Cheap Eats

The Affordable Riches of Chinatown

It’s easy to fill up at Dun Huang Plaza, but don’t forget the other six square miles of Bellaire Boulevard surrounding you.

By Alice Levitt May 31, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Café 101

While the area surrounding Chinatown’s mile-long stretch of Bellaire is packed with excellent restaurants, many of the best bites in the neighborhood are—conveniently enough—stacked into the five buildings that comprise Dun Huang Plaza, the massive, two-story strip mall on Bellaire Boulevard at Corporate Drive.

Dun Huang Plaza makes an excellent base camp for a dining tour of Chinatown, but don’t get too full here—you’ll also want to explore a few other spots in the six-square-mile area.

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Café 101

Dun Huang Plaza 

Late-Night Eats: Café 101

There are times we could all use some Taiwanese junk food to soak up the night’s sins. That’s why this café is open seven days a week, serving hot pot and salt-and-pepper pork chops ($6.95) into the wee hours.

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Strings Noodle

Hand-Pulled Noodles: Strings Noodle

Pick either Lanzhou-style noodle soup ($8.99) or what’s called noodle in gravy ($9.99)—actually a sticky, thick broth. That’s it. The rest of the work falls to the chef, who pulls the noodles by hand to-order and crafts sides including spaghetti-like strands of spicy tofu.

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Kamalan Bakery

Fusion Pastries: Kamalan Bakery

Neighboring Six Ping’s Hello Kitty and Doraemon cakes get all the attention, but this bakery’s Euro-style, Asian-flavored layer cakes are the best around. The taro cake ($2.75) melts in a purple haze, while a fresh blueberry-filled tiramisu ($3.75) will make you rethink the Italian dessert.

Home-Style Japanese: Café Kubo’s Sushi

The sushi rice is just right and the ramen is rightfully popular, but we find the most comfort in the subtly spicy, $7.99 pork cutlet curry rice. 

Elsewhere in Chinatown

Grocery Store Eats: Dynasty Supermarket

Much as we adore the baked goods at Hong Kong Supermarket, if we’re looking to dine by a supermarket check-out, nothing can compete with the ark’s worth of salty animal flesh hanging at Dynasty—especially the crispy pork.

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Saigon Pagolac

Vietnamese Feast: Saigon Pagolac Restaurant

The bò 7 món (seven courses of beef, served a variety of different ways) rings up at $15.95, but is meant to be shared by two or even three people, leaving you plenty of change to order a silky avocado smoothie on the side.

Comforting Korean: Jang Guem Tofu House & BBQ House

At lunchtime, bento boxes start at $8.99, while a hearty bowl of tofu soup—we like the kimchi best among the restaurant’s 21 tofu soup varieties—is only $7.99 (at dinner, the soup’s only a dollar more). Whatever you order, it comes with a fried mackerel, a hot stone bowl of rice and a slew of banchan.

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One Dragon

To-Die-For-Dumplings: One Dragon

The puckered skins of the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) are nearly transparent, their centers bursting with dark, sticky collagen broth and ground pork that surrenders at first bite. Half a dozen will set you back just $6.99.

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