If you want all the dynamic bustle and outstanding authentic cuisine of Manhattan’s Chinatown but want to skip the sweaty shoulder-to-shoulder press of tourists, hop on the 7 train to Flushing. Queens is home to New York City’s second-largest Chinatown, a fusion of cultures where you might find an Old Navy next to a traditional Chinese herbalist’s shop. Food lovers are getting wise to the neighborhood, whose mainstay family restaurants are now being joined by some of the first U.S. outposts of behemoth hot pot chains. Here are the restaurants in Flushing Chinatown that best illustrate why the neighborhood has gained a reputation as the place for Chinese food in New York City.
A flurry of carts approach the instant you’re seated at Asian Jewels. This Flushing gem is a dim sum enthusiast’s daydream, and its banquet hall-style interior doesn’t disappoint either. Oversized round tables are perfect for loading up on small plates, bamboo plants abound, and elaborate chandeliers hang overhead. Servers pull off lids to show you a wide array of dishes from spareribs with rice starch and beans to poached jellyfish with sesame oil. Crowd-pleaser dishes are available as well, of course, including dumplings, spring rolls, and pork buns.
It’s entirely possible you won’t lay eyes on a menu throughout the experience, and you likely won’t need one – your servers will lay out your options for you and answer any questions you have. Be aware that with all the steaming carts and crisscrossing staff, the energy in the restaurant gets a bit frenetic. Dim sum is served between 4:00 and 9:30 p.m., so on the weekends in particular, be sure to arrive early to snag a good spot.
Haidilao Hot Pot Flushing
What do a high-tech café, a hot pot restaurant, and a nail salon have in common? Not much, and yet Haidilao Hot Pot Flushing saw lines around the block during its opening months for combining the three. Among the first U.S. outposts of a hugely popular international hot pot chain, Haidilao Hot Pot has caused quite the sensation in Flushing thanks to its over-the-top customer service and array of unconventional extras, not to mention its quality broths and ingredients. Customers waiting to be seated can keep themselves busy with free hand massages, manicures, snacks, drinks, and board games. Before you order, you’ll receive complimentary appetizers and aprons to protect your clothes from mishaps.
If you haven’t been properly acquainted with the dining sensation that is hot pot, know that it’s first and foremost a group activity. It’s a more communal style of dining where family and friends sit around a bubbling pot of broth and essentially choose their own adventure, so go in a group to sample as many things as possible. However, if you do choose to go solo, staff will provide an enormous stuffed teddy bear to keep you company. The wait can get long, especially on weekends, so go during the week to skip the line. Or, take the time to enjoy the waiting room – it’s more about the experience than the food at Haidilao Hot Pot.
Chonqing Lao Zao
While the draw of Haidilo Hot Pot is the service and quirky novelty experience, this equally unforgettable hot pot establishment’s appeal lies in its ambiance (and the quality of its food, of course – they’re famous for their spicy beef tallow broth). Walking into Chonqing Lao Zao, the first thing you’ll notice is the immersive décor: a big wooden door, colorful garlands of peppers and garlic hung out to dry, cloth-lined baskets of spices, mismatched teacups, and bamboo silverware. The effect created is that of a warm, rustic farmhouse in the Chonqing countryside, combined with unmistakable upscale grandeur.
Chongqing Lao Zao’s claim to fame is their spicy broth made with dried red peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, so at least one end of their split-pot system should definitely have some spice. If you’re someone with sensitive taste buds, though, play it safe and ask for mild – they don’t mess around when it comes to spice levels. Wait times are notoriously long here, so make a reservation or stop by as soon as you get to Flushing to join the waitlist before strolling through Chinatown.
This Flushing gem serving up high-end Chinese-style BBQ is decidedly sophisticated. Opulently decorated with stone walls and carved, dark wood, Gan-Hoo BBQ is known for stunning presentations and elevated cuts of meat, which you grill yourself right at the table. Their crowning glory is the flight of stairs combo, which features a staggered variety of meats so you can sample all of their cuts.
If you’re looking for weekend dining, this would be a good bet because of Gan-Hoo BBQ’s large amount of seating. Great for big groups and special occasions (Chinese BBQ, like hot pot, is perfect for sharing), the moody lighting and décor create a romantic atmosphere that’s also ideal for date night. Be prepared to spend a little more, but know the quality of their ingredients is well worth the cost. Or, go for lunch on a weekday to take advantage of their $40 all-you-can-eat special.
With its narrow storefront and no-frills exterior, this compact Chinese restaurant isn’t likely to immediately draw your attention from the street. Inside, you’ll find an equally functional room with five small tables and a menu taped above the counter where you’ll order. People don’t come here for the décor, though: White Bear is well-known for offering some of the best dumplings in New York. You’d be remiss to leave without sampling No. 6 on the menu – their spicy chili oil wontons have earned them a dedicated group of foodie devotees.
Since there isn’t much room for seating inside, consider making this first up on your itinerary or a mid-day pit stop, especially if you have a large party. White Bear offers the perfect fare for on-the-go munching, so grab your wontons to go and eat them while wandering through Chinatown.