The world belongs to the commonwealth. That is the translation of the four large Chinese characters atop the landmark Chinatown Gate that heralds the entrance to Chicago’s visually arresting Chinatown neighborhood.
Just south of the gate is Chinatown Square. Said to be inspired by the Chinese Imperial Court, the square features a two-level mall housing a variety of local businesses, bronze statues of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac from Xiamen, China, the Pan Asian Cultural Center and a “Chinese in America” mural depicting the history of Chinese immigrants in the United States.
Here and there are perfect jumping off points to explore the wonders of this richly endowed section of the city. In addition to a plethora of bakeries, authentic grocery stores, boutiques, and souvenir shops, a variety of Asian restaurants steeped in the culinary styles ranging from classic Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Sichuan to Vietnamese, Thai fusion, and Korean dominate the scene. A classic is the beloved and much-lauded Lao Sze Chuan, which opened in 1998 and serves traditional Sichuan cuisine with high-quality ingredients.
There are also some amazing newer eateries adding to the allure of this dynamic community. There’s MingHin, a Michelin Plate-winning dim sum restaurant on Archer Avenue, for which the accolades just keep rolling in; MCCB Chicago, a modern and authentic Chinese restaurant whose specialty is a street-style charcoal grilled whole fish originating from Chongqing; and Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings, or QXY for short, a dumpling star among locals. Then to satisfy your sweet tooth, head over to Legend Tasty House, an ice cream shop specializing in Thai ice cream rolls and boasts the longest lines in Chinatown, and the fresh and exciting Tous Les Jours, a French-Asian inspired bakery and café franchise offering more than 300 different kinds of bakery goods, including bread, pastries, cakes, desserts, and beverages.
Lastly no visit to Chinatown would be complete without a stop
at the Heritage Museum of Asian Art. The museum is absolutely first-rate and features 12-foot tall wooden doors reminiscent of a Tibetan monastery and exquisitely showcases a wide-ranging collection of Asian art.