Let me start off with a confession: I have lived in Philadelphia for two and a half years, and until earlier this month, had never stepped foot in Chinatown. That’s right, I said it. Sure – I was intrigued by the promises of bubble tea and supermarkets filled with cute little odds & ends I shouldn’t be buying, but I was just, so . . . intimidated. Where would I go? How would I know where to eat? Would I be able to navigate by myself? Would I be in the way?
With the nearing start of Chinese New Year (this Friday!), I thought it was about time to expand my horizons and venture to the other side of the arch. I enlisted the help of Philly’s resident Chinatown expert, Albert Lee, to host our “#ChinatownUncensored” tour, grabbed my two best girlfriends, and off we went!
I invite you to come along with with us on our tour. First stop . . .
Chinatown Arch (10th & Arch Streets)
We met up with Al at the most iconic spot in Chinatown, the arch. This structure was the first authentic Chinese gate built outside of China in 1984. Those four letters on the gate read, conveniently, “Philadelphia Chinatown.” If you’d like to take a photo with the gate, I recommend doing it from farther up 10th Street & getting the other side – traffic seems to always be moving on this side.
At the gate, we also got our first glimpse of these little street designs. They mean prosperity, and are all over the town’s sidewalks.
KC’s Pastries (109 North 10th Street)
After learning all about the gate, we headed down the street for our first taste of some Chinese treats. This pastry shop had so many options to choose from, it was so hard to decide. If you’re craving coffee, now’s the time to grab a cup – coffee is only sold in bakeries, not restaurants, around here.
I opted for this little 90 cent red bean sesame ball. I happen to love red bean, but even my friend Colleen, who thought she was eating chocolate, enjoyed it. 😉
Gyration Boutique (125 North 11th Street)
Next, we swung over to a new local consignment shop and one of Chinatown’s only retail stores. The boutique does not sell plus size or maternity clothes, but the store was beautiful and, according to Al, a very welcomed addition to the area.
Asia Supermarket (143 North 11th Street)
I was possibly the most excited for our stop in this Asian supermarket. If you’re looking for wall-to-wall rice, ramen & tea, plus some other colorful goodies at a great price, you’ve found your happy place.
This tea caught my eye – maybe I’ll be back for some luck in my love life in the form of tea.
After about an hour and a half of exploring, our day was off to a great start!
A big thank you to Al for showing us all of the places to be in Chinatown. Stop back later this week for part two of our day (bubble tea, dim sum & more shopping, of course)! If this made you crave some exploring yourself, you can get all the details on Philadelphia’s Chinese New Year celebration plus more from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.