An Insiders’ Guide to Boston's Chinatown — Where to Eat and Drink

From dim sum classics to inventive dessert destinations, here's how to explore Boston's historic district, where food is centerstage.

<p>Kissed by a Kangaroo/Getty Images</p>

Kissed by a Kangaroo/Getty Images

There’s a simplicity around Boston’s Chinatown that immediately draws you into the district, which is sandwiched between Boston Common’s southeastern corner and South Station.

“It’s tucked away into several streets that feel like their own unique pocket of town rather than a more sprawling and large Chinatown like you may find in New York and San Francisco,” Rachel DeSimone of Bites of Boston, who helped develop its Chinatown's Culture & Cuisine Tour, told Travel + Leisure.

The neighborhood, which was first settled by Chinese immigrants in the 1870s, has become the hub of a mix of Asian cultures. In fact, its Chinatown Gateway was a gift from Taiwan. The plaque at its base indicates that it was built in 1982 and rededicated in 1990, as Boston and Taipei have been sister cities since 1996.

The windows of the Tufts University building on Kneeland Street showcase an exhibit on the resilience of its Chinatown community through the last 150 years, from Asian exclusion in the 1870s to the more recent threat of neighborhood destruction through the expansion of roadways.

Throughout its history, food has been an enduring legacy, from chop suey shops around the 1900s to the innovative eateries today. Debbie Ho of Chinatown Main Street told T+L what’s so special in this Chinatown is the variety. There's everything from “hot pots to noodles, dim sum, and lobster” that’s more Cantonese style, but also southern Chinese styles “with black bean, garlic, and ginger” as well as northern cuisines with “spicy, noodle soups." Plus, there are restaurants with a “Taiwanese flare with great pan-fried dumplings and soup dumplings.” (She called out dim sum at Jumbo Seafood, spicy hot pot at 5 Spices House, and noodle soup at Jibei Chuan, among the staples, packed into the compact district.)

DeSimone agreed that Boston Chinatown’s unique “charm” comes from its “nice mix of traditional and modern takes on Asian cuisine, showing respect for where the roots of the cuisine originated,” noting that’s a distinct characteristic of Massachusetts. “The ability to modernize while still nodding to its history is … also something that you can feel in all of Boston," said DeSimone.

Here, we highlight eight must-visit spots when visiting Boston's Chinatown.

Double Chin

When the Chin sisters, Gloria and Emily, opened their restaurant in Chinatown, they wanted to truly embrace their Chinese American identities. So they came up with a “modern Hong Kong style restaurant offering fun spins on some of their favorite classic foods and dishes they ate growing up such as Spam,” DeSimone said. The result is creative eats, like the Double Chinwich, with char siu roast pork, carrot turnip slaw, and honey Hoisin sauce inside a scallion pancake bun; skillet chow fun “mac” and cheese with locally-sourced wide rice noodles and panko; and Spam and taro fries, served with sriracha aioli.

Insider Tip: Its most famous dish is the cube toast dessert, which comes in berry, matcha, and macaron varieties, which DeSimone calls “amazing.”

Café Darq

There’s a classy sense of whimsy the moment you step into Café Darq, with pear-shaped lanterns hanging overhead, juxtaposed with window string lights and Asian-inspired art pieces. But the real artistry is in its wide breadth of offerings, with someone for everyone. For Ho, that comes in the form of “great coffees and gelato.” Unique flavors include the Ca Phe Hoi An (iced house blend coffee with sea salt caramel), Coconut Butterfly Pea Flower Tea Latte (coconut milk tea with butterfly tea), and Passion Fruit Yakult (passion fruit jam with the yogurt-based soft drink).

Insider Tip: During my visit, I enjoyed the fruit-infused coffee mixture of the Espresso Limeade, with a double shot of espresso and a sweetly tart twist of lime.

Taiwan Cafe

Just around the corner on Oxford Street is an “unassuming spot that could easily go missed,” but where the “food is super fresh and the menu is huge,” DeSimone said. From Taiwanese delicacies like fried stinky tofu with paou tsai (my favorite!) to oyster omelets and Taiwanese sausage, its menu features a mix of the island’s night-food markets and most famous restaurant dishes. But they’re perhaps best known for their dumplings. Ho loves their pan-fried dumplings, while DeSimone goes for their soup dumplings.  

Insider Tip
: I went off-menu and ordered the truffle soup dumplings marked as a special on a wall poster. As a dumpling addict, this was among the top around the world. Even the server came over afterward and we fangirled out over its delectable flavors and distinct textures.


The Mott Street Girls’ Anna Huang grew up in Boston and was a Chinatown guide in her hometown. One of her favorites is the new dim sum spot Dynasty, which opened in 2023, and serves up the small dishes daily until 3 p.m. They have “really unique dim sum dishes such as molten egg yolk sesame balls and steamed shrimp balls with fish roe," said Huang.

Insider Tip:
Go for the fried turnip cakes with an XO sauce for a slight twist on a classic.

Sweet Waffles & Boba

Another sweet treat staple, this Instagram-friendly hotspot is a “cute cafe,” and among Huang’s favorites in town. Their waffle pop flavors range from churro crunch (white chocolate and cinnamon toast crunch with cinnamon) to apple pie (apple pie served warm with Biscoff cookies). Meanwhile, their drinks range from colorful signature lemonades (try the Unicorn Lemonade with strawberry lemonade with strawberry jelly and butterfly tea) to brown sugar boba float (yes, that's a vanilla ice cream scoop in a brown sugar boba!).

Insider Tip: Huang is a fan of the strawberry shortcake waffle with homemade strawberry shortcake, cookie crumbs, and fresh strawberries — plus pink chocolate on top!

Hei La Moon

Hei La Moon is “one of the longest-standing dim sum restaurants in Boston’s Chinatown and one of the most popular,” DeSimone told T+L. Though they recently changed their name and are also known as Food Opera, it’s still the same “classic dim sum experience” with a buzzy dining room and “delicious” dishes served off carts, from steamed roast pork buns to ham sui cook (fried glutinous rice dumplings filled with pork).

Insider Tip
: You can tell a lot about a dim sum spot by its long rice noodles with shrimp — and Hei La Moon doesn't disappoint.


Here at Shojo, there's a “cool, dark, artsy atmosphere,” DeSimone said, elevated by its “creative modern spin on Asian cuisine.” That includes Wu-Tang Tiger Style Ribs, C-Town Chicken n Waffles, and Shadowless Fries. Plus the Japanese spirits list is “unrivaled in the city” with “amazing cocktails.” Ashley Yung of Pao Arts Center agreed that this is the spot for “drinks and good bites.” 

Insider Tip
: Heirloom eggplant, fermented black bean, and yuzu citrus salsa make up the perfect flavors in the Fried Eggplant Bao.

Taiwan Bakery

While longtime favorites like Hing Shing Pastry have recently closed their doors, Taiwan Bakery — in the former 101 Cafe site — has quickly become a favorite for its “snacks and baked goods,” as Yung called out. Savory treats like pork buns mingle aside sweet pastries from sponge cakes and custard buns to the perennial favorite egg tarts.

Insider Tip:  Typically eaten around the Mid-Autumn fest, mooncakes are a specialty here — especially with its inventive varieties like durian snow skin mooncakes.

For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.