The Changing Face Of Chinatown

Yesterday’s Globe featured a completely fascinating article about the increasing number of non-Chinese restaurants opening in Boston’s Chinatown. Many traditionally Chinese restaurants are adding non-Chinese specialties to their menus and several non-Chinese Asian restaurants are opening in spaces formerly occupied by purveyors of lo mein and Peking ravioli. Our numbers here at MenuPages bear this trend out. There definitely seems to be an increasing number of non-Chinese Asian restaurants (Vietnamese and Japanese being especially popular). Anecdotally, we’ve also noticed a big increase in Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and Thai items on Chinese restaurant menus.

Interestingly, when we mentioned this drift to the other MP city editors, all four said that there was no similar trend in their cities. Paolo of MP: San Francisco went so far as to say that in San Francisco “it’s the opposite–Chinatown spreading.” We have to wonder why this is happening specifically in Boston. The article suggests a few possibilities, namely too many Chinese restaurants and increased culinary adventurousness among Boston diners. We would add to that list the fact that Boston doesn’t have very many other areas known for one type of food. San Francisco has a Japantown in addition to its legendary Chinatown. South Philadelphia has a ton of Vietnamese joints. New York has a thriving Korean district. Boston really just has the North End and Chinatown. If you’re a restaurateur looking to open a restaurant focusing on an Asian cuisine, it makes sense to go someplace where consumers expect and are looking for Asian food. Since there’s no neighborhood known for Vietnamese or Korean food, Chinatown it is.

What do you think? What’s causing the changes in Chinatown?

A Fare Change In Chinatown [Boston Globe]
Theatre District/Chinatown [MenuPages]

[Photo: The Insider]

The Changing Face Of Chinatown