For those who aren’t familiar with Chinatown, it can be a daunting place. With so many options, though, it’s hard to go wrong: the Chinese food here will definitely be more authentic and tasty than your local takeout joint. That being said, there are certain places that do it better than everyone else. Trust me on this.
Best Dim Sum: MingHin Cuisine
There’s a lot of debate about which place offers the best dim sum (Chinese brunch). I won’t judge you if you prefer Cai, Phoenix or Triple Crown over Minghin; all of them are quality dim sum spots. But MingHin offers consistent, quality food and is welcoming to someone who’s unfamiliar with the cuisine.
Best Bubble Tea: Kung Fu Tea
Most bubble tea places in Chinatown offer a limited selection of bubble tea that’s either flavorless or filled with ice. The only competitor is Joy Yee, which boasts a gigantic assortment of flavors and add-ins. However, I’ve always found that Joy Yee’s drinks are too icy and not smooth.
Kung Fu Tea, on the other hand, offers a decent-sized menu with options from your traditional matcha and black milk teas to fruity slushes and coffee drinks. What’s great about Kung Fu is that you can customize your order: you can adjust the sugar level, ice level (or even make it a hot drink) or add ingredients such as more bubbles (because why not?), herbal jelly and red bean. Also, I find that Kung Fu’s tapioca bubbles always have the perfect chewy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Just remember to have cash on hand when you go because they don’t accept credit cards.
Best Bakery: Saint Anna Bakery & Cafe
There aren’t many things that are more comforting than a fresh egg custard tart or a cloud-like pineapple coconut bun, and you can find the very best of both at Saint Anna Bakery. They also have a variety of other traditional Chinese pastries such as coconut tarts, fried sesame balls with red bean filling and sweetheart cakes.
If you’re into fancy but light desserts, you can also dig into a slice of airy chocolate mousse cake or a delicate fruit tart. You really can’t go wrong here. You can even kill two birds with one stone by ordering a bubble tea (though, again, Kung Fu is best). Just remember to bring cash and check the store hours before you go; it closes before most bakeries in Chinatown. You definitely won’t want to settle for another place.
Best Late Night Eats: Chi Cafe
If you’re out late with friends (whether that be in a drunken or sober state) and are craving some authentic, cheap and tasty Chinese food, look no further than Chi Cafe. The menu has everything you could possibly want, from an assortment of meat and seafood dishes to fried rice, noodle soups and vegetarian options.
Also, the portion sizes are big enough to fill you up but small enough to justify ordering a couple different things. It’s a great option for small groups looking for a casual meal (hint: college students), especially at a weird hour. I highly recommend eating family style so you can try a bite of everything. Or, you can mooch off of your friends. That works, too.
Best Grocery Store: Star Light Market
For those unfamiliar with Chinese ingredients, Chinese grocery stores can seem a little intimidating. However, I find that many of them have items you won’t find anywhere else in the city. If you like sweets, try a box of Pocky pretzel sticks, creme-filled panda bears or Taiwanese pineapple cakes. If you want some unconventional protein, Star Light has frogs legs and tripe. If you aren’t feeling too adventurous, there are plenty of common Asian staples as well.