The labyrinthine streetscape. The novel-length menus. The confusing storefronts. There are many reasons why local diners overlook the vibrant Chinatown scene, but it all starts with the fact that it can be difficult to simply figure the place out. Well, no more. Having consulted the experts and eaten our way across the area, we present Chinatown’s hidden treasures.
Above, our Insider’s Guide to Chinatown. Click to view larger.
The iconic Chinatown Gate. (Photos by Mark Fleming)
From the owners of the old King Fung Garden comes this small, red-walled spot, which specializes in affordable three-course Peking duck feasts ($38 for four diners) featuring crackly-skinned meat with house-made pancakes; a stir-fry with vegetables; and a clear soup made from the carcass. Just be sure to order 24 hours in advance.
Don’t miss: Shanghai chow mein noodles; sautéed pea-pod stems (available by request).
60 Beach St., 617-542-1763.
Come here to sample Taiwanese iterations of the classics: sumptuous scallion pancakes; home-style braised eggplant with basil; and gua bao stuffed with braised pork and peanuts.
Don’t miss: Steamed sticky rice with pork and mushrooms; mustard greens with edamame and bean curd.
34 Oxford St., 617-426-8181, taiwancafeboston.com.
Roast meats are a specialty at Wai Wai.
Don’t leave Wai Wai without a scoop of ice cream (we like the coconut and ginger flavors).
This ice cream shop/roast-meat haven more than makes up for its deficiencies in atmosphere with its white-cooked chicken, which is chopped to order and layered over rice with potent poaching liquid and a vibrant ginger-scallion sauce. Cash only.
Don’t miss: Rice plates with crispy pork; ginger ice cream.
26 Oxford St., 617-338-9833.
Japanese-inspired hot dogs from Fei Fan Eatery.
Avana Loft Building
Walk past a cell-phone store and up a flight of stairs to find this mini food court, where vendors hawk everything from mammoth Japanese-style hot dogs (Fei Fan Eatery) and steamed-to-order dumplings (Dumpling King) to wafflelike Cantonese egg puffs (from the cart in the back).
Don’t miss: The Fei Fan Eatery “crazy dog,” topped with teriyaki sauce, mayo, and shredded nori.
42 Beach St.
Gourmet Dumpling House
Forgo the dumplings here in favor of the true star of the menu: “sliced fish Szechuan-style,” a bowl of tender fish fillets and napa cabbage swimming in chili oil and chili flakes.
Don’t miss: Garlic eggplant; fried buns with chive and egg.
52 Beach St., 617-338-6223, gourmetdumpling.com.
Ho Yuen Bakery
The best traditional Chinese bakery in the area, Ho Yuen specializes in dense moon cakes and all manner of filled buns. Cash only.
Don’t miss: Coconut buns; steamed barbecue-pork buns; lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice.
54 Beach St. #1, 617-426-8320.
Sweet dreams courtesy of the Ho Yuen Bakery.
More assorted pastries and buns from traditional Cantonese bakery Ho Yuen.