The Best Restaurants in 15 International Districts Across the US
February 23, 2016
From Chinatowns to Little Havana, these neighborhoods are must-visits
The Best Restaurants in 15 International Districts Across the US
In many ways, international districts — the Chinatowns, Little Italys, and the like — are what make cities cities. They give cities character, and allow visitors and locals alike to immerse themselves in another culture without ever leaving America. One of the best ways to experience another culture? Eating the food, obviously! These are the best restaurants in 15 international districts across America.
Flushing, New York: Chinatown: Fu Ran
Yelp / Kevin C
This Flushing institution (previously called Fu Run) is dedicated to the cuisine of China’s northeastern Dongbei region, which is heavy on the flatbreads, doughy dumplings, and lamb, which happens to be Fu Ran’s main claim to fame: the Muslim lamb chop. This now-legendary dish starts with a big rack of lamb ribs that are braised until they’re falling apart, battered and fried, and completely doused in a mixture of sesame seeds, cumin, and chile flakes. It’s plated tableside with much fanfare, and just might be the single best Chinese dish in New York City.
Manhattan, New York: Chinatown: Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
Yelp / Andie L
You haven’t truly experienced Chinese noodles until you’ve had them at Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, located on tiny, crooked Doyers Street. Offering Chinatown’s best noodles, this restaurant has a noodle for everyone: thin hand pulled noodles, thick and frilly knife-peeled noodles (made by shaving strands from a dough log over boiling water), thick rice noodles, and skinny rice noodles, and they’re all flawless. You can get them in soup or pan-fried and with endless toppings, but no matter what route you take, the odds of choosing poorly are slim to none.
Manhattan, New York: Koreatown: Shilla
Barbecue is a hallmark of Korean cuisine, and Shilla, located in the heart of Manhattan’s Koreatown on West 32nd Street, is serving some of the best Korean barbecue around. Every table has a built-in grill, and piles of raw meat including short rib, duck, beef brisket, prime rib, and pork belly are delivered to the table along with plenty of condiments. Complement your meal with a variety of soups, hot pots, and rice bowls, and you’re in for a real treat.
Bronx, New York: Little Italy: Zero Otto Nove
For many New Yorkers, Arthur Avenue is a storied area of the Bronx where, supposedly, it’s possible to find the "authentic" Italian food no longer available at the Chinatown-encroached tourist traps of Little Italy. Whether or not you believe that the Italian Shangri-La matches the perception, Salerno native chef Roberto Paciullo is one of the driving forces behind this legend. The success of his first spot, Roberto’s, led to the pizzeria Zero Otto Nove ("0-8-9"), which was named for Salerno’s area code (Salerno being the port city about a 45-minute drive south of Naples), which has a second location in New York’s Flatiron District and a third in Armonk. The Neapolitan wood-fired pies cook under 900-degree heat for about 45 seconds, and they are exemplary. We can vouch for almost the entire menu, which includes pies with gorgonzola and tomatoes; sliced potatoes and sausage; and the more adventurous Cirilo, which features butternut squash purée and cream of truffles. But start off with the Margherita, which features a tangy, balanced sauce and a crust that’s light and a little chewy — far too good to leave behind as pizza bones.
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn: Little Odessa: Tatiana
Walk north along the beach from Coney Island and you’ll soon find yourself in Brighton Beach, a neighborhood that’s been dubbed Little Odessa due to its large Russian population. While there are plenty of small restaurants there serving excellent house-made renditions of classic Russian fare like pelmeni and vareniki, Tatiana offers a truly unique (and truly Russian) experience. Relax on the outdoor boardwalk seating with a plate of salmon tartare with red caviar by day, and on weekend nights the restaurant gives way to a rollicking Las Vegas-style floor show, complete with 20 cast members, a 12-piece band, and bottles of vodka on every table. But don’t let that distract you from the food, with standout dishes including chicken Kiev, beef Stroganoff, smoked sausage with cabbage salad, Ukrainian borscht, and whole fried tilapia.
Los Angeles: Thai Town: Jitlada
Yelp / A.R. P.
Jitlada, a storefront restaurant in Thai Town, has been an institution of the Los Angeles dining scene for decades, but you could argue that it gained critical mass after critic Jonathan Gold highlighted it in 2007. While it has always been known for doing all the standard Thai dishes very well, you have to credit southern Thai chef Suthiporn Sungkamee (“Tui”) and his sister Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong for introducing southern Thai specialties that, until a few years ago, could be found nowhere else in America. Try the kua kling (dry curry beef), khao yam (Songkhia-style rice salad tossed with dried shrimp, toasted coconut, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and a sweet sauce), and whatever else Jazz recommends.
Washington: Little Ethiopia: Dukem
Yelp / Molly M
Over the past decade or so, Ethiopian immigrants have flooded into Washington, giving it the largest Ethiopian population in North America, about 200,000. Begin your visit to the heart of D.C.’s Little Ethiopia at Dukem, where you can watch a 30-minute long coffee ceremony (servers roast, grind, and brew the beans right in front of you) and follow it up with a traditional Ethiopian platter of various stews served atop fresh injera, a slightly sour flatbread made with a grain called teff.
Las Vegas: Chinatown: Emperor’s Garden
Yelp / Luke L
America’s newest Chinatown can be found in Las Vegas, where a square (appropriately named Chinatown Square) is framed by a giant arch and surrounded on all sides with Asian shops and restaurants. Park yourself at the spacious Emperor’s Garden and enjoy authentic Szechuan and Mandarin dishes including pan-fried noodles, thread bread, whole fish in Hunan sauce, sizzling beef with scallops, and tangerine chicken. The full bar is nice, too.
Jersey City, NJ: India Square: Rasoi
Yelp / Liz D
A two block stretch of Newark Avenue in Jersey City is home to more than 13,000 Indians, the highest concentration of Indians anywhere in America, so it’s safe to assume that the food in this neighborhood is spectacular. We suggest you visit Rasoi for its wide variety of Northern Indian specialties including chicken tikka masala, chickpea samosas, tandoori roti, and homemade paneer makhni. Visit during lunchtime hours and you’ll be treated to a buffet fit for a maharaja.
Los Angeles: Persian Square: Flame
Yelp / Dominique M
The largest population of Persians outside of Iran can be found in Los Angeles, which is occasionally called “Tehrangeles,” especially on Westwood Boulevard. Kebabs are the main culinary draw, and you’ll find the best at Flame. Chicken, spiced ground beef, marinated filet mignon, and rack of lamb kebabs are all spectacular, but if you have any room left in your stomach don’t miss the braised lamb shank.
North End, Boston, Mass.: Little Italy: Regina Pizzeria
It may now sport nearly 20 locations, but the original Regina Pizzeria has been a local hot spot since 1926, when it first opened in the North End of Boston. The pizzas are made from dough with an 80-year-old family recipe, sauce, whole-milk mozzarella, and natural toppings with no preservatives or additives, and all cooked in a brick oven.
They offer a variety of nearly 20 different pies, some made in a more traditional manner, while others, like the St. Anthony’s pizza with Regina sausage, sausage links, roasted peppers, and garlic sauce, are unique.
Miami: Little Havana: Versailles
After Castro rose to power, thousands of Cubans fled to Miami and set up a thriving neighborhood that has a culture all its own. Centered around Southwest Eighth Street (re-christened Calle Ocho), it’s home to an annual festival that brings more than 1 million celebrants as well as some legendary restaurants. While you don’t want to go home without trying a Frita Cubana (a burger topped with fried potato strings, a true regional specialty) at El Rey de las Fritas or El Mago de las Fritas, if you can only visit one restaurant there, make it Versailles, in business since 1971. Its Cuban sandwiches, ropa vieja, grilled Palomilla steak, and fried pork chunks are legendary.
Baltimore: Greektown: Samos
Yelp / Joe G
Southeast Baltimore is home to a massive Greek population, and is quite possibly the best neighborhood in the country for those in search of great Greek food. If you want to sample the best of what the neighborhood has to offer, head to Samos and order The Tour of Samos for the table; it comes with Greek salad, tzatziki and pita, fried calamari, spinach pie, chicken souvlaki, dolmades, lamb chops, garlic shrimp, gyro meat, and roasted potatoes, and it’s a steal at $24 per person.
Chicago: Little Poland: Smak-Tak!
Chicago has more than 1 million Polish residents and several neighborhoods you can call Little Poland, but if you’re going to explore one make it Jefferson Park. Home of the annual Taste of Polonia Festival, it also has a huge amount of traditional Polish restaurants. The most popular is probably Smak-Tak! (which also has a great name). For more than 10 years, this cozy and homey restaurant has been serving Polish specialties like pierogis, stuffed cabbage, grilled sausages, and blintzes to locals and tourists alike.
San Francisco: Chinatown: House of Nanking
Perhaps America’s most famous ethnic neighborhood, San Francisco’s Chinatown is loaded with history as well as great restaurants. And no Chinatown restaurant is more well-known than House of Nanking, which commands lines out the door on a daily basis. While there’s a menu, there’s really no reason to use it: Just tell your server what type of food you’re in the mood for and he or she will bring plate after plate to your table, from crazy-good sesame chicken to five-spice duck, fried calamari, and glazed eggplant. Yes, it’s touristy, but put your trust in the hands of chef Peter Fang, who’s been at the helm since 1988, and you’ll be rewarded.