5 Must Do Things in Chinatown

Dun Huang Plaza | Photo: Henry Han

In our series of Must Do Things Around Greater Houston, we take look at Houston’s vast array of neighborhoods to bring you five fun, tasty, and enticing reasons you should give each a visit. 

As one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, it’s no surprise that Houston’s Chinatown is pretty large. Though the neighborhood was first established on the east side of Downtown, the cultural epicenter made its way to Southwest Houston in the 1980s and ’90s. This expansive new ‘hood, also referred to as Asiatown, is home to a thriving community, filled with a density of shops, restaurants, and these awesome things to do.

Note: For the purposes of this list, Chinatown is defined as the area bounded by Hillcroft to the east, South Dairy Ashford to the west, the Westpark Tollway to the north and Beechnut to the south. It includes the neighboring areas covering Greater Sharpstown as well as Alief.

5 Must Do Things in Chinatown

  1. Explore the globe via your stomach – It’s safe to say there is no shortage of amazingly good, authentic spots to eat in Chinatown. Start by doing some dim sum at cult favorites like Fung’s Kitchen, where you’ll find the colossal dining room packed with hungry patrons ready to pick off a steady stream of Hong Kong-style eats, or Golden Dim Sum, which is just as cheap as it is tasty. Get Peking duck with traditional scallion pancakes at Peking Cuisine (call ahead), or get it crispy-skinned with a side of steamed buns at Arco Seafood. Slurp xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings, at Fu Fu Café and bone marrow pho at Pho Binh. For fiery Malaysian, look no further than Banana Leaf and Mamak. Don’t miss tonkotsu ramen at Tiger Den; a funky Korean soju experience at Ohn Korean Eatery; water boiled fish and dan dan noodles at Mala Sichuan; beef seven ways at Saigon Pagaloc; homestyle masala at London Sizzler; and firecracker wings made with a 10-spice Pakistani blend at Bismillah Cafe. Or screw it all and play strip mall roulette, pulling into the nearest one, choosing an eatery and seeing if you find a hidden gem on your own. Whatever you do, don’t forget to hit the sweet spot with Taiwanese ribbon ice at Nu Café, Thai-style rolled ice cream at Class 502, Instagram-worthy soft serve at Aussie import Aqua S, and fun-shaped cakes, cookies and desserts at Six Ping Bakery and 85C Bakery Café.
  2. Sing your heart out at Yes KTV – Not only does this upscale karaoke bar have private rooms that you can rent for parties and over 10,000 songs in English in addition to songs in Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai – it’s also a BYOB karaoke club, making it an A+ (or an eighth octave C) in our books. The biggest room can fit up to 24 people, with smaller rooms available for groups of eight or less. Yes KTV also rocks non-alcoholic beverages and Chinese food for sale at the bar. Click here for directions.
  3. Hit the shops – For grocery shopping, skip the Asian aisle at your neighborhood grocery store in lieu of stores. There’s Super H Mart, where you can hit the hot food counter for Korean and Chinese specialties, find every kind of noodle imaginable, and peruse one of the best produce sections around. Right off the border of Beechnut, try Viet Hoa International Foods, which boasts a choice butcher and seafood counter. At the Hong Kong City Mall, shop for the extensive Hong Kong Food Market, but don’t forget to also pop into the array of shops and excellent food court, where you’ll find everything from bubble tea to banh bao. Bargain hunters cannot miss Harwin Drive, where the no-frills discount shops selling jewelry, bags, perfume, and electronics are seemingly endless (so are the deals to be made).
  4. Treat yourself to a reflexology massage – Drive down Bellaire Boulevard and you’ll start noticing a trend: there are a plethora of reflexology joints lined up and calling your name. Most offer incredible service and will only run you around $20 for a full hour foot massage, with some even offering full body massages for anywhere between $40 to $60. Try Oasis Massage & Salon, Lucky Feet, and Soul Inn Reflexology, for starters.
  5. Try one of the city’s Seven Wonders (hint: it’s crawfish) – Hopefully, you’ve indulged in the joys of a Cajun crawfish boil by now (you do live in Houston, right?). But if you haven’t tried boldly-spiced Asian-Cajun-style crawfish, you aren’t doing Houston right. The garlic-buttery Vietnamese variety can be had with crawfish eggrolls at Crawfish Cafe or alongside hunks of juice-mopping banh mi (and some stir-fried crabs while you’re at it) at the fan favorite Crawfish & Noodles. To get a spicy Cajun boil tossed with aromatics and everything but the kitchen sink, head to cool kid Cajun Kitchen. While of course, the crawfish are best in season, a ton of places will allow you to get your mudbug fix year round.
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Brooke Viggiano
Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .