ChinatownOne cannot help but be impressed by the traditional Chinese Gate that spans 10th Street above Arch in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood. Called the “Friendship Gate,” it was built in 1975 and was the first authentic Chinese Gate erected the United States. The emblazoned dragons that adorn the Gateway symbolically offer protection to the neighborhood from outside threats. These dragons have been busy over the years, as Chinatown has had to withstand numerous efforts to annex its land for purposes as varied as a baseball stadium, an expressway and a convention center. While the current neighborhood is smaller than in its heyday because of encroachments made by the expressway and the convention center, Chinatown remains a popular destination for those desiring to satiate their appetite for Asian cuisine.

Upon entering the neighborhood’s confines, which stretch from Arch to Vine Streets and from 8th to 11th Streets, one cannot help but detect the smell of traditional Chinese and Asian food wafting through the streets. This has been a common occurrence since the first Chinese restaurant, Mei-Hsian Lou, opened here in 1870. Today, Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood are complemented by Vietnamese, Burmese, and Thai-influenced eateries. Food, however, is not all that Chinatown has to offer. Numerous commercial enterprises operate in the neighborhood to provide residents and denizens of other neighborhoods with shopping option.

Additionally, there a variety of housing options for those with an appreciation of Asian culture and those interested in living in a convenient location. A few examples of authentic Chinese architecture exist in Chinatown, but the predominate style of architecture there is reminiscient of other Philadelphia neighborhoods. Brick row homes, with commercial establishments on the ground floor, co-exist with larger commercial structures built in the 18th and 19th centuries. In more recent times some larger buildings have been developed into alluring condominiums that offer residents a Center City lifestyle in the midst of the unique elements of Chinatown. Considering the myriad of dining options available in the neighborhood, its convenient location, and the safety afforded by the dragons adorning the Friendship Gate, there are not many better places Philadelphians could lay their heads than in character-rich Chinatown.