Thanks to our Asian dining boom, there's no shortage of choice Chinese food in Seattle or its neighboring cities. Whether you need takeout—stat!—for your Netflix binge or want to pluck steaming bamboo baskets off dim sum carts, these 17 spots have your back.
There’s something for everyone in this converted root beer stand off Lake City Way, in menus marked Szechuan, Chinese (heavy on the Taiwanese), Vegetarian, and American. The last is not Chiang’s at its finest, so if you’re on the moo shu trail, head elsewhere. Among Chiang’s finest are its terrific homemade noodles, green onion pancakes, and Taiwanese breakfasts complete with sweet soybean milk and Chinese doughnuts, served weekend days 10am to 3pm.
This tidy counter in Pike Place Market offers the labor-intensive flatbreads known as guo kui, each one rolled by hand, griddled, then plunged it into the bowl-shaped oven, rather like a tandoor, beneath. Each one emerges crisp on one side, soft within, and is still hot when split and filled with pork, beef, or chicken in chili and sesame sauces with cilantro and pickled cucumbers. There are also a few hand-shaved noodle dishes, a longtime speciality of chef-owner Cheng Biao Yang.
Seattle’s love affair with xiao long bao began right around the time Din Tai Fung opened in Bellevue Square—and although the tender-fleshed little soup-filled dumplings are now peddled in a few joints across the Eastside, Din Tai Fung (now in U Village and downtown Seattle) delivers them in grand, creamy quarters with attentive service and extreme consistency. You might think that multiple locations would reduce the waits, but you’d be wrong.
Dough Zone has crossed over from the Eastside—praise the dumpling gods—landing in Chinatown–International District with all manner of morsels in tow. Yes, that includes bite-sized soup dumpling darlings known as xiao long bao. But it’s the q bao that really impresses. These swoonworthy steamed pork dumplings are soft, pillowlike rounds with a crispy panfried bottom; inside resides a rich, gravyesque filling. Write a love song about them. Then, eat three more.
It may be surrounded by Vietnamese businesses, but weekends at Foo Lam are all about dim sum. Regulars fill round tables, spinning lazy susans and gesturing to the passing pushcarts for another plate of spareribs, egg custard tarts, or juicy siu mai, flowerlike dumplings of pork and shrimp, even more carnivorous platters of tripe or chicken feet. Popular dim sum spots in the ID can come with an hour-long wait at prime time; here tables and parking are plentiful.
It’s unlikely the industrious sixtysomething Chinese-born chef Judy Fu sees herself as a rock star—but everyone else in Seattle does. Is it her soft and toothsome handmade chow mein noodles, rolled and cut to every order by a chef in an open kitchen in the back? Is it her feisty sauces (now available in grocery stores across the region), which make her black-bean asparagus with prawns and her tender handmade jiaozi (boiled dumplings) so delectable? Or is it simply her steady omnipresence in the restaurant, a jolly two-room joint in Maple Leaf whose teensy lobby could be three times the size and still overflow with takeout customers and waiting diners? If we said it’s an incomparable combo of all three…would you give us your last mu shu pancake?
The same vast menu of Chinese staples, now served in a grander second-floor dining room across the street from its original Bellevue address (and original name: Bamboo Garden). But La Bu La’s excitement lies in its Sichuan dishes, like chili-laced platters of fried Chongqing chicken, or the massive tureen of “swimming fire fish” soup, its carmine chili-peppercorn bouquet ready to deliver all manner of flowery, fiery sensations to your lips and tongue.
Who knew that one of Seattle’s pioneers of Northwest cuisine—both at his former post at the Herbfarm and his current one at Poppy next door—would be so skilled at the fires and fermentations of Sichuan cooking? Here Jerry Traunfeld’s lifelong interest in authentic Asian cookery brings us ma po doufo, gong bao chicken, dan dan noodles with pork, and the like—almost certainly with more chiles and oil and funk than Westerners will be expecting, while perhaps less than Sichuan cuisine–loving diners will desire. The aesthetic, dictated by the pace of the kitchen, is crowded and chaotic and cramped—much more Chinatown than Broadway.
A tangle of naked wheat noodles topped with minced pork seems like a simple dish—until it’s tossed with the red pool of sesame and chili oil that hides underneath, coating it with glossy heat. These noodles are emblematic of the Rainier Avenue restaurant itself: Outside, Little Chengdu is a fairly nondescript building, but inside, spicy dumplings and Sichuan-peppered dishes reveal big flavors.
The owners will insist this kitschy riff on old-school Chinese American dining is a bar, not a restaurant. Even though Ma‘ono chef Mark Fuller is the guy behind the menu of updated honey pecan prawns, barbecued pork, and the best General Tso’s chicken to ever come in contact with disposable chopsticks. Actually all the food comes in compostable takeout containers, even though the bar doesn’t do takeout. It’s all in the name of crowd control; this place gets busy. Cocktails are highly tropical, often frozen, and come in elaborate tiki glassware.
Owners (and couple) Lisa Zack and Travis Post are both Ethan Stowell Restaurant alumni, so when Stowell's Anchovies and Olives closed the duo came in to take over the Capitol Hill space on 15th Avenue. The kitchen issues a most impressive lineup of Chinese dishes that hail from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces: pork dumplings dunked in chili oil, liang fen jelly noodles served cold, savory-crispy mushroom rice cakes. To wash it down there's easy-going lagers, intriguing cocktails, or the pungent Chinese liquor called baijiu—careful, it's strong, tastes of hay stacks and good-bad decisions.
Serious noodle geeks the region over make pilgrimage to this strip-mall storefront for bowls of wide, hand-ripped biang biang noodles, a relative rarity outside the northwest Chinese province of Shaanxi and its capital city Xi’an. They have a particular talent for soaking up the accompanying sauce, be it egg and tomato, a brilliantly simple chili oil, or zha jiang, a deep, dark combo of ground pork and fermented bean paste that’s earthy and comforting.
The talk of Chinatown is the contemporary Jackson Street bistro with the sleek interior and the red lanterns, where Shanghai favorites are interspersed with Korean rarities like fermented black bean ja jang noodles. Not to be missed are the crispy green long beans with black beans and minced pork; perfect basil-lime shrimp, lightly crusted and bursting with juice; and tender honey spareribs, suffused with wood smoke. The International District has never been a date-night destination, but here’s a bona fide contender—with decorative pretensions, $12-ish price tags, and clever East-meets-West desserts like a silken black tea creme brulee.
The much beloved Redmond-based Spicy Talk, complete with all manner of hanging tchotchkes, closed in late 2016 and later resurfaced in Kirkland. The new iteration is still serving up the same extraordinary hand-shaved chow mein noodles, green onion pancakes, and fire-breathing Chong Qing hot chicken. Spice aficionados will marvel that food this mouth-numbing can still carry real flavor complexity.
Ever gargle molten lava? If so, the fire brew burbling in the notorious hot pot of Seattle’s most authentically Sichuan restaurant will taste familiar. There’s other Sichuan fare at this International District institution: Sauteed pork and preserved vegetables is a surprisingly light, delicate classic of the cuisine; eggplant with garlic sauce—bright with garlic, ginger, and hot soybean paste tossed with deep-fried eggplant—another delicious Sichuan specialty. The draw, though, is the communal-table hot pots spiked with flaming chilies. Dip beef, pork, tripe, lamb, tofu, and vegetables in the simmering oily broth for a leisurely meal that’s just at the delectably spicy edge of pain for your palate. The other half of the pot’s filled with a well-seasoned broth splendid for cooking the savory dumplings that make dinner complete. Parking’s a challenge; the place is hidden among the rest of Jackson Street’s culinary treasures. It’s well worth the hunt.
An explosion of vivid orange walls and bold Sichuan chilies, this Lake Hills destination continues its success even after the departure of its original owner. In the large, lofty bamboo-softened space enjoy chow mein with hand-shaved noodles and hot pots you cook at the table, along with anything off the vast menu’s seafood selection. The whole Dungeness crab, spangled with red chilies, green onions, and peanuts, is a fire-breathing masterpiece. Savvy servers deftly manage the ever-present crowd.
Xi’an Noodles doesn’t offer much in the way of ambience, but nobody in line to place an order at the cash register much cares. They’re here for one thing: Those skeins of biang biang noodles, named for the sound that happens when chefs slap long strands of dough against a counter, creating the fissures that lead to those wide, perfectly chewy ribbons, the specialty of the northwest China city of Xi’an. Sampling this particular type of noodle used to require a trip to Edmonds or Redmond, but thankfully owner Lily Wu brought them into Seattle’s food ecosystem.
Editor's Note: This article was updated on September 12 to reflect that Plenty of Clouds serves Yunnan, not Hunan, dishes and on September 25 to remove outdated ownership information.