Carts arrive tableside bearing a broader range of dim sum favorites than you’d expect to see in such a compact dining room: chicken feet, shu mai, egg tarts, tidy stacks of steamed Chinese broccoli. Har gow, those dim sum bellwethers, are translucent and stuffed with shrimp. For takeaway: roast duck or barbecue pork by the pound.
Seattle’s benchmark dim sum house is both vast and forever full, its large round tables laden with dumplings, buns, and honey walnut prawns. A recent remodel bestowed better lighting and a tasteful midcentury color palette, but the shrimp and chive cakes come just as crisped, the eggplant is just as flavorful, as it was in the less stylish days.
This cheerful room doesn't deploy carts, but rather dim sum order sheets where you tick off your choices—soup dumplings, hum bao, roast pork with impeccably crackled skin. Sure, it’s less spontaneous (and slower) but everything arrives cooked to order, and late-night hours mean you can satisfy dim sum cravings well past midnight. Round things out with stone pot rice, noodle soup, or the excellent mango freeze drink made with coconut milk and sago.
Noodles, Rice, Dumplings
Design-your-own combos of broth, noodle style, and toppings offer endless possibilities…hot and sour soup with vermicelli and sliced brisket and wontons? Spicy broth with wide rice noodles, fish balls, and enoki mushrooms? The menu of silken congee can change the calculus entirely. A plate of pan-fried dumplings, however, is a must.
While a mini makeover bestowed new tables as green as pork and chive dumplings, the menu—with hand-scrawled addendums in black and blue ink—is exactly the same. Which means the whole lot of spiral-pinched xiao long bao soup dumplings (lamb, pork, shrimp, crab meat) remain juicy as ever. And the pot stickers still come to the table hot and delicately conjoined in a thin lacy layer.
It’s hard to pass up the individual hot pot, and judging by the induction burners parked on most tables, few people do. But that means less room for gua bao, wontons in spicy chili oil, or beef noodle soup costarring marvelously chewy noodles and broth so rich and flavorful you could happily just drink it straight. As the name implies, anything noodle-related off this large Taiwanese menu is likely a winner.
At last, the Eastside chainlet known for soup dumplings, crispy-bottomed Q bao, and dan dan noodles has a 206 location, and Seattle could not be more excited. This minimalist, light-filled space in the Publix Hotel dispenses xiao long bao filled with pork, crab, or chicken to your table seemingly seconds after you order. The wait can be bananas, but the reservation-via-text setup lets you wander Uwajimaya until a table’s ready.
A wall of steamy warmth comes in a rush when you first squeeze in the door to await a table. In the kitchen, ladies (always ladies) lift noodles from enormous vats of boiling water. From wide flat rice noodles beneath a stew of cold pork that tingles with spice to wontons that bob in rich bowls of broth and brisket, everything carb-related feels prepped with particular care. Noodle bowls and the smoothest of congee are worth hassling with the cash-only policy.
Regulars love this place for, rather than in spite of, the abundance of pink formica, and a ceiling seemingly borrowed from a 1980s office park. But mostly for the substantial green onion pancakes or hand-pinched dumplings followed by noodle soup, broth opaque in its beefiness and flecked with orange spicy oil. Bring cash.
It’s not the only place in the neighborhood with roasted ducks swinging in the window, but it’s certainly one of the oldest, founded by community leader Wai Chow Eng in 1974. The food still slays: succulent, sweet, tender barbecue pork—plus page after page of chow mein, noodle soups, fried rice, and more.
This no-nonsense purveyor of whole roast duck and barbecue pork, rib tips, and sausage by the pound also offers a superb takeaway lunch deal: your barbecue of choice, over rice, with a generous ladle of sauce for about $8 (in cash).
The Le brothers embraced poke as an offshoot of their family’s commercial tuna fishing business in Hawaii. Now they marinate, lightly, salads of raw tuna, salmon, and octopus in a corner space facing Hing Hay Park. It’s destination worthy fare, even in a town overrun with poke shops. Especially when you factor in the mason jars of pineapple Dole Whip.
In the shadow of the landmark Chinatown Gate dwells an outpost of Wallingford’s casual sushi mainstay. Musashi’s is all about efficiency, from tabletop thermoses of serve-yourself tea to the signature chirashi bowls, the most economical and purposeful way to get good quality sashimi into your mouth.
The Taiwanese hot pot chainlet, known for constant lines, is a favorite for a reason. Inside enormous personal bowls, ingredients like beef, pork meatballs, fish cakes, kimchi, or piquant fermented tofu jostle in bubbling broth. Caution: “flaming spicy,” the highest stratum of heat, is as sweat-inducing as it sounds.
Hunan dry pot now rules in the former home of Phnom Penh. Rather than a vessel full of broth, meat and veg get dipped in the fiery crimson oil that roils at the base of the pot. These tingling flavors are reason enough to rush to this San Diego–based chain’s C–ID location but don't bypass other Hunan specialties, like pan-fried cauliflower with ribbons of salty-savory pork.
The dining room three floors up is perpetually packed with families and couples on an interactive hot pot adventure: preset meal for two, extensive a la carte items from lamb to pork dumplings to enoki mushrooms, or three rounds of the all-you-can-eat option.
Fish balls in curry. Stone pots of rice, layered with minced pork and salted fish. Stir-fried rice rolls in spiral formations. Congee, noodle soups, baked pork chops over spaghetti, even oversize tea sandwiches spread with butter and condensed milk. The menu’s huge, and just about every dish is fabulous (look for a second location in the Louisa this year).
Dim sum carts wheel through the bright and ample dining room during lunch, carrying baskets of shu mai, pork buns, chicken feet, Chinese broccoli, and other usual suspects—ditto the regular menu of classics from barbecue duck to salt cod fried rice. Honey Court even awaits when you need to refuel post karaoke at 3am.
From beef in deep, rich oyster sauce and chop suey loaded with sauteed vegetables to pork egg foo young, simple egg drop soup, and noodles from chow mein to chow fun—Seattle’s oldest Chinese restaurant, run by a third-generation owner, has been serving up long-perfected dishes since 1935.
Taiwan’s juggernaut of milk pudding buns, egg tarts, and hot dogs encased in brioche has landed at a prominent spot on Fifth and Jackson. Fans queue up to wield tongs and fill trays with whatever baked goods catch their fancy, then pair them with a sea salt coffee.
Another popular Asian chain delves into the chewy, icy, subtly sweet world of Taiwanese desserts, like trendy grass jelly, served hot atop boba and sweet potato balls, or beneath feathery shave ice.
New owner Susien Lee expanded the pastry menu a tad, but fresh Japanese baking traditions remain ever on display: croissants of matcha tea and chocolate or mango-coconut, myriad macarons, smoked salmon brioche. Don’t skip the golden beef curry buns or coconut custard cream doughnuts with a sugary cornflake exterior.
Ballard’s Filipino bakery brought its purple ube cheesecakes to the Publix Hotel, but the new cafe also adds a burgeoning coffee program, savory quiches with eggplant or bitter melon squash, and more Filipino sweets like buttercream-topped ensaymada brioche buns. By evening: cocktails with tropical notes of the Philippines.
Out All Night
Restaurateur I-Miun Liu revived the old Four Seas’ back bar, both in name and physical space, knowing the building will one day be redeveloped. But there’s precious time yet—until early summer, they estimate—for bourbon suffused with toasted black tea syrup and bitters, or tempura-battered, deep-fried eggplant.
One of the best views in this second-story bar is a window seat that overlooks Hing Hay Park. Or perhaps it’s along the bar proper, watching a nearby big screen. Or maybe it’s anywhere you can just drink your unfussy cocktail and dig into Japanese comfort foods like a homey bowl of pork katsu on rice.
This comfortably worn vegetarian pizza bar fits in surprisingly well in Chinatown, with slices and pies that pair utilitarian crusts with clever topping combos. The signature rosemary-potato-gorgonzola pizza migrated from the original Belltown location, as did the plate-size chocolate chip cookies.
Updated February 27 to reflect Thai Curry Simple's temporary closure, as reported by Eater Seattle.