Outdoor markets, warmly lit downtowns, cozy restaurants, cheerful locals... there is something special about American…
Did you know there are over 19 million people from around 50 countries in Asia that currently call America home? That’s the potential for hundreds of cuisines both traditional, fusion, and innovative to flourish all around the country. I’ve had the opportunity to visit plenty of Asian-American-owned restaurants in my many US travels, and I’m always impressed by all the different dishes I’ve been able to try!
So many restaurateurs and chefs have been able to bring their various backgrounds into their menus. In this way, they’ve introduced thousands if not millions of people to dishes they may never have heard of or would never have had the chance to try themselves.
Check out some of my favorite, must-try Asian-American-owned restaurants below!
9 Asian-American Owned Restaurants to Try Right Now
Chai Pani in Asheville, NC
If you find yourself spending a weekend in Asheville, one of the most unique things to do has to be making a reservation for the incredible Chai Pani! This restaurant was founded by Chef Meherwan Irani in 2009, and he has since spent over a decade introducing Americans to Indian street food.
It’s almost hard to believe Chef Irani was once a car salesman. After quitting his job and opening up Chai Pani, he’s since opened up more restaurants all around the South and has been a James Beard nominee four times over.
Chai Pani, which literally means “tea and water”, is slang in India for going out for a small snack or cup of tea. With his menu, Chef Irani hopes to mix the familiar with the unfamiliar while telling the story of India’s local street food. One dish you absolutely must try? His take on the Southern classic okra.
See more of my visit to Chai Pani in our Season 5 “Asheville” episode.
Sans Dumplings in the Finger Lakes, NY
Did you know you can find an authentic dumpling spot in the southern Finger Lakes region? Believe it or not, you can! Attached to Kemmeter Wines in the rural town of Penn Yan and near Seneca Lake is Sans Dumpling, which only just opened in January 2020. This take-out-only eatery is founded and operated by Imelda Reinhardt and the name comes from her Chinese name, San San. Her dumplings have become something of a cult favorite, and many people come from afar solely to try them.
Everything is made from scratch using the freshest ingredients, and each dumpling is packed with flavor. So far the fillings offered are organic tofu, chicken, pork, lamb, or salmon and you can make your dumplings spicy or non-spicy. She now also offers bao made with either seasonal veggies mix or curry chicken.
I recommend making reservations for wine tasting with her husband, Johannes, at Kemmeter Wines and then putting in your order for dumplings so they’re fresh and ready to go when you’ve finished. This way you can pick them up and find a picnic spot around Seneca Lake to enjoy.
You-Ka Cafe in Colorado Springs, CO
If you’re visiting Colorado Springs, be sure to stop at You-Ka Café in between all the unique activities there, like checking out the Garden of the Gods or taking the cog railway up to Pikes Peak. Founded by Gregg and Emilou Savage in 2015, this casual restaurant serves up the most incredible modern Filipino cuisine.
You’ll have all sorts of picks from their empanadas to their lumpias as well as entree classics such as chicken or pork adobo and sisig. Each week they have a new special and if you really plan your trip around the right dates, you can even join in on their pop-up kamayan dinners. This traditional style of eating with your bare hands is truly one of the most unique things you can do in Colorado Springs.
Blossom Bar & Sichuan Garden in Boston, MA
I know, I know when you think of where to eat in Boston, it’s more oysters and clam chowder. However, I highly recommend planning at least one of your meals at Sichuan Garden while also grabbing a drink at the attached Latin-American-themed bar, Blossom Bar.
Sichuan Garden is family-run by the Duan family which involves Michael and Den and their son, Ran, who’s made a name for himself in the cocktail business. They immigrated to Boston when Ran was three from Sichuan, China for Michael’s master’s program, and opened the restaurant in 1997 inside the 17th-century Baldwin mansion.
The restaurant specializes in, of course, authentic Sichuan cuisine, though they have some of the classic, popular Chinese dishes as well. Make reservations in their beautifully designed restaurant in Brookline, and be sure to try their pork dumplings and dan dan noodles. For a true treat, order one of Ran Duan’s globally inspired cocktails.
See more of my visit to Blossom Bar in our Season 5 “Boston” episode.
Sari-Sari Filipino Restaurant, Market, & Bakery in San Antonio, TX
Located in Leon Valley, Sari-Sari has been a staple in the Filipino community in San Antonio since 1995 when it started as a small market by couple Imelda and Adam Valenzuela. Only a few years later they opened up what was then called Oriental Cuisine and became one of the first Filipino restaurants in the area.
Today it’s run by Camille and Adrian de Los Reyes who continue to offer up all sorts of delicious, authentic Filipino dishes. They also opened up a market and bakery – truly living up to the meaning of Sari-Sari, or “variety.” If you plan on spending a weekend in San Antonio, they’ve also recently begun a Sari-Sari supper club which allows guests to experience kamyan dinners like with You-Ka Cafe in Colorado Springs.
610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY
610 Magnolia is a beautiful fine dining restaurant in Old Louisville that puts an elevated twist on traditional Southern dining. It’s currently by Korean-American Chef Edward Lee, who fell in love with Louisville and the Southern food scene here on a trip in 2001 for the Kentucky Derby. Only a year later he began working at 610 Magnolia under the former chef/owner Eddie Garber before taking over.
Not only has he been a finalist for the James Beard Best Chef: Southeast multiple times, but he’s also won the James Beard Award for Best Writing for his two books, Smoke & Pickles and Buttermilk Graffiti. You may also recognize him from his appearances on “The Mind of a Chef” and “Top Chef.” He often mixes influences from his own childhood as well as classic southern ingredients when he puts together his menus.
Blood Bros BBQ in Houston, TX
What do three Asian-American men know about Texas barbecue? A lot! Blood Bros BBQ was founded by biological brothers Robin and Terry Wong and their childhood friend, Quy Hoang, and has become a well-respected BBQ joint on the Houston restaurant scene.
The trio began building a following when they began doing various pop-ups all over the city. Initially, they offered classic BBQ offerings but soon began putting an Asian twist, earning them quite a number of fans. Soon these had fans begging for a permanent location, and their current restaurant in Bellaire came to be.
Wear your eatin’ pants and come hungry because, like anything in Texas, the bigger the better, and you’ll want to try as much of their food as possible.
See more of my visit to Blood Bros in our Season 5 “Houston” episode.
Thanh My Restaurant in Orange County, CA
At the heart of Little Saigon, Orange County, the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam, sits the well-known Thành Mỹ Restaurant. Established over forty years ago, it’s one of the first Vietnamese restaurants in the county and even pre-dates the district’s name of “Little Saigon.”
Back when the Anh Chi Ba family first opened their doors, Westminster was more farmlands and orange groves. Now it’s become a bustling city with nearly 200,000 Vietnamese-Americans calling the area home. Through it all, Thành Mỹ has remained an important hub, serving up authentic dishes and providing a place for residents to mingle and relax.
The menu is extensive and will make you feel like you’re right in the heart of Saigon itself. If your experience with Vietnamese food is limited and you’re unsure where to start, try the Thành Mỹ Grilled & Wrap Sampler, which features an assortment of dishes.
You can see more of my visit to Thành Mỹ in our Season 1 “Orange County” episode.
Himalaya Restaurant in Houston, TX
Not only is Himalaya Restaurant a favorite for Indian and Pakistani food in Houston, but it’s also one of the city’s favorite restaurants period; landing at Number 9 on the “Top 100 Houston Restaurants” list in 2019.
Himalaya was founded by James Beard Semi-Finalist Chef Kaiser Lashkari in 2004 and the menu is inspired by the flavors of his childhood in Pakistan. While he does serve up some classic Indian and Pakistani dishes, he also puts on a Texan twist on many, offering some truly unique, mouthwatering dishes.
Be sure to try their HFC – Himalaya fried chicken. Think southern fried chicken but with Indian spices. Another local favorite is the Paratha-dilla – an Indo-Mex quesadilla that uses flaky parathas and a dash of masala sauce.
And there you have it – nine amazing Asian-American-owned restaurants to try right now! From authentic eateries that feel like they come fresh from the continent itself to innovative fusion dishes that use the best of both worlds to create something brand new, there are so many incredible restaurants full of incredible cuisine and plenty of heart.