Dumplings. Dim Sum. Ramen. Bubble Tea. You name it, you can find it in Boston’s Chinatown.
Home not only to Chinese food of every region but East Asian and Southeast Asian food of all kinds, Boston’s Chinatown is a veritable Mecca for any food lover out there.
If you’re spending any time at all, you’re not going to want to miss heading to the area for a meal – or more!
Boston’s Chinatown was actually our very first stop once we got off the plane for a little DIY Boston Chinatown food tour – and it didn’t disappoint.
Keep reading for advice on how to take your own DIY food tour of Boston’s Chinatown!
Stops on This DIY Boston Chinatown Food Tour
This DIY Boston Chinatown Food tour is perfect for a long lunch that leaves you extremely stuffed. During the tour, you’ll cover:
- Ramen at WakuWaku
- Bubble Tea at Tea-Do
- Dessert at the Corner Cafe Bakery
At the end, I’ll also recommend a few other places to eat in Boston’s Chinatown that we didn’t get a chance to try.
But First… A Quick History of Boston’s Chinatown
Located just a few steps from Boston Common, Boston’s Chinatown is a hub of East Asian and Southeast Asian cultural life for all of New England.
Anglo-Bostonians first settled the area before it became less desirable due to railroad construction. From then on out, it was a popular neighborhood for immigrants who came to take advantage of the area’s low housing costs and job opportunities. Irish, Jewish, Italian, Lebanese, and Chinese immigrants all replaced each other one after the other.
The first Chinese residents were brought from California as strikebreakers of the North Adams Strike. Bringing in strikebreakers led to workers’ protests across the country and the eventual passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
When Congress finally abolished the Exclusion Act in 1943, the area saw a considerable increase in Chinese Immigration to the neighborhood.
In the late 1900s, the area bordered Boston’s Red Light District and was known for high crime rates. These days, though, the crime rates have fallen significantly, and it’s perfectly safe to spend some time there.
As the center of Asian-American life in New England, you can find many Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese restaurants and markets in the neighborhood. This DIY Boston Chinatown food tour will take you through just a few of the neighborhood’s many highlights!
How to Get to Boston Chinatown
The Boston Chinatown subway station is on the Orange Line. South Station is also nearby. Check out this guide to the MBTA Subway system for everything you need to know about taking the subway in Boston!
Chinatown is within walking distance of Boston Common and the rest of the downtown Boston area.
Your DIY Boston Chinatown Food Tour Itinerary
The Paifang Gate
Before you settle in to eat your way through Boston’s Chinatown, make a quick stop at the Paifang Gate.
This traditional architectural gateway is located at the intersection of Beach Street and Surface Road and was gifted to the city in 1982 by the Taiwanese government.
There are two foo lions on either side of the gate, and the gate is engraved with two different writings in Chinese:
- Tian Xia Wei Gong, a saying attributed to Sun Yat-sen that translates as “everything under the sky is for the people”
- Li Yi Lian Chi, the four societal bonds of propriety, justice, integrity, and honor
The Paifang Gate is a popular tourist spot and an excellent place for some pictures!
To the side of the gate, you’ll also spot the Mary Soo Hoo Park, where older men sit playing chess, and Rose Kennedy Greenway.
Chinatown Food Tour Stop #1: WakuWaku
WakuWaku is a trendy Ramen and Sake restaurant right down the street from the Paifang Gate. It’s the perfect place to sit down for some lunch at the start of your DIY Boston Chinatown food tour!
This spot definitely isn’t your more traditional Chinatown restaurant, but we absolutely loved the vibe – and the food was just about the best thing we’ve ever eaten.
What to Eat
We got the Miso Tonkatsu Ramen (original miso-based pork broth) and the Tonkatsu Ramen (black garlic-flavored pork broth) and would highly recommend both of them, but honestly, you can’t go wrong ordering any of the ramens on their menus.
The broths, in particular, were INCREDIBLE. Like, even if you’re not the kind of person who drinks leftover broth, you’ll be drinking the leftover broth here.
Samurai Duck Buns
As our appetizer, we also ordered the Samurai Duck Buns. They were perfectly fluffy buns filled with duck, veggies, and delicious sauce. The singular strawberry on top was the perfect offset to the slightly spicy sauce.
Other potentially delicious things on the menu include spicy wings, homemade kimchi, gyoza, Japanese fried oyster, and mochi ice cream.
Address: 2 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111
Hours: 11:30 AM – 12 AM, daily
Chinatown Food Tour Stop #2: Tea-Do
Tea-Do calls themselves a “Contemporary Tea House,” and they really are a pilgrimage site for all things bubble tea. It’s a must-stop for your DIY Boston Chinatown food tour!
Tea-Do is a small chain with origins in Philadelphia, but it’s a great place to get your bubble tea fix no matter what. I was particularly excited to see that they have a location near my new adopted hometown in the Washington, D.C. suburbs as well.
Be prepared for a wait as it’s a popular spot!
What to Drink
Almond Jasmine Milk Tea
This classic bubble tea features almond, jasmine tea, and tapioca pearls.
I went for one of the Tea-Do Specialties, First Love, which features red guava, passionfruit, and aloe jelly. It was the perfect refresher on a warm fall day.
Other delicious-looking teas on the menu include Tiger Milk Tea & Brown Sugar Tiger Milk Tea, Zen’s Awakening (specialty coffee smoothie, chocolate, condensed milk), Honey Jazz (honey, jasmine, lemon, aloe jelly), and the Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk.
Tea-Do also serves onigiri (rice balls) and takoyaki (octopus balls) if you’re still feeling a bit peckish after ramen.
Address: 8 Tyler Street, Boston, MA 02111
Hours: 10:30AM – 10:00PM Sunday – Thursday, 10:30AM – 11:00PM Friday – Saturday
Chinatown Food Tour Stop #3: Corner Cafe Bakery
The Corner Cafe Bakery is located on the corner of Beech Street and Harrison Avenue, literally right around the corner from your first two stops.
This little corner bakery is home to cases upon cases of delicious-looking cakes – you’ll honestly be hard-pressed to find something that doesn’t look delicious. I recommend choosing out a few to sample!
There isn’t any seating in the bakery, so I recommend taking your goodies for the short walk over to Boston Common if it’s a nice day. This is what we did, and it was the ideal mini picnic spot.
If you’re short on time, you could also cut out Tea-Do from your itinerary and grab your bubble tea here.
What to Eat
Mango Mousse Cake
This fluffy mousse ball of deliciousness is genuinely one of the softest, sweetest, tastiest cakes I’ve ever eaten. The best way is just to bite into the thing – no utensils needed!
Red Bean Moon Cake
For a more traditional treat, try a moon cake – especially if you’re in Boston in the fall, as they’re traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. We went for the red bean filling, and it was delicious.
Other delicious-looking cakes include egg tart, pineapple bun, strawberry mousse cake, and dark chocolate mousse with white chocolate cream.
Address: 62 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02111
Hours: 6:30 AM – 9:30 PM, daily
Other Places to Eat in Chinatown
Want to add a few more stops to your DIY Boston Chinatown Food Tour? Here are some more restaurants that have great reviews but we didn’t personally have the chance to try out:
China Pearl Restaurant – for traditional Chinese fare and dim sum wheeled around on carts
Bubor Cha Cha – for more dim sum
Gourmet Dumpling House – for dumplings, obviously
Clay Pot Cafe – a no-frills spot with what’s supposed to be some of the best clay pot comfort food in Boston
Hong Kong Eatery – specializes in Cantonese-style barbecue and dumpling soup noodles
Shojo – modern Asian fusion restaurant
Pho Pasteur – for pho and all kinds of Vietnamese cuisine
Final Tips for Your DIY Boston Chinatown Food Tour
Before you go, here are a few quick tips for your DIY Boston Chinatown food tour!
- Bring cash – not all places accept cards!
- Come with an empty stomach – you’ll be eating well
- When in doubt, stop in wherever looks good – you can’t go wrong
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Are you ready to eat till you drop? Which stop on this Boston Chinatown food tour are you most excited for? Drop your answer in the comments below!