Nestled in the heart of Washington D.C. is the historic neighborhood of Chinatown. Over the past years, the area has transformed into a place filled with major franchise restaurants and popular businesses, giving visitors plenty of options to dine and shop.
If you’ve found yourself in the city and is looking for a wonderful and authentic lunch, here are some of the best Chinatown restaurants you should consider.
It’s easy to walk by and miss Daikaya when you’re strolling along Chinatown. The restaurant boasts a very humble facade, but the food it serves is well worth the time.
This popular restaurant is divided into two sections, each of which offers different menu items.
The bottom floor is a ramen shop serving six different types of ramen, including Shio (salt-based broth), Shoyu (soy sauce-based broth), Mugi-Miso (barley miso-based broth), Spicy Miso, Veggie (vegan-friendly option), and Super Spicy Shoyu.
The top floor is an Izakaya, which is a Japanese drinking establishment that serves meals to pair with drinks. The casual dining area provides delicious and savory Japanese favorites, including Yakitori Chicken Skewers and Chicken Karaage, making them perfect for social gatherings, family meals, and business meetings.
Daikaya Chinatown Address
705 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20001, United States
- Jaleo by Jose Andres
Jaleo is a popular restaurant established by restaurateur Jose Andres. Guests who visit the restaurant are treated to a multitude of Spanish dishes ranging from embutido, sopas y ensaladas, and paellas.
There are two ways to enjoy Jaleo. First, guests can order smaller dishes from their tapas many to share with family. If you’re unsure what to pick, you can also experience the best Spain has to offer with Jaleo’s tasting menu.
Jaleo Chinatown Address
480 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004, United States
Derived from the Sanskrit word for “flavor,” Rasika provides hungry guests with delicious and authentic Indian dishes prepared on a Tawa (griddle) or a Sigri (open barbeque).
In addition to classic Indian dishes, Rasika also offers regional delights, including chicken masala and coorgi duck, along with a wide variety of vegetarian options.
There’s no better way to cap the meal than a perfect glass of wine. Rasika’s staff members are well-knowledgeable in wines, which allows them to make excellent wine pairing recommendations.
Rasika Chinatown Address
633 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004
Spanish dishes are well-loved by many people around the globe, as is Japanese cuisine. What better way to have both by dining at a restaurant that serves an amazing fusion of the two cuisines?
Cranes by Chef Pepe Moncayo offers an exciting combination of Japanese and Spanish dishes to present reimagined flavor points and ingredients to give diners a unique experience.
Chef Moncayo’s Spanish Kaiseki offers guests a wide variety of fusion plates to try out, including seasonal tapas, a la carte items, and a six-course bento Omakase spread.
At the end of the meal, guests can choose from an extension sake selection.
Cranes Chinatown Address
724 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
- Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
Del Frisco’s is one of the more opulent restaurants in Chinatown DC. However, this restaurant is well-loved among DC residents, especially those looking to have perfectly cooked steak for their celebration.
Their menu starts with a stunning seafood tower followed by fresh caviar, hamachi, and King Crab, before moving to Wagyu meatballs and thick-cut Nueske’s bacon to share.
Steak selections include hand-cut filet mignon, bone-in filet, prime ribeye, prime strip, tomahawk, Japanese A5 wagyu steak, and dry-aged steak.
Del Frisco’s DC Address
950 I Street NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC 20001
Forget everything you know about meaty tacos. Chaia is reimagining your Mexican favorites and making them both delicious and nutritious.
Chaia offers 100% vegetarian, nut-free, soy-free, and gluten-free menu items, including tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas, and nachos. Each dish is made with only the freshest vegetables, accented with a multitude of toppings and salsas. The tacos also feature their homemade, handmade corn tortilla.
Chaia is extremely popular among vegetarians, which means you should expect a line outside its doors. With limited indoor seating, it is recommended that you visit their location early.
CHAIA Chinatown Address
615 I St NW, Washington, DC 20001
- RPM Italian
Chinatown’s RPM Italian branch is only one of the two branches nationwide. This restaurant offers a wide range of Italian flavors, from cold and hot antipasti to salads and wood-oven pizzettes.
They also feature homemade pasta and Italian classics, including Chicken Parmesan, Eggplant Parmesan alla Billi, and Barolo Braised Short Ribs.
If you’re still feeling famished, RPM Italian offers a bread service menu, featuring items like Rosemary Focaccia, Truffled Garlic Bread, and Housemade Bread with San Daniele 600-Day Aged Prosciutto.
RPM Italian Chinatown Address
650 K Street NW, Washington, DC
- Chinatown Express
Chinatown Express is a well-loved restaurant in the neighborhood serving homemade Chinese noodles stretched and pulled by expert chefs.
The restaurant offers classic Chinese favorites, including Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Pork Buns), egg rolls, spring rolls, hot and sour soup, congee, roast duck, soya chicken, peking duck, fried lobster, and kung pao chicken.
Chinatown Express Address
746 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
In the early 1990s, the Chinatown area had been populated by German immigrants. Chinese immigrants only began moving to the neighborhood in the 1930s after they were displaced from the original Chinatown near Pennsylvania Avenue.
The population of Chinatown residents began declining after the 1968 riots when the city’s crime rates were rising and the business climate was deteriorating.
The core of Chinatown was later demolished to make way for the MCI Center in 1997. Seven years later, the neighborhood underwent a $200 million renovation, transforming it into a bustling neighborhood for nightlife, shopping, and entertainment.
The renovations also brought in new businesses and increased the cost of housing. This led residents with Asian heritage to leave the area in the ensuing decades. In fact, Chinatown’s Chinese population fell from a high of 3,000 to about 300 in the mid-2010s.
How Chinese is Chinatown?
Chinatown has been the home to a bustling working-class community of Chinese Americans. Today, DC’s Chinatown is but a distant memory of the once-bustling enclave of the Chinese-American community.
The neighborhood also barely has places that sell authentic Chinese products. Bubble tea stores have since been replaced by Starbucks and Subway. Dim sum restaurants have been squeezed out by Nando’s Peri-Peri and stores selling fresh seafood. The Capital One Arena has also transformed the area into a nightlife hub. Only the Friendship Archway remains a symbol of the neighborhood’s once-flourishing Chinese identity.
Best Authentic Chinese Restaurants in Washington D.C.
Since the decline of Chinese identity in Chinatown, numerous restaurants selling authentic Chinese eats have sprouted in places outside the limits of the nation’s capital.
If you’re looking to try out authentic Chinese flavors, here are some locally-owned restaurants you should visit.
Shanghai Taste on Nelson Street in Rockville, Maryland offers arguably the best-tasting soup dumplings in the area. This Rockville eatery also features three varieties of soup dumplings on weekends, such as steamed and pan-fried dumplings.
In addition to soup dumplings, Shanghai Taste serves an array of classic Chinese dishes, including Youtiao, which is a long golden-brown deep-fried strip of dough popular in Southern China.
Address: 1121 Nelson St, Rockville, MD 20850
Joe’s Noodle House
If you’re looking to try Chinese dishes with a spicy kick, look no further than Joe’s Noodle House in Rockville Pike. This restaurant has long been a standard bearer of Szechuan cruising in the area, featuring favorites like dumplings in red hot sauce, mapo tofu, and kung pao chicken.
If that’s not enough to convince you, the restaurant had also been rated as one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in America.
Address: 1488 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852
Q By Peter Chang
Q by Peter Chang is one of the most famous Chinese restaurants in Bethesda, and rightly so. The restaurant is spearheaded by Peter Chang, an award-winning chef specializing in Szechuan cuisine and who has experience cooking for restaurants in the American southwest and the DMV area.
Perhaps the most famous item on Q’s menu is the Scallion Bubble Pancake (pictured above). Guests who order the pancake will have the satisfaction of “popping” the bubble before getting a taste of the sweet and savory pancake.
Address: 4500 East-West Hwy Ste 100, Bethesda, MD 20814
Hollywood East Cafe
Founded in 1996 by Janet Yu, the Hollywood East Cafe is a Hong Kong-style dim sum spot that’s been well-loved by locals for decades.
The cafe serves dim sum all day every day, with classics like shrimp dumplings, shu mai, spring rolls, pork buns, rice noodle crepes, and shrimp cakes.
No meal is ever complete without dessert. The Hollywood East Cafe serves a number of Chinese pastries, including egg custard tarts, coconut and mango mousse, deep-fried sesame balls, and custard buns.
Address: 11160 Veirs Mill Rd, Wheaton, MD 20902