's grilled and carved at your table.

8. Friendship Chinese Restaurant

Restaurants Chinese Avondale

After his father passed away, Alan Yuen renovated his family’s chop suey house (even installing beautiful hardwood floors himself) and set about turning out solid Canto-American classics. Sesame beef and honey-walnut shrimp are joined by creations such as stir-fried seafood in a shredded potato “bird’s nest,” pan-seared salmon with champagne apple, and boneless Peking duck with Grand Marnier sauce. Don’t want to go out? Take advantage of the brisk delivery service.

Photograph: Jeff Schear

9. Imperial Lamian

Restaurants Chinese River North

There’s no way around it: The menu at Imperial Lamian, the first U.S. location of the modern Chinese restaurant chain, is long. There's an entire section devoted to xiao long bao (soup dumplings), several la mian choices (those are the hand-pulled noodles, and you must try them) and more than a dozen wok dishes, which feature pork, beef, poultry and seafood. While a second trip may be necessary, you can't go wrong with a basket of steamed dim sum for the table, the jasmine tea smoked ribs and the Lunar Blossom for dessert. If it's not already clear: Come hungry. 

Lao Sze Chuan
Photograph: Erica Gannett

10. Lao Sze Chuan

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

The kitchen uses plenty of Szechuan pepper, dried chilies, garlic and ginger to create flavors that are incredibly addictive. Our favorites are Chengdu dumplings, crispy Chinese eggplant with ground pork, twice-cooked pork, mapo tofu, Szechuan prawns and “chef’s special” dry chili chicken. Trust us or choose at random—you won’t be disappointed.

Chili crabs at Go 4 Food
Photograph: Jason Little

11. Go 4 Food

Restaurants Chinese Armour Square

This Chinatown restaurant fuses multiple Chinese cuisines together to yield dishes like the chili crab—huge Dungeness crabs cooked with curry, onions, ketchup and other ingredients—for a spicy, messy, delicious meal. There are the usual suspects, like ma po tofu, but you're definitely rewarded when you try something new.

12. Chengdu Impression

Restaurants Chinese Lincoln Park

Pulling classic recipes and techniques from Chengdu (the capital of China's Sichuan province), this Lincoln Park restaurant will surely delight those who are looking for something authentic. The menu is packed with fascinating dishes that dare guests to cheat on General Tso's chicken (though they have that, too). Start with the Mouth-Watering chicken—bone-in poultry in Sichuan chili sauce with peanuts—before making your way into the Zigong-style frog, with pickled chilies and ginger.


13. Hon Kee

Restaurants Chinese Uptown

Those ducks hanging in the window? Yeah, you’re going to want to order one—you’ll want to experience the interplay of the crispy skin, the soft fat and the rich, gamey meat. You’ll also want the spiced, hot shrimp encased in an addictively crisp and salty coating; the sweet roasted pork with scrambled egg over rice; and the fresh dumplings, so thin you can see the pink shrimp and cabbage hiding within.

14. A Place by Damao

Restaurants Bridgeport

In chef-owner Aishan “Damao” Zhong’s first solo venture, she cooks delicacies from her hometown of Chengdu, resulting in bold, simple street fare hailing from the capital of China’s Sichuan province. Pork dumplings, hand-cut noodles, pigs’ feet and braised duck parts are presented without much embellishment beyond a fiery combination of chilis and slow-burning Szechuan peppercorns.

Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

15. Furama

Restaurants Chinese Uptown

For some, Sundays are for church. For others, it’s dim sum time. This spot offers one of the largest selections in town and proves the most consistent overall. People pack the giant banquet space to settle in for the barrage of carts that wheel by brimming with a dozen different dumplings (shrimp-peanut, chive and pork stand out); fluffy buns (barbecue pork and pan-fried veggie-pork are awesome); and various fried and steamed morsels of hangover-absorbing snacks. Don’t miss the taro puff, ribs, pot stickers and sweet egg-custard tarts.

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

16. Min's Noodle House

Restaurants Chinese Bridgeport

If you have an abnormally high tolerance for spicy foods, put your taste buds to the test at Min's Noodle House in Bridgeport. If the name didn't tip you off, this spot is known for its slurpable fare—specifically its lip-numbing Chungking noodles (traditionally spelled Chongqing). Adventure seekers will be delighted to see that the shop offers the special dish with pork intestine and beef tripe. Testing the waters for the first time? Go with the original, which is topped with bok choy, a braised egg, crushed peanuts and scallions.


17. Shanghai Terrace

Restaurants Chinese Streeterville

Normally we don’t condone paying through the nose for Chinese food when Chinatown options abound, but this gorgeous fourth-floor terrace, brimming with fresh flowers and offering a view of the historic Water Tower, is hard to beat. Elevated takes on peking duck and wok-baked lobster surpass expectations, but if you’re looking to take advantage of the digs while keeping within a budget, stick with snacking on dim sum and splurge on a fancy cocktail.

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