David's Mai Lai Wah
The familiar green-tiled awning occupies the very most central corner in Chinatown, the technicolor neon signs outside and in the window welcoming guests into David’s Mai Lai Wah with the promise of cocktails, noodles and “the best food in town.”
Hong Kong native David Chan opened his no-nonsense eatery in 1982, introducing generations of Philadelphians to dumplings and noodle dishes.
Revered for its salt and pepper wings strewn with sliced chile peppers (of which David’s sells 100 orders a day) and its luxuriantly late hours (it stays open 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. every night), David’s manages to stay relevant in a passionate food city without ever having to change a thing.
Given a steady nightly business going on almost four decades, David’s doesn’t put too fine a point on atmosphere, friendly service or creating a particularly seductive mood.
The vibe here is delicious food when no other kitchen is even considering staying open. Still, there’s a retro charm in the environs: Parchment colored wallpaper and landscape paintings cover the walls, while chrome accents and a wall-long mirror visually expand the boxy space.
Utilitarian chairs surrounding coral-clothed tables accommodate 60 seats, which can mean a wait on weekends.
This is a place to enjoy Hong Kong and Cantonese staples like congee and squid in XO sauce, with some Szechuan zest thrown in for good measure.
One of the city’s longest-running restaurants, David’s has stayed true to its mission amid the flow of trends.
Some of Philly’s most famous chefs stop in post-shift for a late-night snack of duck soup.
The Chinese foods many Americans encounter are here, too: lo mein, General Tso’s and egg rolls.
The fried pork dumplings with ginger scallion sauce, and crispy pan fried noodles with a choice of toppings, are, in addition to the salt and pepper wings, among the top sellers.
Dinner specials, most under $20, include a choice of soup and a shrimp egg roll, and ordering family-style with a group can still make for an inexpensive meal.
The small bar caters to nostalgia with Polynesian-style cocktails such as Singapore Slings with paper umbrellas. Naturally, the meal ends with fortune cookies.
One of the city’s longest-running restaurants, David’s has withstood the pressures of time, staying true to its mission amid the flow of trends and an ever-changing, increasingly diverse population in Chinatown.
With karaoke bars and speakeasy Hop Sing Laundromat close by, fried and doughy temptations beckon those not yet ready to call it a night — and David’s is ever-ready to serve them.
Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through November 30, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as free tickets to the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art, a $25 gift card to the must-visit Reading Terminal Market, free Philly-themed mini-golf at Franklin Square and a $10 Lyft credit.
An immersive experience