Visiting Chicago’s Chinatown

When you hear Chinatown, you may think of New York or San Francisco, but you might be surprised to find that Chicago actually has a bustling Chinatown not far from downtown. I recommend adding a morning in Chicago Chinatown to your Windy City itinerary!

2.5.17 Chinese New Year - Chicago's Chinatown

Chicago Chinatown is south of the Loop and is easy to reach from the Loop and Mag Mile areas.  You can take the “L” (the red line stops right at Chinatown), drive (parking is plentiful and affordable), and the water taxi is a fun option in the summer.

CTA - Chicago Transit Authority - El Map

If you happen to be in Chicago in February, check out the schedule for Chinese New Year festivities.  I made sure to catch the parade this year and I am so glad that I did!  The parade kicked off with a bang, literally, as the entrance gate had ribbons of firecrackers streaming down.  It was quite loud to be so close, and many around me covered their ears, especially the little ones. It was so fun to see the colorful dragon costumes and experience a little bit of a different culture for the day.

2.5.17 Chinese New Year - Chicago's Chinatown

2.5.17 Chinese New Year - Chicago's Chinatown

My favorite part of a Chinatown visit is, of course, the food!  If you haven’t tried Dim Sum, this is the place to give it a shot!  Dim Sum are dumpling style food served in small plates or steamer baskets. It’s like tapas in that you order lots of items to share with your table.  The larger the group, the more dishes you will sample.  Some restaurants provide a menu to order from, others have carts that circle the room and you select what you want as the cart passes by.  It seems like most of the Chicago Chinatown restaurants go for the menu approach, which I liked.  As a picky eater, I am not prone to grabbing random things off a cart and just eating them! I like to know what I’m getting into!

Chicago ChinatownDim Sum at Phoenix Restaurant

On a recent visit, we went to Phoenix Restaurant for Sunday brunch. We arrived before 10am and got a table right away. By the time we left at 11:00, there was a line out the door! I’ve found this to be the case all over town. I don’t consider myself a morning person, but compared to the rest of Chicago, I guess I am!

Chicago ChinatownDim Sum at Phoenix Restaurant

You know what else I love about dim sum?  The price!  We ordered 5 plates, plus tea, and our bill was $24.  A visit to Chicago can be pricy, so this is a good option if you are traveling on a budget.  We sampled a variety of sweet and savory items, including Sesame Ball, creamy egg yolk bun, and seafood dumpling. The menu at Phoenix has about 70 small plates and a “regular” menu of rice and noodle dishes as well.

Chicago ChinatownDim Sum at Phoenix Restaurant

Be sure to save some room for dessert as Chicago Chinatown is lined with bakeries and pastry shops.

Chicago Chinatown Bakery

As with most Chinatown areas, shopping is plentiful in Chicago Chinatown as well.  Unlike New York, I didn’t see the faux designer stuff being sold on the streets here.  The shops are stuffed to the ceiling with your typical tourist trappings, Chinese trinkets, Buddha statues and regular household items.

Shopping Chicago Chinatown

If you’re visiting with kids, check out this post on WellTraveledKids.com for an afternoon itinerary in Chicago Chinatown.

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35 thoughts on “Visiting Chicago’s Chinatown

  1. I love when you find an authentic Chinatown and you get to sample Cina’s authentic food. I used to have dumplings in bamboo baskets for breakfast while I visited China and I still dream about them. The ones you tried look delicious!

  2. It’s crazy how a total different culture can still do their own things and is not that far from home. I love the post! Everything looks so good. 😊

    • A great reflection of the melting pot that is our American culture! So lucky to live here 🙂

  3. I feel like every place I travel to that has a Chinatown must be visited. I have never been let down by the food, decor, or atmosphere.

  4. I visit the Chinatown of pretty much EVERY city I’ve been to that has one, and now Chicago is on my list! I never even knew they had one! That dim sum looks incredible, by the way – especially the creamy egg yolk bun…

  5. This is so great!!! I did the same thing in New York for Chinese NewYear and it was fabulous. Also think dim sum is a great Sunday brunch idea. Will totally check out Chinatown when I make it to Chicago.

  6. I did not know Chinatown in Chicago until I read your blog post. It is very interesting trip and nice photos. I love Dim Sum, I will try it with your advices when I go to Chicago.

  7. I would say that pretty much every big American city has its own Chinatown ! but it is just great, because you can almost travel to Asia without actually being there. The smells and the food must be just awesome! However, curiously, Chicago never really attracted me.

  8. I have not been to the China Town in Chicago. I wonder how different it is from San Francisco’s China Town? Makes me hungry for authentic chinese food, I am in Germany…

    • I feel like San Francisco Chinatown is much larger, but admittedly haven’t spent much time there.

  9. NYC’s and San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhoods are obviously well-known destinations for visitors, but you don’t often hear about other cities’ Chinatowns. I love that you showcased Chicago’s in your post even though in all my visits to Chicago, I haven’t yet visited Chinatown. I should change that on my next visit because that dim sum looks tasty. It has been a while since I’ve had really good dim sum, too. Oh, what I would give for a dumpling right now! Thanks for the foodie inspiration for my next Chicago trip! #WeekendWanderlust

  10. I feel so ignorant. I never knew that parts of America celebrated the Chinese new year let alone had a China Town. Chicagos Chinatown sounds particularly interesting.

  11. This post left me hungry! I love how you have these truly authentic Chinatowns in the U.S. Here in Europe we’re glad if we can find a good Chinese restaurant 😉

  12. That’s really cool! I literally stayed right on the edge of Chinatown last month (at the Chicago South Loop Hotel) but we didn’t have time to get out and explore it! I wish I had now!

  13. Great idea for a way to spend some time while in Chicago. They city has so many great things to offer and this is a hidden gem of the city. Easy way to spend half a day or so walking around soaking in all of the sites. The food is great! We ate at Strings Ramen last time we were in town. Easy trip from downtown on the L (Chinatown stop). Enjoy!

    • Too many restaurants here…I could eat out every day for a year and not make a dent in all the places I want to go!

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