At this point, I’m basically a broken record: “Nut-free Chinese food is hard to find.” “Nut-free Chinese food is hard to find.” “Nut-free Chinese food is hard to find.” Yeah, we get it—and anyway, if you’ve found yet another occasion to start off yet another post with yet another iteration of that fresh and shocking information, doesn’t that just mean you’ve found yet another nut-free Chinese restaurant to write about, thereby throwing yet another point of evidence out there that sort of, you know, contradicts whatever it is you’re trying to say…? Um, yes, Italics Voice. Yes. I’m repetitive, and the repetition is in itself actually sort of paradoxical, which is why I’ve decided to drop the shtick altogether and put together a guide whose very existence implies that nut-free Chinese food is both hard and easy to find. Because really, it’s both.
So. Here’s my one and only truly original contribution to this world: a list of all of the tree nut–free Chinese restaurants I’ve found—so far, because if putting this guide together has taught me anything, it’s taught me that there are undoubtedly many, many more where these restaurants came from. You’re welcome.
A few notes first, though:
- None of these restaurants are decidedly nut-free. “We don’t knowingly put any nuts into any of our food” doesn’t mean “all the ingredients that go into our food come from nut-free facilities, and we don’t allow our employees to snack on cashews in the kitchen”; it means “we don’t knowingly put any nuts into any of our food.” In my eyes, these restaurants are reasonably safe—but that’s my judgment, and you should probably make your own.
- All the allergy information in this post is information I’ve gotten by speaking directly with servers, bartenders, owners, managers, etc. at these restaurants, typically both via phone and in person (and sometimes via email, too). But things change, and people—pedantic bloggers, restaurant personnel—are wrong all the time, so while I’ve done my best to get at the truth, I insist that you treat this guide only as a starting point and that you always, always, always complement my research with your own.
- I have no doubts that there are a whole lot more restaurants where these came from, and I’m sure I’ll continue to stumble upon others as time goes on. Though I make no promises, I’ll do my best to add whatever I find to this guide as time goes on—and if you have any leads, I’d be pretty thrilled if you’d send them my way.
- None of the photos in this post are mine. Credit’s at the bottom of each restaurant’s section.
Anyway. Let’s begin.
East Wind Snack Shop
What: Chinese “snacks”—dumplings, bao, spring rolls, etc.—served out of a super-modern storefront that’s only a block away from Prospect Park
Where: 471 16th Street, Brooklyn, NY
Allergen info: No tree nuts, no peanuts…but perhaps things aren’t so simple. The Hong Kong hot cakes used to be made with almond extract (though I was never able to find out whether that almond extract was artificial or genuine), but the folks at East Wind have evidently since switched to vanilla extract. I’ve received lots of conflicting info with regard to the almond extract (or lack thereof), though, so do double-check on that if you’re at all concerned about almond cross-contamination.
The good: “Cute” is probably the best word for this place. The decor is bright, happy, and rather charming. The menu, while small, is sufficiently fun, and the food itself is solid, too. The dumplings are particularly good. And the ingredients all seem pretty high-quality. Can’t complain about that.
The bad: Prices can be a wee bit high, especially given the portion sizes. (It is a “snack shop,” I guess—but these portions really are tiny!) Beyond that, I don’t know that I have all that many pressing complaints. I don’t particularly like all the inconsistent information I’ve gotten about the hot cakes, but whatever.
Essen New York Deli
What: An old-fashioned Jewish deli in Midwood, Brooklyn that offers deli classics, deli classics, deli classics, and, uh…Chinese food
Where: 1359 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Allergen info: There are no tree nuts or peanuts in Essen’s kitchen, and in general, Essen is a very allergy-aware restaurant. In fact, it seems to be intentionally nut-free—though the employees I’ve spoken to have all refused to make any guarantees. (Fine.) Oh, and their rye and club breads, which they don’t make themselves, shouldn’t contain any trace amounts of nuts, either (though bread has nothing to do with their Chinese food, thank God).
The good: It’s food, and it’s Chinese-ish, and it’s nut-free. Also, there are surprisingly many options: lo mein, chow mein, fried rice, General Tso’s, orange chicken, beef and broccoli, wonton soup… Plus, there are about a million tables, and service is usually pretty quick, too.
The bad: I’ve mentioned that Essen is a Jewish deli, right? It’s rather deep into Brooklyn, and while I’m (sometimes) willing to travel that far for a pastrami sandwich or two, I’m generally not willing to travel that far for an incredibly expensive ($20+, usually) plate of Jewish-American-Chinese food. It’s an option, though—I’ll give it that. (Also, given that Essen is kosher, there’s obviously no pork.)
Where: 90 3rd Avenue, Manhattan, NY; 215 West 85th Street, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: According to all the employees I’ve spoken with at the Lower East Side Han Dynasty, there are no tree nuts in any location’s kitchen. I can only personally vouch for that particular location, though, as I haven’t been to the one on the Upper West Side, nor any of the ones in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Do note, though, that there are peanuts all over Han Dynasty’s menu. (I avoid the peanut-containing dishes, since there are so few brands of peanuts that haven’t been cross-contaminated with tree nuts.)
The good: Aside from the whole nut-free kitchen thing? Well, I’ve read time and time and time again that their dan dan noodles are pretty great. If you’re into that signature Sichuanese mouth-numbing spice, Han Dynasty will have a lot for you to choose from. Overall, it’s a pretty solid restaurant. Set of restaurants. Whatever.
The bad: If you (like me) aren’t all that into spicy food, and if you’re also avoiding all the peanut-containing dishes on the menu, you won’t be left with all that many options. And what you are left with won’t be anything Han Dynasty gets much praise for. I usually get the pork lo mein, which is just all right. (I realize, though, that this is just a reason that I dislike Han Dynasty, and not a reason that Han Dynasty is a bad restaurant.)
Hand Pull Noodle and Dumpling House
What: Hand-pulled noodle dishes and all you could hope to eat alongside them, served out of a tiny storefront in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
Where: 7201 18th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Allergen info: There are no tree nuts present. That’s what I was told when I called, and so far, it’s held up to my scrutiny. I was also told that there aren’t any peanuts present, but I just read a Yelp review that mentioned “sesame noodles with peanut sauce,” so. (I can’t find those noodles on the menu, but I wouldn’t take that to mean much.)
The good: Prices are low, and even lower (for dumplings, at least) between 4pm and 6pm. Portions are large, too, and though much the food itself isn’t the best, I never leave feeling as though I haven’t gotten my money’s worth. The noodles themselves are nice and springy. And there are about six trillion options on the menu, which is nice.
The bad: This place just isn’t worth going out of your way for, though I suppose it’s a decent option if you happen to be in the area. The broth is way too cilantro-heavy. And besides, it’s dingy in there, and there aren’t any bathrooms, and it’s cash-only—which would all be non-issues if the food were particularly good, but it just isn’t.
The Handpulled Noodle
What: “North Western Chinese Soul Food”—mostly noodle-based, but there’s other stuff, too—served up on 148th Street
Where: 3600 Broadway, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: No tree nuts, no peanuts. The owner himself told me as much. He also told me—without my having asked—that he can’t guarantee that their ingredients have all come from nut-free facilities, though I took that tidbit more as a sign of allergy-awareness than as legitimate cause for concern. I definitely don’t expect restaurants to be able to make such guarantees.
The good: There are five types of noodles to choose from (the menu even has an illustrated guide!), and all are great, texture-wise. The ding ding noodles—the house favorite—are unlike anything you’ll find at the other the restaurants on this list. Prices are reasonable, and the space is hip and cool, without coming off as if it’s trying too hard. Plus, the vegetables are less soggy and lifeless than those you’ll find at most of these other places. (It’s the little things.)
The bad: The pork-and-chive dumplings taste so weird that I haven’t been able to find it in me to try any of the others. There’s very little seating, but most dishes have a short half-life, so you’ll want to dine in regardless. The restaurant’s way up on 148th Street (but that might not be so much of an inconvenience, depending on where you live). Prices aren’t exactly low. And if you’re looking for run-of-the-mill Chinese-takeout fare, this probably isn’t the place for you.
Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen
What: Just what the name says, really. Steamed dumplings (along with a bunch of other dim sum dishes) and “ramen in its original form, as it first arrived in Japan from China”
Where: 811 8th Avenue, Manhattan, NY; 146 East 55th Street, Manhattan, NY; 610 8th Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: No tree nuts in the kitchen, I’m told—but there are peanuts in at least one dish (the spicy beef ramen). Full disclosure, though: I called this place’s various locations two or three times and ate at the one in Hell’s Kitchen twice before an employee finally answered “yes” to the question of whether there were any peanuts on-site. It didn’t matter to me personally—I was only pushing so hard because I’d seen peanuts mentioned in a Yelp review and I wanted to be sure I was putting the actual truth in the blog post I was writing—but the inconsistency’s definitely a little off-putting.
The good: The Shanghai pan-fried pork buns are lovely, and the scallion pancakes are some of my favorites, period. In fact, most of the dim sum portion of the menu is solid. And the noodles themselves are great, too. It’s also nice that there are three locations. Makes it easier to avoid the one in Times Square.
The bad: There’s no decor to speak of, and the service isn’t all that great. The stir-fried noodle dishes are a little disappointing (though they’re passable, for sure), and the noodle soups are on the boring side, too. Same goes for the broth in the steamed pork buns. And the Peking duck buns are funky. In a bad way.
M Noodle Shop
What: Noodles, dumplings, pancakes, pork buns, and a good hunk of the rest of the stuff you’d expect to find at a delivery-happy Chinese restaurant
Where: 549 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Allergen info: There are no tree nuts in the kitchen—this, I know. I was told there are no peanuts, either, but I sort of doubt that, given that some versions of the menu offer “cold noodles with peanut butter sauce.” (Other versions refer to that same dish as “cold noodles with sesame sauce.” I highly doubt the discrepancy means anything, and I’d bet a lot of money that the dish contains both peanut butter and sesame paste.)
The good: I have a bona fide thing for their sesame pancake sandwiches (though I’ll admit that they’re not all that good). And aside from the whole being-given-inconsistent-information-about-peanuts thing, M Noodle Shop seems to be a lot more allergy-aware than your average Chinese restaurant. The servers are friendly and helpful, and they seem to know what they’re talking about when it comes to ingredients and allergens. Also, the restaurant’s a block from the train, and it’s pleasant inside, and most days, it’s open until 6am.
The bad: The train it’s just a block from is the L. The food’s just okay, and they’ve gotten bits of my order wrong every time I’ve been there. Also, they do a whole lot of to-go orders, so service can be a little slow, even when the restaurant’s empty.
Michael & Ping’s
What: A counter-service restaurant that offers “modern Chinese take-out,” if we’re going to let them do the describing
Where: 437 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Allergen info: No tree nuts. Some peanuts. But they seem pretty confident in their ability to segregate ingredients.
The good: It’s a decent space. Clean, reasonably spacious. The cashiers are pretty allergy-aware, and they seem happy to accommodate. They know that water chestnuts aren’t tree nuts. There’s a loyalty program, and a Groupon. That’s… it.
The bad: “Modern” is, I guess, one way of describing this “Chinese take-out,” but only if we’re going to understand that word to mean nothing good and everything bad. This is one of those places that really slaps you in the face with the sensation of Having Food Allergies. I would never, ever, ever eat here otherwise. (Actually, I just won’t eat here, period. I’m not going back.) Everything’s expensive. Portions are small. Nothing tastes good. They don’t use MSG, and they seem to think that’s a good thing—but there must be a bunch of other stuff they aren’t using, either, because none of their food has any flavor. Bad.
Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings
What: Trendy, trendy Taiwanese-Chinese dumplings
Where: 179 2nd Avenue, Manhattan, NY; 380 Broome Street, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: Right now, there are no tree nuts present at either Mimi Cheng’s location, but they do switch things up a lot, so be sure to double-check before stopping by. Only the 380 Broome location currently has peanuts in the kitchen, though both have had peanuts (and probably tree nuts, too) around in the past.
The good: Tried-and-true family recipes. Pasture-raised meats. Organic vegetables. Allergy-awareness. (In short, this place is hip—and for some, that’s a selling point.) Plus, both locations are remarkably pleasant. I love the decor.
The bad: The prices are just what you’d expect, which is to say that these dumplings are expensive, especially compared to what you’d be paying in Chinatown. And the frequency with which the ingredients change isn’t exaclty ideal for those with food allergies. Honestly, this place just might be too hip for its own good. (But maybe you’re into that?)
What: Jianbing (here, just “bing”)—which are basically just Chinese crêpes.
Allergen info: There’s Nutella in one breakfast bing, but the breakfast bings are made on a different surface, or only at a certain time of day, or… something. Not sure, because it’s never really clear. Also, their crispy chili paste may contain traces of nuts. But they seem used to leaving it off.
The good: The roast-pork bing is pretty good. The crispy wontons are fun. The loyalty program is decent. And there are a lot of locations, too.
The bad: The roast-pork bing is the only one I’ve even considered ordering more than once. The others aren’t dreadful, but they aren’t… good. Neither is the roast-pork one, really. Everything at Mr Bing is sweet and soggy and fairly boring. Don’t get the dumplings. Oh, and everything’s expensive as hell.
Nom Wah Nolita
(You should probably skip ahead one and read about Nom Wah Tea Parlor before reading about Nom Wah Nolita, as the latter’s just an offshoot of the former. Don’t blame me; it’s alphabetic ordering’s fault.)
What: The fast-casual spawn of Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Where: 10 Kenmare Street, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: There are no tree nuts in Nom Wah Nolita’s kitchen, but there are peanuts in one of their sauces, and they do make that sauce in-house.
The good: The ambiance is, to me, a whole lot nicer than Nom Wah Tea Parlor’s. At the very least, it’s cooler. The decor is super modern, and there’s often good music playing, too. Service is quick, and the employees don’t seem to mind answering millions of questions about allergens. The food’s nothing incredible, but much of it is good. I especially like the soup dumplings.
The bad: Given the portion sizes, prices are a little high. Ordering via iPad is a pain in the ass when the iPad in question isn’t working properly (I’d rather not be inconvenienced at the expense of a gimmick). And some of the food’s not so great; the steamed ribs, for example, are way too sweet, and the smoked chicken leg doesn’t taste like much beyond garlic.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
What: A dim sum restaurant that’s been hanging around Chinatown’s Doyers Street since 1920
Where: 13 Doyers Street, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: There are no tree nuts or peanuts in any of the food cooked at Nom Wah Tea Parlor. They do sell almond cookies, but they’re made off-site. (I don’t even think they’re stored in the kitchen.)
The good: The dining room is cleaner and calmer than most dim sum restaurants’. The pork buns are delicious (and absolutely enormous), and the soup dumplings and egg rolls are wonderful, too. The prices aren’t too high—especially if you stick to the smaller dishes—and the servers are nice enough, I’d say. Going with a large group and sharing a bunch of dishes is undoubtedly a good idea.
The bad: The restaurant gets crowded—often with tourists—and if there’s a wait, you best believe you’ll be spending it on the curb. The bigger problem, though, is that the menu doesn’t have quite enough variation, flavor-wise…which is to say that most of what’s on it tastes (to some extent, at least) like fry and grease and oil. I happen to be into that, but I don’t know very many other people who are.
What: A Cantonese restaurant that offers typical Cantonese fare—noodles, soups, congees, and dumplings—and a whole lot more, too
Where: 13 Mott Street, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: There are no tree nuts on the menu, but there is a dish that involves peanut sauce. They seem pretty confident in their ability to keep that peanut sauce away from your food, though, so do with that what you will. (Because this information was so easy to get, I’d say Noodle Village is a smidge more allergy-aware than your average Chinatown restaurant.)
The good: The soup dumplings are excellent, and many say the wonton soup is the best in the neighborhood. The menu’s huge, but it doesn’t appear to have any dead zones: specialties, random dishes—not one thing I’ve tried has made me regret my order. Plus, the food contains no MSG, and it’s less greasy than what you’ll find at similar restaurants. (I’m pro-MSG, and I have nothing against grease, but people seem to appreciate Noodle Village’s decision to abstain.)
The bad: Does the lack of MSG count? If not…the decor isn’t all that nice (but it doesn’t matter), and some of the noodles are a little on the limp side.
What: Dumplings, noodles, soups, and pancakes that you just might be able to buy with the change in your pocket
Where: 42 Mulberry Street, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: No tree nuts, no peanuts. The menu’s pretty bare-bones.
The good: This is one of the cheapest restaurants I know of. Five dumplings cost right around a dollar, and it’s not as if you’ll need to eat hundreds to fill up. They’re really good, too—as are the scallion pancakes, despite the fact that they have so little in common with what most picture upon hearing the words “scallion pancakes.” For $8, you can buy a large bagful of frozen dumplings. Besides, this place is a lot calmer and more low-key than Vanessa’s.
The bad: If you’ve had any good non-dollar dumplings lately, these might disappoint you. Plus, the restaurant’s never open past 8:30pm, and it sometimes closes early. There’s no delivery. And the dining area’s not very clean. Oh well.
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
What: Another one that’s just what the name suggests: a whole bunch of noodle dishes (and some other typical takeout fare, too)
Where: 1 Doyers Street, Manhattan, NY; 648 9th Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: I’ve been told time and time again that there aren’t any tree nuts or peanuts in the kitchen, but I’m a little skeptical of the supposed lack of peanuts, as they do offer a few dishes that usually are made with peanuts.
The good: First and foremost, the hand-pulled and knife-cut noodles are great—always firm and chewy, never tough—and the dishes they feature in tend to be pretty good, too. There are a ton of protein options (and a bunch of different noodle options, too). And if you ask nicely, they’ll let you pick and choose the vegetables that go into your dish. Plus, there’s way more on the menu than just noodles.
The bad: The duck (one of the many protein options) is extra bony, and most of the vegetables sort of suck. Also, I’m not exactly dying to have a sit-down meal at this place—the space is cramped, the decor depressing. Those really are the only gripes I can think of, though. When I want some Chinese food delivered, I almost always get THPN.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House
What: Dumplings, noodle soups, sesame-pancake sandwiches, and a few teriyaki dishes. That’s pretty much it for Vanessa’s, which has developed quite the following since its opening in 1999.
Where: 118A Eldridge Street, Manhattan, NY; 220 East 14th Street, Manhattan, NY; 310 Bedford Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: There are peanuts in the kitchen, but there aren’t any tree nuts—with the exception of the almonds (almond milk, I’m assuming) used in one of their smoothies. The smoothies aren’t really made alongside the food, though, so they shouldn’t pose much of a cross-contamination risk.
The good: The pan-fried dumplings are great (though what I said about Tasty Dumpling’s—that they might not floor you if you’ve had any good non-dollar dumplings lately—applies here, too). Plus, they cost next to nothing, and you can buy large quantities of them frozen, too.
The bad: The ambiance sucks (but it’s not really meant to not suck, so it’s not as if that’s a huge swing-and-miss problem or anything). The noodle dishes aren’t so great, nor are the noodles themselves. The boiled dumplings are boring. And don’t even get me started on the “Japanese” dishes. Plus, all three Vanessa’s locations get crowded as hell around mealtimes.
Wah Fung No. 1 Fast Food
What: A takeout-only restaurant that serves up platters of pork, duck, and/or chicken to crowds composed mostly of Chinatown locals
Where: 79 Chrystie Street, Manhattan, NY
Allergen info: They don’t cook with tree nuts or peanuts—but unless you speak Cantonese, there isn’t much point in calling. (I was hung up on twice before I thought to ask someone fluent to call on my behalf. )
The good: Prices are low ($10 gets you way too much—oops). The pork—sweet and fatty, with unfairly good caramelized bits here and there—is some of the best I’ve had. And it’s even better when mixed with the chicharrón-like pig (yes, “pork” and “pig” here refer to different meats). The duck is perfectly salty-sweet, with a satisfying snap to its skin and just enough funk to its meat. And the noodles are just right, and the rice never ends up mushy or soggy, and… Wah Fung just makes me happy, okay? (Truly, it’s one of my absolute favorite restaurants, period.)
The bad: Sometimes you’ll have to wait in line for a bit (though I’ve never waited any longer than 10 minutes). There’s nowhere to sit, and if the weather’s nice enough to eat outside, the park across the street will probably be packed. They close at fucking 7pm, which is honestly a little maddening. (Also: I told myself I wouldn’t mention this, but the insubstantial, shreddy pieces of paper they’re trying to pass off as napkins have to be the least effective napkins I’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to use.)
No website. No delivery. Photo.
Xi’an Famous Foods
What: A fast-casual chain that serves up real-deal Northern-Chinese food
Allergen info: There are no peanuts or tree nuts in any of Xi’an’s dishes, per an email reply I received a few months ago (which means that I got this information in writing, which means that I trust it that much more).
The good: Lots of locations. Lots of dishes on the menu. Lots of great reviews—especially of their handful of signature dishes. If you’re into face-melting spice, this is definitely one for you to check out (but they do have tamer options as well). Plus, there aren’t many NYC restaurants that serve authentic Xi’annese cuisine, so this chain’s definitely doing something to fill one of this city’s (few? many?) culinary lacunae.
The bad: Xi’an Famous Foods has maintained a cult following of sorts ever since it appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations a while back. That means hypes, lines, and crowding. (It does help, though, that there are so many locations.)
What: Shanghainese street food, served in a fast-casual setting that’s right off the Fulton Mall
Where: 148 Lawrence Street, Brooklyn, NY
Allergen info: There are no tree nuts at Yaso Tangbao, but there are peanuts in a few dishes. (I received this information in writing, too.)
The good: The soup dumplings are great—especially the ones made with blue crab and pork. There’s some fun stuff on the menu (see: chicken sauerkraut spring rolls), and most of the stuff I’ve tried has been decent. The decor is cute (but not cutesy) and you can see into the food-prep area, which I love. Plus, service is quick, prices aren’t so bad, and the train’s nearby.
The bad: Portions are small. The soup dumplings might be the only things on the menu that are actually worth leaving the house for. The pan-fried pork bao are bland and disappointing, and the sweet-and-sour pork ribs are astonishingly sweet. Also, a small bottle of water will cost you $2.25, and that makes me so angry that I feel the need to tell the world.