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Chinatown in Vegas

travel Las Vegas
Phil Chu
Phil Chu
Making software since the 80s

I find it lecturesome when people say “This is a good time to mention…” but with CES in town, I feel this is a good time to mention there is a Chinatown in Las Vegas, so consider ditching the overpriced “pan-Asian” (otherwise known as “Asian food is all the same to me”) and get the real stuff just west of the Strip on Spring Mountain Road.

Chinatown is really a stretch of not quite contiguous strip malls along that road, so often it’s just referred to as “Spring Mountain Road,” and for a long time I’ve resisted calling it Chinatown. But still, it’s anchored by Chinatown Plaza, the strip mall that started it all.

The plaza has a recently refreshed look, including a Journey to the West statue.

And some nice lighting at night.

Chinatown Plaza has a 99 Ranch Market, several eateries including dim sum, Korean BBQ, boba tea, casual Chinese, Japanese snacks, and a variety of shops, so pretty much everything you might want on a Chinatown outing, and I’ve met some longtime residents who still only visit Chinatown Plaza, but there’s plenty of other stuff if you explore (unfortunately not easily by walking, as Las Vegas’s urban planning is focused mostly on the Strip and downtown, while the rest of the city has streets that don’t align at intersections).

In fact, my favorite Chinatown strip mall is directly across the street from Chinatown Plaza, the newly constructed (actually, still under construction last I looked) Shanghai Plaza. My regular spot there is 88 Noodle Papa, a Hong Kong style casual eatery.

Shanghai Plaza has a variety of other eateries, including a popular bakery, sushi and pho, boba tea, Korean hot dogs, and Hong Kong style desserts. I’m actually not a big fan of Chinese desserts, but they are pretty.

Next to Chinatown Plaza and also across Shanghai Plaza is a corner strip mall with several restaurants, a bakery, and as far as I know the fanciest selection of Chinese tea at Tea Station, where you can get anything from a $6 pot of jasmine tea to an $18 pot of high mountain oolong tea.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention dim sum. Besides Harbor Palace in Chinatown Plaza, there are nearly a dozen other dim sum places in Las Vegas outside of the Strip. You can get dim sum on the Strip but it’ll cost you, and most of those places have a limited variety, like the Northside Cafe in the Sahara (formerly SLS, formerly Sahara), which by the way also serves an excellent breakfast burrito.

Just along Spring Mountain, there’s real old school cart-served dim sum at New Asian BBQ and Noodles (old Asian BBQ and Noodles is still around but specializes in noodle and dumpling soup) and Hong Kong Garden, which is open until 6AM and for some reason closes for three hours before opening again at 9AM.

Branching south on Decatur, there’s longtime local favorite Chang’s and newer (with vegetarian offerings) Yum Cha, and looping back on Flamingo, the Palms, Rio and Gold Coast casino hotels are adjacent to each other and yet each have their own dim sum restaurants: Tim Ho Wan, Ping Pang Pong, and KJ’s Dim Sum & Seafood, which is all less than a mile from Chinatown Plaza.

To be complete, there’s also Orchid Garden, another longtime local favorite, a bit north on Charleston, and for those living in the westerly master-planned community of Summerlin, there’s the Dim Sum Cafe.

I tend to go to Yum Cha, Tim Ho Wan, and the Dim Sum Cafe because I can order off the menu there and not end up with too many plates off the first cart that appears, but they’re all good. Take some time out on your visits to Vegas and give each a try!