Get us in your inbox

Search
Qing Xiang Yuan
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The 23 best restaurants in Chinatown

Sprawling dim sum halls, dumpling experts and stellar bakeries are abundant in the neighborhood.

Jeffy Mai
Written by
Jeffy Mai
&
Time Out Chicago editors
Advertising

Chicago’s Chinatown is a neighborhood filled with seemingly endless pleasures. Located just off the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station, it boasts block after block of restaurants and businesses. Numerous trips are needed just to scratch the surface of everything the area offers, which is why we’re here to help guide you to the best spots to grab a bite. You’ll discover cavernous dining rooms where dim sum can be enjoyed all day long, as well as dumpling specialists that provide little pillows of delight. Most of these places are perfect for delivery or takeout, and there are even some amazing bakeries. The bustling neighborhood is fully walkable, too, meaning you can hit up multiple spots in a visit. So spend an afternoon exploring the many sights and then refuel at one of Chinatown’s best restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more things to do in Chicago's Chinatown

Best Chinatown restaurants

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

The crackly skin attached to a juicy barbecue duck and a slab of Macau pork belly act as a beckoning 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 a great 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

This humble dumpling spot started as a walk-up stand in the basement of the Richland Center before moving above ground to a beautiful, airy storefront in the heart of Chinatown. The menu offers dozens of dumplings to choose from, including lobster, truffle, lamb and dill, beef and onion, and crab roe. As an added bonus, QXY uses specialty dumpling carriers so that your takeout order is always fresh.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Armour Square

MCCB, which stands for Modern Chinese Cook Book, specializes in Szechuan- 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 dry chili calamari and 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 cooked and carved at your table.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square

This cozy Chinatown restaurant specializes in the kind of food that will leave your mouth tingling and your belly warm. The menu is a fantastic crash course in Szechuan cuisine, especially if you're willing to blow up your taste buds with deliciously spicy flavor. Start with the house special Dan Dan noodles before feasting on an order of chicken with green peppercorn broth. Then, put out the fire with an order of refreshing mango tapioca.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square

To say the menu at Dolo is expansive would be an understatement. The chic Chinatown restaurant serves dozens of dim sum treats, including creamy egg tarts, bitter melon custard cakes, tender pork shumai, bright-green durian pancakes and fluffy pork buns. But that's just scraping the surface on what Dolo has to offer: A novel-sized menu is packed with glossy photos of seafood by the pound, spicy jellyfish, salt and pepper shrimp, mango beef tenderloin and stir-fried lo mein—among many other specialty dishes. If we haven't made it clear already, come hungry and bring a friend. There's even a free parking lot, which is a rare amenity for the area.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

Established in 1992, Golden Bull is a Chinatown stalwart that offers homestyle cooking. Skip the usual order of crab rangoon and Mongolian beef and take a deep dive into the menu. You’ll discover dishes like beef tongue swimming in XO sauce, pork tripe with pickled mustard greens and deep fried quail. The hearty rice casseroles are also perfect after a night out on the town.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

Chinatown’s first cocktail bar arrived in the summer of 2020 and it was everything the neighborhood had been waiting for. Tucked away behind takeout restaurant Moon Palace Express, the dim and moody lounge looks like it was imported from the world of Blade Runner. The drink list presents cocktails made with Asian-ish ingredients, such as an old fashioned that uses rice vodka, plum wine and barley in place of whiskey. Complementing the alcohol are snacks and handhelds—the delicious McKatsu pork sandwich is a must.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Armour Square

This small but hopping barbecue shop has a lengthy menu, but you're here for the Small Peking Duck Dinner, which rings up under $40 and easily feeds three to four hungry adults. The steal of a meal includes duck bone soup, shredded duck with veggies, spicy fried shrimp and—the star of the show—crispy duck skin presented on soft bao buns.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

The Chinatown restaurant, which is tucked down a side street, 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. You'll also find the usual suspects, like mapo tofu, but you're definitely rewarded when you try something new.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

With neon-orange and bright blue graphics, and booths featuring built-in drawers for storing napkins and cutlery, this casual Chinatown spot seems inspired by the Austin Powers school of interior design. The chow spans the Asian map—Hong Kong veggies, Szechuan heat, Singapore noodles and Malaysian satay. If you look carefully, you’ll spot less-common items like pork kidney and beef tongue. With this broad range, everyone is likely to find something to like, making this a good place for groups to share. Night owls will appreciate that Chi Cafe is open until 2am.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

Nine-to-fivers will have to skip work to avoid the crowds at this dim sum stalwart, but it’s worth it to bypass the weekend frenzy. What’s the fuss? Hangover cures in the form of fried or steamed dough stuffed with savory, sometimes spicy pork. The classic bao are proper pillowy buns, Malay steamed cake is soft and spongy, deep-fried red bean dumplings are sweet and greasy (this is not a bad thing), and crêpes are characteristically silky wraps for shrimp, beef or greens—try the pan-fried version of both for a bit of crispness. Save room for interesting options like poached beef in chili oil and Taiwanese minced pork.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

There are plenty of places to get great dumplings in the area, but few specialize in xiaolongbao. Hing Kee makes its soup dumplings fresh every day (you can watch from the dining room or front window) and you can get them stuffed with pork, crab or chicken. Add a bowl of noodle soup—we’re partial to the beef brisket—for a soul-satisfying meal.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

After more than a decade tucked away on a Chinatown side street, this late-night institution moved to the main drag, with a second-story view of the area’s action. The dinner hour brings a nonstop flurry of cooks plucking lobsters, sea bass and Dungeness crab from the seafood tanks, but late-night dim sum is also a very fine option. If you've been out drinking, line the stomach with garlicky peapod greens, salt-and-pepper pork chops and sizzling beef tenderloin in black pepper sauce.

  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

Dim sum fans are accustomed to cart service and ordering cards, but the majority of the small dishes traditionally served originated in tea houses and bakeries in southern China. Chinese bakery Chiu Quon has been making these delectable items for decades, attracting locals and visitors from around the city with dishes like fresh BBQ pork buns, sesame balls filled with bean paste and shrimp dumplings. Pop in for a snack or make a meal out of the various baked goods on display.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

Heat-seekers, rejoice. This is the spot for you. Plenty of Szechuan pepper, dried chilies, garlic and ginger create flavors that are incredibly addictive. Our favorites are the Chengdu dumplings, twice-cooked pork, mapo tofu, Szechuan prawns and “chef’s special” dry chili chicken. Or choose at random—you won’t be disappointed.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

The neighborhood’s only dedicated vegetarian restaurant puts healthy and exciting spins on Chinese classics. While most menus in Chinatown can generally accommodate non-meat eaters, Veggie House takes it to the next level. The kitchen’s version of orange “chicken” features fried king mushrooms in a sweet glaze, while the Mongolian “beef” uses plant-based strips as a substitute. Even carnivores will be delighted by the creative dishes coming out of the kitchen.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

Take a culinary trip to China’s Shaanxi Province at this spot on Cermak Road. You don’t often think of sandwiches when it comes to Chinese food, but they’re a focal point here. The kitchen makes flatbreads from scratch daily and fills them with cumin lamb, marinated pork and more. The lamb soup and hand-stretched biangbiang noodles are highlights as well.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

Hainanese chicken rice is a beloved dish, which is why it’s puzzling there aren’t more spots in Chicago offering it. Regardless, arguably the best version is served at this Richland Center food court stall. Owner Chen Yu flawlessly poaches boneless chicken thighs and serves them on white rice that’s been flavored with chicken jus. It’s accompanied by chili, soy and ginger sauces plus a side of chicken soup. Though there are a couple of other items on the brief menu, the chicken rice is all you really need.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 2 of 4

The kitchen 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 steamed rice-noodle crêpes. 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.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

Noodles are the star of the show at this Chinatown shop. Unlike other places, the menu is relatively short and simple—choose either hand-pulled or shaved noodles and whether you want them in soup or stir fried. There’s a variety of proteins to add on, including beef spare ribs, lamb, duck, shrimp and oxtail.

https://media.timeout.com/images/105925010/image.jpg
Jeffy Mai
Assistant Editor
Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Bakeries
  • Armour Square
  • price 1 of 4

One of Chicago’s finest Chinese bakeries offers up an impressive range of treats both savory and sweet from its Chinatown storefront. The cha siu bao—brioche-like baked buns filled with sticky barbecue pork—make a good option for an on-the-go lunch, and the oblong egg tarts have a fan following for their just-barely-set custard filling and crumbly shortbread crust. Between bites, sip on the Hong Kong-style milk tea, a creamy, sweetened black tea that’s refreshing over ice.

  • Restaurants
  • Bubble tea
  • Armour Square

No matter the season, you'll find a parade of colorful creations marching out of this made-to-order tea shop in Chinatown. Thirsty visitors have plenty of options here, with fresh fruit teas, milk teas, milk drinks, sea salt milk foam and fresh fruit yogurt drinks. You can add tapioca, jellies and flavored boba balls to most drinks, but the shop is best known for its "cheese tea," a sweet and creamy milk foam that tastes like cheesecake. We go back again and again for the delicious matcha latte with chewy tapioca—a classic sipper that's perfectly sweetened and easy to slurp down on a hot summer day.

Advertising
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Armour Square

Believe it or not, this hot pot operation is a massive global chain, with hundreds of locations sprinkled throughout the world. It's not Chicago's first hot pot rodeo either, but that doesn't stop Happy Lamb from making an impression. Guests choose a soup base (tomato, "milky" bone marrow, or spicy bone marrow) and select goodies to boil inside the pot. We're big fans of the lamb, hand-sliced fatty beef, fish balls, Napa cabbage, baby bok choy and glass noodles. From there, it's up to you to cook your dinner, which is half the fun of hot pot.

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising

      The best things in life are free.

      Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

      Loading animation
      Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

      🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

      Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!