Chinatown: an affordable, charming cultural hub


Lucas Paredes

The Cermal-Chinatown Red Line stop is located roughly 20 minutes from the Fullerton stop.

At the intersection of Cermak and Wentworth, a giant paifang transports visitors from the busy lakeside metro of Chicago to a more eastern Asian neighborhood, one where aromatic scents fill the air and colorful architecture houses many different restaurants and stores.

Located 20 minutes south of the Fullerton L stop, nestled on the edge of the South Loop Area, Chicago’s Chinatown remains a cultural enclave for both residents and tourists who wish to enjoy East Asian culture. 

Among the many restaurants, stores, parks and art, Chinatown has a lot to offer to everyone. 

Approximately 53,000 residents live in the Chinatown neighborhood. (Lucas Paredes)

“I love living in Chinatown, I can always find something new to do around here,” said Chinatown resident Josephine DiMeglio. “The only downfall is that the whole neighborhood is always busy, even during the weekdays. For people new to Chinatown, I’d suggest going to Chiu Quon Bakery and Strings Ramen, both good in this chilly weather.”

DiMeglio had lived in Lakeview and River North before living in Chinatown but cites it as her favorite neighborhood to live in so far. 

“Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Chinatown is just walk around,”  DiMeglio said. “Just walking around admiring the neighborhood’s beauty, maybe grab a bite to eat somewhere I haven’t tried. It’s just a nice breath of fresh air to not be somewhere so stale and Midwestern.”

Gift shops doubling as home goods stores, mom and pop shops, museums and novelty stores that sell tons of cute plushies are all within walking distance in Chinatown. Every day, the neighborhood is bustling with business, people dropping by for a quick bite or tourists admiring the looming concrete buildings while walking down Wentworth. 

Among the many stores available in the area, both Miniso and EK Houseware & Gifts receive consistent business with their focus on selling aesthetically pleasing and cute items such as plushies, figurines and a variety of home goods. Both stores add a modern twist to home good items.  

Restaurants like Joy Yee, Dolo and Veggie House follow this trend as well, adding modern twists to classic Chinese dishes. 

Restaurants like the Triple Crown Restaurant, Pho Café and Xi’an Cuisine remain staples of the neighborhood, providing a consistent output of classic Asian dishes such as pho and northern Chinese flatbreads.  

“I always go to Veggie House when I’m visiting Chinatown, their vegetarian-only food is too good to pass up on,” said Columbia student Hannah Banwell. “Then, I usually just grab some boba and walk around. There are a couple of nice parks around here with some cool scenery and views. When I’m here with my friends we usually go look at plushies or go to the K-Pop store.” 

The Pui Tak Center building on Wentworth highlights Chinatown’s unique style of architecture. (Lucas Paredes)

Among the parks in the Chinatown neighborhood, Ping Tom Memorial Park is one of the most well known in the area. Just a short walk from Cermak and Wentworth, Ping Tom Memorial Park is a transformed railyard that is right along the Chicago River. It features a playground, Chinese landscape design elements, plenty of open green area and a view of the Chicago skyline. Combined with the old rail yard relics that remain around the park, this park is one of the most beautiful in Chicago. 

“There is a lot to do at Chicago’s Chinatown,” said DePaul International Student Saeed Almheri. “It is a big part of Chicago and there is always something for everyone. Authentic diners, delicious boba tea, supermarkets, traditional medicine etc. I like to think of it as a cool outdoor mall, and I usually hang out with my friends there. Even just walking around is pretty fun.” 

Chinatown remains extremely accessible through both the red and orange line trains and buses despite seeming far when you live out west or north of the loop. Visiting Chinatown remains a great cultural experience that is available to everyone. There is a lot to do if you are willing to spend some money, if not, it’s a great place to walk around and enjoy the sights.