What used to be Cleveland’s Chinatown is expanding into a diverse Asian entertainment district with a rich history, fine dining, and exotic flair.
Located less than two miles from Public Square, roughly between East 18th and East 40th Streets and Perkins and St. Clair Avenues, is the Cleveland neighborhood known as AsiaTown. Historically Cleveland’s Chinatown, the area is now home to a mix of Asian ethnicities and has been rebranded AsiaTown to reflect this diversity.
AsiaTown boasts 20 restaurants and eateries serving a variety of Asian cuisine, the Asian Town Center Mall, and hosts the Lunar New Year Festival and the Cleveland Asian Festival. This vibrant neighborhood is attracting visitors from around the Cleveland area seeking the best Asian cuisine in the city, as well as an experience to remember.
History of Cleveland AsiaTown
Chinese immigrants first arrived in the Cleveland area during the second half of the 19th century, settling into the area that became known as Chinatown. The old Chinatown neighborhood, located on Rockwell Avenue between East 21st and 24th Streets, introduced Clevelanders to their first real taste of Chinese cuisine in the 1950s with a series of restaurants run by the immigrants.
Throughout the 1950s and beyond, Chinatown began to expand as waves of Asian immigrants who were escaping communism arrived and settled there. The area was now a diverse mix of Asians hailing from Thailand, Vietnam, and Korea, as well as China. The name Chinatown was no longer entirely appropriate, given the diversity of the population. Local merchants renamed the area AsiaTown and have since been expanding the brand to the greater population.
Eating & Shopping in AsiaTown
With 20 restaurants, bakeries, and markets serving all kinds of Asian cuisine, eating out is the most popular activity for visitors to AsiaTown. Some of the most popular restaurants are Li Wah, which serves a popular dim sum, Wonton Gourmet, which is known for a wide variety of spicy dishes, and Bo Loong, which, in addition to serving great Asian food, also hosts karaoke evenings on the weekends. Koko Bakery is a great place to relax with an Asian pastry and bubble tea.
Another popular restaurant is the recently opened Map of Thailand. In addition, Pho 99, a Vietnamese restaurant, and Miga, a trendy Korean restaurant, is due to open in AsiaTown soon.
Asian food is also available at the popular Asia Food Company, a large grocery store which forms the anchor of the Asia Town Center, a mall located at Superior Avenue and East 38th Street. At the Asia Food Company, you can find fresh (meaning live) fish, meat, spices, and aisles of weird and wonderful candies, cookies, and snacks in kitschy wrappings. If you are in need of noodles and fish sauce, the Asian Food Market is the place to go.
The Asian Town Center, which is housed in the former Kichler Lighting Plant, offers visitors art galleries, jewelry shops, a Chinese language school, and a shop selling Chinese medicines and is perfect to browse before a meal in AsiaTown.
Festivals in AsiaTown
AsiaTown welcomed the Year of the Rabbit with a lion dance, fireworks, and folk dances this January to celebrate the Lunar New Year. In addition to the traditional Chinese celebrations, there were hip hop performers and an art show featuring both Asian and non-Asian art. The celebrations lasted the entire day with over 3,000 visitors attending.
The Cleveland Asian Festival takes place in May and is expected to attract even more people. The festival will take place at the community center at East 30th Street and Payne Avenue, which is also home to a number of colorful shops and the popular grocery store, Park to Shop. The first festival took place in 2010 and attracted over 10,000 visitors to AsiaTown.
With great restaurants, shopping, and festivals, AsiaTown is fast becoming a destination neighborhood in Cleveland and the residents of the area are happy to welcome visitors.