Chinatown: The Hidden Gem of Philadelphia


Chinatown Philadelphia

Sarah Santorum Staff Writers

One of the most unexplored areas in Philadelphia lies just north of Center City of North Broad Street. The huge Chinese arch that frames the main street and the Kanji characters that label the restaurants and stores make it obvious that one is in Chinatown. While many major cities across the U.S. have Chinatowns, Philadelphia’s Chinatown is smaller than most while still offering a plethora of restaurants and stores. Chinatown embodies a unique atmosphere of various Asian influences that include but are not limited to Chinese culture. There are Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Japanese restaurants and markets speckled throughout the area, making it difficult to choose where and what to eat. 

Unsure of what to expect, we began to get a lay of the land by walking down North 10th Street, which is primarily lined with restaurants. Ranging from high end dining experiences to quick ready-to-eat side shops, the variety of food available is vast. Soaking in our surroundings, we roamed the streets and passed many traditional shops with full-bodied fried ducks hanging in the windows and outdoor markets with foreign fruits and vegetables. From families out to dinner to solo grocery shoppers, North 10th Street was teeming with activity, even on a Sunday evening. With our mouths watering from the incredible aromas of Asian cuisine, we stumbled into a small dim sum restaurant. Astounded by the inexpensive prices of the food, we proceeded to order copious amounts of dishes ranging from authentic steamed dumplings, to spicy dam dam noodles, to a gigantic plate of rice noodles topped with eggs, spices, and mixed veggies. The dishes came out in five-minute intervals, each one better than the last. Sipping on our boiling water to slow down our rapid food intake, our bellies grew overtly full, yet we could not stop there. The popular flat rolled ice cream, which originated in Thailand, sounded like the perfect way to end this food adventure on a sweet note. Just a quick walk down North 10th Street, we found ourselves ordering a large cookies n’ cream at a trendy ice cream bar called “Iceland.” The cute anime polar bear entices customers to try this modern Thai treat. Unsure what to expect, assuming that ice cream would taste the same regardless the form, we were immediately hooked as the hard rolls of ice cream were, smoother and creamier than average ice cream scoop. 

After finishing the last bite, needing to unbutton the top button of our jeans, we made our way down the main street once more. The warm lanterns and colorfully gilded buildings provided a genuine sense of experiencing a foreign atmosphere, despite being a 10 minute walk from center city Philadelphia. Finding such a unique place within the City of Brotherly Love furthered our passion for discovering new realms of the city. Chinatown offers numerous options for any food lovers who are willing to branch out, however the lack of activities make it difficult to spend more than a couple hours in the area. Overall, the cheap, authentic, and delectable food made this trip well worth the twenty dollars spent total, and would urge all Villanovans to take advantage of the diversity present in Philadelphia.