Boston’s Chinatown, the third largest in the nation after San Francisco and New York, is today at a crossroads. As luxury developments attract both domestic and international buyers, the future of the neighborhood may be in flux: In twenty years, will Chinatown still be the epicenter of New England’s Asian-American community? 

While the neighborhood may be changing, there’s still plenty to appreciate there. Here’s a look at what’s old and new in Chinatown.

Beard Papa’s, Unit A, 31 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA

Beard Papa’s, a Japan-based cream puff bakery chain with a smiling, yellow-hatted old man as a cartoon mascot, first tried out the Boston market with a Faneuil Hall location in 2006. Though the first attempt didn’t pan out, the new location, set to open by the end of April 2015, is mere steps away from the Chinatown T station. If this location is anything like their other stores located across the globe, they’ll be serving cream puffs, ice cream puffs, and assorted other pastries.

The Kensington, 665 Washington St.

Hong Lok House 

11 – 31 Essex Street, Boston, MA

While luxury developments like the 27-story, 381-unit Kensington on Washington Avenue (open last fall) continue to flourish in Chinatown, the city has begun to turn its eyes towards preserving the community already located in the neighborhood. Hong Lok House, an affordable housing development for the elderly promoted by the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center, is a recent attempt by the city to offer affordable housing to Chinatown’s current community. 

Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe

86 Bedford Street, Boston, MA

Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Café, located at the border of Chinatown and Downtown Crossing, specializes in the cuisine of Western China and the city of Xi’an, where owner and chef Gene Wu grew up. While the restaurant might be named after its flatbread sandwiches, the real stars are the hand-pulled noodles, thick and fresh and presented alone, in soup, or with lamb, a protein more common in Xi’an, due to the city’s Muslim population, than elsewhere in China.


9A Tyler St., Boston, MA

Shojo is the rare fusion restaurant that successfully combines old and new techniques and flavors without coming across as trite or uninspired. Check out interesting takes on pasta carbonara (made with miso) or tteokbokki, the spicy Korean rice cake snack, though be forewarned – the menu changes frequently, so what is dreamt of online might not make it to the table.

Nam Bac Hong

75 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA

Nam Bac Hong, a tiny apothecary located in the heart of Chinatown, sells various herbs, oils, teas, and tinctures integral to traditional Chinese medicine. Though it’s small in size, it’s packed with products, so rest assured, any and all of your herbalism and essential oil needs will be fulfilled.