Chinatown is less a neighborhood than a sliver of the downtown Penn Quarter neighborhood,
but lots of people continue to use the name Chinatown to mean the Penn Quarter.
To be precise, Chinatown is a section of H St. NW between 5th and 8th streets. Only a
few hundred Chinese immigrants still live here and only a handful of authentic
Chinese restaurants remain. (If you’re interested, dine at New Big Wong , at
610 H St. NW, a favorite of Chinatown’s Chinese, who enjoy stir-fried duck feet,
sautéed pig naval and other delicacies.)
Tiny as Chinatown is, it makes its presence known in big ways. The Metro station in
this location is named “Gallery Place/Chinatown.” A large and colorful
Friendship Archway crowns the 7th and H street intersection and is said to be
the largest single-span archway in the world: The arch stands 48 feet tall and
75 feet wide and was erected in 1986 to symbolize a friendship between
Washington, DC and Beijing.
Chinatown’s annual Chinese New Year Parade is another attention-getter. Thousands of
people turn out to enjoy the spectacle of dragon dances, live music, and celebrity appearances.
The fact is that Chinatown is mostly a cultural concept rather than a geographic place.
Starbucks, Fuddruckers, Potbelly’s, and other all-American entities dominate the neighborhood. Store and restaurant exteriors may display the Chinese symbol translations of their names, but that’s as far as it goes.
Gallery Place/Chinatown on the Red, Yellow, and Green Lines. 7th and H St.