Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Although this is my second article about Philly Chinatown (but let’s be real, I could write so many articles about this place), this week we will be talking about small eats, desserts, and bubble tea in the neighborhood. These are perfect places to pick up a snack to take back to Swat, relax at when you’re waiting for your train, or stop by after dinner.
Check out these places if you’re looking to satisfy your craving for…
Bubble Tea (or Boba, Pearl Drink, etc.)
Tea Dó – Where All the Cool Kids Go
You have probably passed by this bubble tea shop on 10th street before, probably seeing a bunch of high school kids hanging around, drinking boba and being all cool. My friends know I refer to this place as where all the cool Asian kids hang out because when I was younger, I secretly wished I had a place that served boba and had Jenga sets (yes, they have Jenga) for customers until 12 AM on Friday and 1 AM on Saturday. But what is cooler than the kids at this place are the drinks and atmosphere. Probably one of the most popular boba places in Chinatown, Tea Dó provides a great selection of flavors such as Japanese Green Tea, Taro, and Thai Ice Tea (probably my favorite). In addition, they offer other dessert drinks such as Zen’s Awakening (Specialty Coffee, Chocolate, Condensed Milk) and snacks such as Edamame and Gyoza. So come to Tea Dó, drink the boba, and hang with the cool kids* of Chinatown.
* Mind you, if you try to hangout with the cool kids, they will probably be from the ages of 14-16 and find you creepy. Maybe not so cool now that you are a college student.
TeaTalk – Perfect Tea Cafe for Studying and Dates
While Tea Dó may look like the King of Boba in Philly Chinatown, you definitely have not tried TeaTalk, located further down 10th Street where Spring Street intersects. Although many people don’t know this, TeaTalk was the original bubble tea café located in Chinatown. While TeaTalk is not as decorated or “modern” as Tea Dó, their certain flavors of their bubble tea, such as Taro, are better than those at Tea Dó. In addition, TeaTalk provides a quieter atmosphere to do homework or catch up with old friends. Be sure to check our their Popping Bubbles that explode with flavor in your drink!
Desserts and Snacks
St. Honore Pastries – The Best Egg Tarts in Chinatown
Need your Hong Kong-style egg tart fix? St. Honore Pastries have possibly the best egg tarts in all of Chinatown. Giving credit where credit is due, this statement was from two 2012 Swatties who tried every Chinatown bakery’s egg tarts. While I cannot say I have tried every egg tart in all of the Chinatown bakeries, I think over the past 20 years, I definitely have tried most of the Chinatown bakeries’ egg tarts and I have to agree with them. The egg tarts here have a delicious flakey outside that melts in your mouth. Besides the egg tarts, other pastries offered at this bakery are great, although the selection is a bit limited.
Heung Fa Chun Sweet House – For your Soymilk fix
When I was younger, my mom would always drag me into this tiny dessert house to get Dou Jiang, or sweet soymilk. Of course, I drank a lot of soy milk when I was younger, but I never understood why my throat felt funny after each time I drank it (little did I or my family know, but I am actually slightly allergic to soymilk…). The sweet drinks here were great and often did remind me of the breakfasts my grandpa would take me to in Shanghai. In addition to Dou Jiang, they also offer other food options such as Banana Leaf Wrapped Pork Rice and Salty Tofu.
K.C.’s Pastries – Chinese Pastries Galore
Often my last stop on family outings before I leave Chinatown, K.C.’s Pastries offers a great selection of different types of Chinese pastries and breads. My favorite pastries from here are Pineapple Buns, which do not actually have any pineapples in them. Check with the server to see what is in a pastry if you are unsure or if it is not directly labeled. There are also a lot of great red bean pastries for those hongdao lovers and if you are craving some soft bread, check out their Raisin Bread!
Photo courtesy of Steven Gu ’15