I’m not a creature of habit, but as much time as I spend in Chicago’s Chinatown, I usually eat in the newer area known as Chinatown Square. That popped up sometime when I was living away from Chicago, maybe in Washington, DC, Hong Kong, or San Francisco, and has lots of newish restaurants and shops.
But just south of there stands the older part of Chinatown, which was started in 1912, a pivotal year both in Chicago (for obvious reasons) and in China (for the start of the Republic). And in the older part, there’s a restaurant called Won Kow that’s been around since 1928. I hadn’t been in probably 15 years, but that all changed yesterday.
My friend Jean asked me to meet her there for dim sum. I was excited to see the interior again because I remembered it being a little retro. Check out this awesome front door. I love the font and the romanization. In pinyin, it would be huanqiu. It means the whole world.
The restaurant is on the second floor, so I walked up a flight of stairs and arrived a minute or two before Jean.
Although the restaurant was pretty retro, we sat just in front of this contemporary illuminated picture of my favorite city. Ten points for those who know.
Jean arrived and we ordered dim sum: shrimp and cilantro dumplings, vegetable rice rolls, sesame balls with lotus paste, and chicken bao. Even though there were no Chinese folks eating at the restaurant, everything we ordered was top notch!
The rice rolls were filled with fresh vegetables and were light and easy to cut in half. You don’t know how tired I am of ordering the same dish in restaurants in Chinatown Square, only to find canned mushrooms and one other vegetable. This was not the case at Won Kow. The shrimp dumplings were also light and fresh. I also love the metal steamers. As Jean pointed out, metal is probably more sanitary than bamboo steamers, which is what most dim sum restaurants use.
The sesame balls filled with lotus paste were hot to the touch and nice and gooey inside. Usually when I order these at other places, they come out cold.
Here are the chicken bao:
I’m used to ordering a ton of dim sum with my kids and taking most of it home. In this case, it was the right amount of food. All I took home was one chicken bao.
We spoke to the owner for a while toward the end and got in some good Hong Kong talk. Now that I’ve been back to Won Kow, I’ll definitely return with my family. I also want to try other restaurants in the older area.
Won Kow is located at 2237 South Wentworth Avenue in Chicago. For a map and contact information, you can click on their website here.