Photo credit: @quananhtrann
This year’s Guide to Philly features neighborhood guides written by students and recent grads. In this mini-guide to Chinatown, we cover things to do, places to eat and everything YOU need to know to enjoy the neighborhood!
As told by Sandy Ly, Temple University 2022
As a Philly native, I admittedly only started exploring the city when I began college. Chinatown started it all for me and gave me a piece of Philadelphia that felt like my own. It’s a homey neighborhood for day-to-day hangouts or big celebrations. Every block you stroll down will be packed with hidden gems. I highly recommend supporting the local Asian businesses here especially as they recover from the pandemic.
Photo credit: Sandy Ly
For drinks, my favorite formal sit-down space is Prince Tea House. Their extensive range of teas and desserts plus their fancy decor and ornate tea sets make it an Instagram-worthy space for any get-together. For boba, my siblings and I always pop by Vivi Bubble Tea for their milk teas, popcorn chicken, and a chaotic game of Jenga. Sometimes I’ll hop across the street for Tea Do’s Zen’s Awakening, an iced Vietnamese coffee and chocolate drink that my best friend introduced to me.
Photo credit: Sandy Ly
Dim sum is a staple celebration meal for me. My friends took me to Dim Sum Garden for their renowned soup dumplings, and we fell in love with their scallion pancakes as well. For a shy person like me, Nom Wah‘s ordering system makes it easy for anyone wanting to try dim sum. Instead of verbally ordering, you check off what you want on a piece of paper and the waiter will bring you each dish. Their ho fun (chewy fried flat rice noodles), turnip cakes, and pan-fried dumplings are my staples.
I’m Southeast Asian, so you know I have to throw some Vietnamese places in here because let’s be real— we all have different names for almost the same dishes. Pho Cali is a bright space for pho (rice noodles) right on the edge of Chinatown. If it’s too hot for steaming broth, I opt for a banh mi (Vietnamese hoagie) with refreshing pickled veggies and BBQ pork from QT Vietnamese Sandwich or Banh Mi Cali. And if it’s an especially hot day, rolled ice cream from Frozen will make any trip 100% cooler.