When visiting Chicago you might see the Bean or ride the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier, but don’t forget that Chicago is a multicultural city. Instead of checking out the “must-see” attractions take a different approach by exploring Chicago’s Chinatown. Not only will you eat amazing food, but it is a much more unique experience than shopping on Michigan Avenue. Although Chinatown has a strong Chinese community, don’t be fooled by the name. You can explore cultures throughout Asia.
Hop on the red line with me from downtown Chicago and in a few stops you will be in the center of it all. Here we go!
Phoenix Restaurant Dim Sum
Dim sum is a meal of small snacks traditionally served in the morning. Sounds delightful, right? There are many great places to eat dim sum in Chinatown. At Phoenix Restaurant you can order from a menu with helpful pictures that make even the newest dim sum eater feel like they know what they are doing.
On the weekends, carts roll around the restaurant where you can select from many interesting dishes. Dim sum is the best kind of meal because you can sample several small plates for a relatively low cost. Feast on Xiaolongbao (soup filled dumplings), shrimp crepes, or Shumai. Finish up with a sesame ball filled with red bean paste sweet, savory, and the perfect kind of chewy. Make sure to grab a table by the window and gaze at Chicago’s skyline while you sip your tea.
Chatime is a Taiwanese teahouse chain that has a location in Chinatown serving bubble tea and other delectable drinks. Choose from tea, fruit, or coffee based flavors with different add ins. You will have to come back more than once to try all the drink combinations like Karak Pearl Milk Tea with sweet Tokachi pearls or Jasmine Green Milk Tea.
Chiu Quon Bakery
Chinese bakeries have the perfect balance of sweet and savory. At Chiu Quon you can choose anything from from lotus paste moon cakes to savory bao. Stay awhile and order from the dim sum menu and enjoy some tea with your pastries while you wait. For less than $2, you can feast on a savory bun and be full until dinner time.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot has locations in the US, Canada, China, and Japan, specializing in a traditional way to cook from Inner Mongolia. The broth on the center of the table stays at a steady boil for you to cook your food. In just a few seconds your food is ready to enjoy. The all you can eat setup makes it easy for you to mark your menu so you can keep the food coming. Choose from spicy or savory broths and a large selection of lamb, pork, and vegetables such as bok choy and chrysanthemum herbs. The sides of peanuts in vinegar and potatoes are also worth trying. This is a great way to sample foods with a flavor unique from other cultures in Asia.
Daebak Korean BBQ
Daebak Korean BBQ is a great choice for Chinatown. You can choose from a set menu with beef or pork options and soup. When you are done making your selections, the server will bring several small bowls filled with sides to sample like kimchi, radish, and Korean potato salad. The small portions make it easy to sample 12-14 dishes in one meal, while watching your meat sizzle away on the grill in front of you.
Not only will you feel like you are traveling throughout Asia in Chinatown, but you can save some serious money on your trip to Chicago. Ethnic enclaves like Chinatown often have some of the cheapest, but most interesting food options in town. Check out 15 Cheap Eats We Love in Chicago’s Chinatown from Serious Eats.
Travelers constantly yearn to explore different neighborhoods, try new foods, and see how people live. When you think about travel that way, you don’t necessarily have to travel very far. Exploring the cultures within your country can also be an international adventure.
International Adventures at Home is a new series on Globe to Go focused on exploring cultures in cities around the United States. Check back for guides on cities throughout the country to start your international adventure.