The Philadelphia area is host to over 550 Chinese restaurants (oddly enough, over 40 of them are named “Number One”). And since there are so many great ones, it’s practically impossible to choose just a few to highlight. Due to space limitations, here are the best picks in a few different categories.
David’s Mai Lai Wah
1001 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Winner of Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly 2011 for Best Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown, David’s Mai Lai Wah is delicious. If you’re looking for a great restaurant, go where the chefs go after their shifts: After 2 a.m., there’s a good chance you might see one of our city’s best chefs tucking into a dish of David’s Salt and Pepper Squid ($8.95) or Singapore Noodles ($7.75). The scallion ginger sauce that comes with the dumplings has achieved an almost cult following (Tip: Bring a small container for leftovers!). David’s does offer takeout, but not delivery.
Sang Kee Peking Duck House
238 N 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Ask any local for the best duck in Chinatown, and they’re likely to point you to Sang Kee. This enormous place spans three floors and has been a local favorite since 1980. No matter how you like your duck, this is the place for it. Order it whole or half Peking ($30/$20), in duck rolls ($3.50) or in noodle soup ($6), to name a few. Sang Kee is great for large groups, as there are plenty of smaller dining areas or huge tables. And it’s best to order family style because the dishes are colossal. Just remember to hit the ATM before you go because Sang Kee accepts cash only and offers takeout, but no delivery.
Best Food Truck
Yue Kee’s Chinese Food Truck
230 S 38th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Hailed by Penn and Drexel students and professors alike as the best Chinese food truck on campus, Yue Kee’s menu is extensive (how do they fit all that food in a truck?) and offers quite a bang for your buck. In fact, some of its pints of soup are only $1. If you have a little more to spend, the spicy Singapore Noodles are $4.85 for a “Large Quart,” as is the Orange Beef. Expect a wait, especially around lunch time, because the food is made to order.
225 N 11th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Another hidden gem in Philly, Veggie Lovers is a bright, clean and friendly option. Apologies to all of the vegans and vegetarians in the city, because you surely didn’t want everybody knowing about your special place, but this one must be shared. Even if you’re a carnivore, you will find something to love at Veggie Lovers. The Sesame Tofu ($7.75) is melt-in-your-mouth delicious and the Eggplant Heaven ($10.95) is huge, so make sure you have a dining partner to help devour this monstrosity. Veggie Lovers also offers a Tea Bar menu, with some eclectic tea choices including Green, White, Oolong and “Healthy Feet” tea. Feeling a little adolescent? Perhaps a nice cup of “Calming Pimples” tea is in order. Veggie Lovers offers takeout and free delivery.
514 S 5th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Rich City delivers delicious Szechuan, Mandarin and Hunan food quickly and accurately. Order from the website, and not only will you receive exactly what you ordered exactly how you want it (there’s a helpful “notes” section with each item you click), but you also get up to a 20% discount. The menu is vast; you’re bound to find something for everyone, whether that be the Pizza Roll ($1.50), Happy Family ($10.75), Jumbo Shrimp in Velvet Sauce ($10.75) or General Tso’s Bean Curd ($7.50). And Rich City delivers within a five-mile radius for only $1, smile included. Dine in or takeout if you prefer.
325 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
In the Stephen Starr constellation, some feel Buddakan is the shiniest star. The breathtaking 10-foot golden Buddha overlooking the whole place sure is a sight to take in. Modern Asian cuisine paired with classical French techniques and a dash of whimsy all join together here, creating an unforgettable culinary experience. Of course, all of this greatness does not come cheap. The Lobster Fried Rice with saffron and Thai basil is $16, and the Wasabi Crusted Filet Mignon with sweet potato mash is $32. And if you’ve gone that far, then you really should spring for the Chocolate Bento Box for dessert: warm chocolate cake, dark chocolate panna cotta, white mocha pot de crème, chocolate caramel napoleon, chocolate almonds and bittersweet sorbet, artfully arranged for two at $14. Takeout is offered by Diningin.com.
Trish Deitemyer is a freelance writer living in Philly. She covers Food & Drink and has been writing since 1986. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.