City Cast

Get To Know Chinatown

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on January 18   |   Updated on June 19
Chinatown gate in downtown D.C. (Christian Kober/Getty Images)

Chinatown gate in downtown D.C. (Christian Kober/Getty Images)

For all its traditional iconography, D.C.’s Chinatown doesn’t feel all that … well, Chinese. Large traditional signs hover above what’s actually a CHOPT or HipCityVeg.

Chinatown was established in the 1930s after Chinese immigrants were forcibly removed from their community along Pennsylvania Ave. At its peak, over 1,000 Chinese residents lived there.

But in the 90s, Mayor Marion Barry started constructing a giant sports arena and bought out many of Chinatown's property owners. Many residents took the money and moved to suburbs like Rockville, taking most of the authentic Chinese food and groceries with them. Today, there are fewer than 300 Chinese residents in Chinatown.

Despite its tumultuous history, it still has some gems that are worth checking out.

What to do:
Catch a show or a game at Capital One Arena, peruse the National Portrait Gallery, or, my favorite, belt out Shania at Wok and Roll Karaoke.

Where to drink:
You can’t beat the Crimson rooftop for views in the summer. Otherwise, Denson’s Liquor Bar is a prohibition-style speakeasy with great oysters and smoky drinks.

Where to eat:
Katsuya Fukushima (the chef behind DAIKAIYA) told us he recommends New Big Wong, where you can still find crispy duck, salt and pepper frog, and other classics. If you want something a bit more upscale, DAIKAIYA itself is your best bet.

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