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A mass of red chiles conceal a fish head, with an eye peeping out.
Fish head with chopped red chiles, a dish found in every true Hunan restaurant, this version from Chef Tan in Jersey City.

8 Tongue-Tingling Hunan Restaurants in NYC

Sichuan may be the most popular Chinese cuisine in NYC but look to Hunan for even spicier fare

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Fish head with chopped red chiles, a dish found in every true Hunan restaurant, this version from Chef Tan in Jersey City.

Fiery servings of mapo tofu, beef tendon swimming in chile oil, and peanut-y kung pao chicken can be found in nearly every neighborhood these days as Sichuan has gradually become NYC’s most popular Chinese cuisine. But for diners craving a wallop of heat, it should not be forgotten that Hunan cuisine is even hotter.

Surrounded by mountains, the province lies on the south bank of the Yangtze River north of Guangdong and southeast of Sichuan. While its recipes rarely use Sichuan peppercorns, they make frequent use of fresh green chiles, pickled chiles, red chile oil, white peppercorns, and dried chiles. A good number of dishes also deploy many ingredients preserved by salting, drying, pickling, and smoking.

Originating in Hunan but eaten throughout China, the sweet-and-succulent Chairman Mao’s pork belly nods to the communist leader’s ties to the province. Another classic dish is the fish head with diced red peppers seen on many menus. While the cuisine of Hunan arrived here in the 60s with less fanfare than Sichuan, these dishes prove it is every bit as good — and more varied.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Atlas Kitchen

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258 W 109th St
New York, NY 10025
(646) 928-0522
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The chef at Atlas Kitchen, Kaiyuan Li, was born and raised in Hunan, and his easy familiarity with the cuisine, and enthusiasm for getting creative with it is not surprising. While the menu at this elegant restaurant aimed at Columbia University students and faculty traipses all over China’s many regions, including nods to Guangdong and Shanghai, the origin of dishes like steamed fish head with chiles, and braised chicken wings, feet, and gizzards in vinegar sauce, are unmistakable. Among the chef’s inventions, don’t miss “pork scoop” — a bouncy orb of fried pork saturated with sweet-and-sour sauce.

Several plates of colorful Chinese stir fries seen from directly above.
A selection of dishes from Atlas Kitchen, with duck tongues in the middle.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

2. Happy Hot Hunan

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969 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10025
(212) 531-1786
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This happy-go-lucky spot continues the tradition of great Chinese restaurants on the far northern verge of the Upper West Side. Lacking the elegance of Atlas Kitchen, Happy Hot Hunan seems like your typical neighborhood Chinese carryout — if that carryout happened to be in Hunan. The pork belly with smoked bamboo is prodigal in its smokiness, and mung bean noodles, rife with crushed peanuts and bits of meat, comes with a thick red sauce on the side — pour the whole cup over for some of the best noodles in town.

A white plastic bowl containing a stir fry.
HHH’s epic smoked pork belly and smoked bamboo.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

3. Blue Willow

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40 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 213-2299
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A stone’s throw from Trump Tower, this wonderful restaurant had trouble getting the attention of customers passing by nearby barricades and throngs of security guards when it first opened during the last presidency. It takes its name from a Delft-blue crockery pattern popular a century ago in China, and the interior reflects that retro stylishness. The menu runs to a tart tofu casserole dotted with red chiles and green scallions, a stir fry of pork belly and fresh green chiles, and a pickled spare rib soup with rice noodles.

A green leaf plate with chopped greens.
Mustard greens, Hunan style.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

4. Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan

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42-47 Main St
Queens, NY 11355
(718) 888-0553
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This restaurant’s name may be confusing, but this place is the real deal where Hunan cuisine is concerned. The establishment was started by the backers behind the Great Sichuan restaurants, when that chain was seemingly everywhere. While the menu here contains a smattering of Sichuan, much of it is Hunanese. One advantage this place offers is that standard Hunan fare can be ordered over rice at lunch and dinner at reduced prices, including such dishes as sour green beans with minced pork, green pepper with beef, shredded pork stomach with hot-and-sour sauce, and braised bean curd homestyle.

A pile of pale chicken feet dotted with red peppers on a shell-shaped plate.
“Phoenix feet” (pickled chicken feet) at Hunan Kitchen.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

5. Silky Kitchen

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3002 39th Ave Retail Space 1
Long Island City, NY 11101
(845) 617-6578
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This agreeable fast casual spot in Long Island City presents classic Hunanese fare in the $10 to $15 range. Dash in and order at the counter, then make yourself comfortable for a longish wait, since all dishes are made to order. Yes, there’s a mellow Chairman Mao’s braised pork belly, but most choices are spicier and more sour, with lots of pork and beef. Dishes are presented with rice noodles or rice, and there are further locations near Times Square and Union Square.

A round black plastic bowl with eggs and green peppers.
Eggs and peppers in noodle soup at Silky Kitchen.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

6. Hunan Bistro

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Read Review |
96 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-9855
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This nondescript spot is overshadowed by Han Dynasty on the same East Village block, a Sichuan import from Philadelphia. Despite Han Dynasty’s popularity, the food at Hunan Bistro is much better: bright with hot-and-sour flavors, bringing on a full component of dried and smoked ingredients, organ meats, and an impressive level of heat from a variety of chiles generously used throughout the menu.

A wooden pestle in the middle of a white bowl smashing vegetables.
This dish of eggplant, green chiles, and century egg is given a vigorous smash.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

7. Chef Tan

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558 Washington Blvd
Jersey City, NJ 07310
(201) 987-7070
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This three-year-old restaurant is isolated from the hip Jersey City dining scene, and boasts a flashy interior featuring a grand piano and massive sparkling chandeliers that look like floating galaxies. The menu offers a mix of Sichuan and Hunan cuisine — the former just so-so, the latter spectacular. The fish head is a gigantic production with enough flesh for three or more; the century egg and eggplant served in a mortar with enough green chiles to blow the top of your head off; and the scallion fried rice is mellow enough to counteract the spicy flavors. A new, equally good branch is now open on St. Marks in the East Village.

A while bowl of reddish pork belly in a sticky dark red sauce.
Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork belly.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

8. Hunan Slurp Shop

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112 1st Ave.
New York, NY 10009
(646) 585-9585
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The last decade has seen many Chinese restaurant appear in the East Village, and this is one of the best. Like the others, it partly concentrates on noodles in individual servings, hence the name Slurp Shop. The noodles are known as mifen, and the chef-owner Chao Wang matches them with peppers and pork, pickled string beans, and roasted duck. Larger dishes, sans noodles, are even more interesting, including the “flaming frog,” winter melon with fermented black beans, and smoked pork belly stir fried with bean curd.

Swatches of thin darkened beef glisten along with sliced leeks.
Dried beef with leek at Slurp Shop.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

1. Atlas Kitchen

258 W 109th St, New York, NY 10025
Several plates of colorful Chinese stir fries seen from directly above.
A selection of dishes from Atlas Kitchen, with duck tongues in the middle.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

The chef at Atlas Kitchen, Kaiyuan Li, was born and raised in Hunan, and his easy familiarity with the cuisine, and enthusiasm for getting creative with it is not surprising. While the menu at this elegant restaurant aimed at Columbia University students and faculty traipses all over China’s many regions, including nods to Guangdong and Shanghai, the origin of dishes like steamed fish head with chiles, and braised chicken wings, feet, and gizzards in vinegar sauce, are unmistakable. Among the chef’s inventions, don’t miss “pork scoop” — a bouncy orb of fried pork saturated with sweet-and-sour sauce.

258 W 109th St
New York, NY 10025

2. Happy Hot Hunan

969 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025
A white plastic bowl containing a stir fry.
HHH’s epic smoked pork belly and smoked bamboo.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This happy-go-lucky spot continues the tradition of great Chinese restaurants on the far northern verge of the Upper West Side. Lacking the elegance of Atlas Kitchen, Happy Hot Hunan seems like your typical neighborhood Chinese carryout — if that carryout happened to be in Hunan. The pork belly with smoked bamboo is prodigal in its smokiness, and mung bean noodles, rife with crushed peanuts and bits of meat, comes with a thick red sauce on the side — pour the whole cup over for some of the best noodles in town.

969 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10025

3. Blue Willow

40 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019
A green leaf plate with chopped greens.
Mustard greens, Hunan style.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

A stone’s throw from Trump Tower, this wonderful restaurant had trouble getting the attention of customers passing by nearby barricades and throngs of security guards when it first opened during the last presidency. It takes its name from a Delft-blue crockery pattern popular a century ago in China, and the interior reflects that retro stylishness. The menu runs to a tart tofu casserole dotted with red chiles and green scallions, a stir fry of pork belly and fresh green chiles, and a pickled spare rib soup with rice noodles.

40 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019

4. Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan

42-47 Main St, Queens, NY 11355
A pile of pale chicken feet dotted with red peppers on a shell-shaped plate.
“Phoenix feet” (pickled chicken feet) at Hunan Kitchen.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This restaurant’s name may be confusing, but this place is the real deal where Hunan cuisine is concerned. The establishment was started by the backers behind the Great Sichuan restaurants, when that chain was seemingly everywhere. While the menu here contains a smattering of Sichuan, much of it is Hunanese. One advantage this place offers is that standard Hunan fare can be ordered over rice at lunch and dinner at reduced prices, including such dishes as sour green beans with minced pork, green pepper with beef, shredded pork stomach with hot-and-sour sauce, and braised bean curd homestyle.

42-47 Main St
Queens, NY 11355

5. Silky Kitchen

3002 39th Ave Retail Space 1, Long Island City, NY 11101
A round black plastic bowl with eggs and green peppers.
Eggs and peppers in noodle soup at Silky Kitchen.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This agreeable fast casual spot in Long Island City presents classic Hunanese fare in the $10 to $15 range. Dash in and order at the counter, then make yourself comfortable for a longish wait, since all dishes are made to order. Yes, there’s a mellow Chairman Mao’s braised pork belly, but most choices are spicier and more sour, with lots of pork and beef. Dishes are presented with rice noodles or rice, and there are further locations near Times Square and Union Square.

3002 39th Ave Retail Space 1
Long Island City, NY 11101

6. Hunan Bistro

96 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003
Read Review |
A wooden pestle in the middle of a white bowl smashing vegetables.
This dish of eggplant, green chiles, and century egg is given a vigorous smash.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This nondescript spot is overshadowed by Han Dynasty on the same East Village block, a Sichuan import from Philadelphia. Despite Han Dynasty’s popularity, the food at Hunan Bistro is much better: bright with hot-and-sour flavors, bringing on a full component of dried and smoked ingredients, organ meats, and an impressive level of heat from a variety of chiles generously used throughout the menu.

96 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003

7. Chef Tan

558 Washington Blvd, Jersey City, NJ 07310
A while bowl of reddish pork belly in a sticky dark red sauce.
Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork belly.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This three-year-old restaurant is isolated from the hip Jersey City dining scene, and boasts a flashy interior featuring a grand piano and massive sparkling chandeliers that look like floating galaxies. The menu offers a mix of Sichuan and Hunan cuisine — the former just so-so, the latter spectacular. The fish head is a gigantic production with enough flesh for three or more; the century egg and eggplant served in a mortar with enough green chiles to blow the top of your head off; and the scallion fried rice is mellow enough to counteract the spicy flavors. A new, equally good branch is now open on St. Marks in the East Village.

558 Washington Blvd
Jersey City, NJ 07310

8. Hunan Slurp Shop

112 1st Ave., New York, NY 10009
Swatches of thin darkened beef glisten along with sliced leeks.
Dried beef with leek at Slurp Shop.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The last decade has seen many Chinese restaurant appear in the East Village, and this is one of the best. Like the others, it partly concentrates on noodles in individual servings, hence the name Slurp Shop. The noodles are known as mifen, and the chef-owner Chao Wang matches them with peppers and pork, pickled string beans, and roasted duck. Larger dishes, sans noodles, are even more interesting, including the “flaming frog,” winter melon with fermented black beans, and smoked pork belly stir fried with bean curd.

112 1st Ave.
New York, NY 10009

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