12 Best Chinatowns in America
Find out which U.S. cities serve up the most authentic Chinese festivities, culture, and, of course, food.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is a true cultural wonder of America. Not only is it the most expansive Chinatown outside of China, but it is also the oldest one in the United States. Fortune cookies were even invented here. There are countless events, restaurants, and cultural attractions to be found and there is no better place to celebrate the Lunar New Year! It’s even an official state holiday in California.
New York City
New York City’s Chinatown is second only to that of San Francisco. The incredible amount of street vendors selling everything from food, to herbs and spices is an expert’s lesson in how to haggle, which is part of the fun of venturing down to the neighborhood. You’ll find the most authentic cuisine at the city’s first dim sum house, Nom Wah Tea Parlor, which opened back in 1920.
Flushing, Queens, New York
Not many people know that there is more than one Chinatown in New York City. The Chinatown in Flushing, Queens is on the rise, and what separates it from the rest is that it is more of a meeting point between American and Chinese culture. While there is an incredibly large Asian population here, TripSavvy.com notes that fusion cuisine and a hybrid lifestyle abound. If you want an incredibly unique dining experience, check out Joe’s Steam Rice Roll on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing. According to Grub Street, he is the only person in the city who still grinds rice by hand instead of using rice flour for his rice paper rolls. Learn more about the history of Chinese New Year.
If you’re in California but can’t make the trip up to San Francisco, SoCal can still provide you with a shining Chinatown to explore. The Los Angeles Chinatown of today, however, is not the original Chinatown. The history of the construction, destruction, and reallocation of the Chinese in the city is both a humbling and inspiring story. When they first moved into the area, Chinese people faced great prejudice and were not allowed to own property. This led to thousands of Chinese living in squalor while trying to support their budding businesses. Eventually, they relocated, raised enough money to purchase an area of land in cash so they wouldn’t need to take out any loans, and rebuilt.
Much like the Chinatown in Queens, New York, Houston’s Chinatown is more of a cultural hodgepodge. This Texas neighborhood is not just reserved for Chinese, but others of Eastern and even Middle Eastern descent. You can enjoy this mix at Crawfish & Noodles, a Cajun-Vietnamese fusion restaurant.
Beantown’s Chinatown is smaller than those of California and New York, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Simply walk a couple of blocks from the city’s lovely Boston Common and you’ll find restaurants and markets that are highly authentic and always filled to the brim with customers. The China Pearl dim sum house on Tyler Street is one of the town’s favorites—and it’s huge! Word to the wise: make a reservation before you go!
It’s not a sprawling metropolis, but every square inch of Philly’s Chinatown is worth checking out. Because it is on the smaller side, Philly residents embrace its authenticity and take pride in not being just another tourist trap. This Chinatown offers several types of guided tours to learn about the history, culture, and food of the area.
The focal point of the Chinatown in Washington D.C. is its food. Take a break from touring those monuments and presidential portrait galleries by tasting H Street’s flourishing cuisine for yourself. One of the best restaurants in this area is actually Japanese. Daikaya always has lines out the door for their two-story establishment. Find out why the popular Chinese food takeout boxes aren’t actually Chinese.
The story of Honolulu’s Chinatown is one of total transformation. It evolved from one of the worst neighborhoods in the city to one of the most culturally and artistically advanced. The Hawaiin Theatre, also known as “The Pride of the Pacific,” is the historical and entertainment crown jewel of the still-developing town. Here, you can enjoy an array of visual performances, from vaudeville to concerts.
Chicago’s Chinatown is growing at a breakneck pace, so it’s hard to know where to start. We recommend the Chinese American Museum of Chicago where you can learn about the development of this cultural hub, and the Nine Dragon Wall, made out of authentic tile shipped from China, that is a replica of a wall in China.
Seattle’s Chinatown is also known as the city’s International District; the area hosts a variety of Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese. Learn about all of these peoples and their traditions by visiting the Wing Luke Museum, the only pan-Asian museum in the country.
The word “authentic” isn’t the first that comes to mind when thinking of Sin City. However, there is a sincere interest here in Asian culture. Its Chinatown is practically brand new when compared to others across the country and it’s still developing. New restaurants are popping up constantly in Las Vegas’s Chinatown, such as District One Kitchen & Bar which does a crazy Asian twist on tacos. Speaking of crazy, be sure to check out this insane never-ending library in Yangzhou, China.