4 Lesser-Known U.S. Chinatowns With Incredible Food and Culture

These Asian neighborhoods are filled with tasty eats, thriving communities, and so much American history.

Las Vegas Chinatown Plaza Gate at Twilight

There are approximately 50 Chinatowns across the United States, including Las Vegas’s Chinatown.

Photo by SnapASkyline/Shutterstock

Across the United States, Chinatowns are known as rich and bustling communities. The country’s oldest, in San Francisco, dates back to 1850; the one in Flushing, Queens, home to the largest number of Chinese immigrants in New York City. The neighborhoods have become tourist hot spots for their reputation of tasty cheap eats and thrifty shops.

These enclaves are also essential cultural hubs, which grew out of the nation’s dark discriminatory history. Some were founded in the mid-1800s, when Chinese immigrants were lured by “gold mountain” fortunes and instead faced racist policies—most notably through the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first significant law to restrict immigration, which remained in place until 1943. As a matter of survival, Asian immigrants often banded together into communities that grew into Chinatowns.

In more recent years, the hardships have come from a wave of anti-Asian hate, reignited during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the midst of challenges, Chinatowns are doubling down on pride and heralding their histories.

The Chinatowns in New York City and San Francisco are known by many, but there are several lesser-known Chinatowns across the country that embrace diversity as part of a new wave of distinctly Asian American identity.

Here are four Chinatowns with a unique take on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) culture.

Las Vegas

Just on the other side of the Interstate-15 in Las Vegas is a different kind of strip that’s just as enticing. Running along Spring Mountain Road for three miles to Rainbow Boulevard, perpendicular to Las Vegas Boulevard, is the city’s Chinatown, which tallies more than 150 restaurants, 40 massage spas and six Asian supermarkets.

With a few Asian businesses already in the area, a group of Chinese business owners and investors actively created the Nevada neighborhood in the 1990s to serve the growing population. Centered around strip malls and shopping centers, Vegas’s Chinatown is quickly becoming the place to indulge in authentic Asian food.

For Erica Bell, the general manager of Double Zero Pie & Pub located at the Chinatown shopping area Center at Spring Mountain, it’s all about the diverse eats “showcasing many different Asian cuisines from new age to traditional with some other cuisines peppered in, which become surprises and delights.”

Where to go in Las Vegas’s Chinatown

Bell’s all-time favorite restaurant is China Mama, known for its homemade dumplings made by a woman nicknamed “Turbo” for her swift skills (as of April 2024, the restaurant is temporarily closed due to a fire). While Bell’s top choice is the crispy beef, she’s never gone wrong with any of the dumplings. She also frequents Viet Noodle Bar, which is “always busy because the wait is never too long.” The broth here is consistently on par—plus, the restaurant’s build-your-own spring rolls option is a fun activity for friends and family.

For drinks, Bell recommends Golden Tiki, a themed bar that feels like a “Pirates of the Caribbean movie set where you can drink a Grog [cocktail], something on fire, or kick back with some Dole Whip and feel like you’re at Disneyland.” Bell’s other picks include Somi Somi to chill out with soft-serve–filled taiyaki and Shang Artisan Noodles to crank up the heat with spicy beef noodles and spicy wontons.


With San Francisco’s Chinatown just across the Bay, Oakland’s often falls into the shadow. But its roots also run back to the Gold Rush days in the 1850s. During the big city’s 1906 earthquake and fire, thousands of the survivors crossed over and made the East Bay enclave their home.

Calling itself more of a “working Chinatown” these days since it’s less of a tourist destination and more of a thriving neighborhood of 3,425 residents, Oakland’s enclave is home to 45 restaurants and nine tea shops. You can also catch seniors practicing tai chi and qigong at Madison Park in the mornings, watch families pass by Pacific Renaissance Plaza, or learn more about the area at Oakland Asian Cultural Center.

Where to go in Oakland’s Chinatown

“Oakland Chinatown has been blessed with the best weather in the country, with the convenience of reliable public transportation, and plenty of parking,” Carl Chan, president of Oakland’s Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, says. “We carry the best and most exotic produce and seafood, which you may never find anywhere else.”

Chan recommends visitors head to Peony Seafood to enjoy dim sum at lunch or seafood at dinner, as well as to Lounge Chinatown into the wee hours for “delectable” Taiwanese night market food.

A couple of Chan’s other recommendations include Oakland Fortune Factory on 12th Street and a stop at any of the many boba tea shops in town.

People shopping for groceries in front of a red-brick building.

Established in the 19th century, Honolulu’s Chinatown is one of the oldest in the country.

Photo by Theodore Trimmer/Shutterstock


The capital city’s Chinatown is also its artsiest and most historic district. The neighborhood is rooted in the mid–19th century when Chinese workers were recruited to work on sugar plantations in the then Kingdom of Hawai’i. Most of the buildings seen today date to about 1900, following a major fire that destroyed the area.

Unlike other Chinatowns, this one is right in the center of town, just about 15 minutes west of Waikiki. Here, dim sum restaurants and herb spots mix with lei makers, antique dealers, and markets such as Maunakea Marketplace or the O’ahu Market, and even the Japanese Izumo Taishakyo Mission Shrine and Chinese Kuan Yin Temple.

“I love how Honolulu’s Chinatown displays the diversity and genuine aloha that you can only experience in Hawai‘i,” Kaua‘i-born Jason Peel, chef at Nami Kaze, says. “The mix of cultures and flavors make Chinatown a mixed-plate shopping center for locals and visitors.”

Where to go in Honolulu’s Chinatown

Peel recommends travelers head to Fête, a farm-to-table restaurant serving a Hawaiian spin on dishes, like its vitello tonnato, made with Hawai’i island roast veal and i’a ahi belly aioli and poi mochi doughnuts with Manoa Chocolate rum sauce. He also suggests EP Bar, a hip watering hole where the vinyl collection is as varied as its drinks.


Compared to the deep-rooted history in most of the United States’ other Chinatowns, Houston’s is relatively young. While the first Chinese immigrants were recorded in 1870, Houston’s Chinatown sprung up from an area of Bellaire roughly four decades ago, sprawling six square miles southwest of the city.

The names Chinatown and Asiatown are used interchangeably—for good reason. “Houston’s Chinatown is very much unique, as we have such a wide range of ethnic groups represented in our Chinatown,” says Kevin Lee, Malaysian restaurant Phat Eatery‘s co-director of operations. He explains that Vietnamese restaurants mostly are west of Beltway 8, while those to the east tend to be Chinese. The community has expanded into another Chinatown area referred to as Katy Asian Town, about 20 miles west, where Phat Eatery was opened in 2018 by the late James Beard semifinalist Alex Au-Yeung.

Where to go in Houston’s Chinatown

Lee’s personal favorite Chinatown spot is San Dong Noodle & Dumpling House. “Their handmade dumplings and the beef noodle soup always hit the spot,” he says, adding that it’s “affordable” and that he and his family “never leave here hungry.” Another top choice: The Chinese-Vietnamese Tan Tan Restaurant, where he goes for House Special Rice Cake, better known as A01, and Phuc Kien Noodles with Shrimp Cake, or E05.

Other popular spots include Kim Son, with a menu based on the 250 recipes chef Kim Su Tran La memorized when she escaped Vietnam in 1980; Sinh Sinh for the Peking duck; and Tofu Village for Korean tofu soup. Shoppers congregate around the Harwin Drive shopping district as well as at Hong Kong City Mall, with more than 100 shops, while visitors can get a taste of Vietnamese Buddhist culture at Teo Chew Temple. For the best understanding of the neighborhood, hop on a bus or take a walking tour with Houston Asiatown Tours.

With two decades of experience, travel and pop culture journalist Rachel Chang is an Afar, Condé Nast Traveler, and Travel + Leisure contributor. The solo travel advocate is a reluctant runner (but four-time marathoner) and dumplings addict.
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