Unlike this fine city’s sizeable (and growing) South Asian restaurant scene, our eateries of Eastern and Southeastern heritage have traditionally offered less to write home about. Yes, there are a bunch of Canadian-style Chinese restaurants. But even just a few years ago, they were nothing to write home about—visitors from Toronto wouldn’t have found the authenticity of a Rol San dumpling or Pacific Mall congee.
Thankfully, that’s changing. A few new restaurants centrally located in Niagara Falls, in addition to mainstays still running strong, have created a genuinely worthwhile dining experience for fans of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean food, among others.
Best Chinese Food in Niagara Falls: Hot Lobster Dim Sum
Last year, when Hot Lobster popped up in an old, beige, unassuming building in an out-of-the-way stretch of Main Street, you could hear the sigh of relief from our house for kilometres. Finally, we exclaimed! Dim sum in Niagara Falls! And much to our delight, it’s also really good. With its vast array of unique dishes, hearty vegetable plates and lobby lobster tank, Hot Lobster quickly rose the ranks to become the best Chinese restaurant in the city—and it’s not even close. (The city’s other go-to spots have interchangeable menus: kung pao chicken, hot and sour soup, beef with broccoli, yadda yadda. We’ve tried many; none have been noteworthy.) We’ve returned to Hot Lobster numerous times, opting for favourites like the shrimp dumplings, eggplant with minced pork and gooey, warm, fresh red bean buns—the only place in the city you can find them, that we’re aware of.
Best Japanese Food in Niagara Falls: Suisha Gardens
You have to seek out Suisha Gardens, which is sandwiched between a bunch of parking lots and the giant industrial Post cereal factory. (Also right next door to Casa das Natas, the only Portuguese bakery in Niagara Falls and one of our favourite cafes in the city.) But the odd location may be owing to the fact that Suisha’s owners are clearly dreaming big. It’s not just a sushi restaurant. It’s also got 11 teppanyaki tables—the only ones in the Niagara Region—as well as a karaoke room, noodle bar, giant spinning water wheel and an adjacent Japanese food store called Kyo-Mart (one of our favourite international food markets in the city). The breadth defines this stretch of Lewis Ave. as a clear centre of Japanese cuisine for diners and home cooks looking for an authentic experience. The food is good, standard Japanese fare at reasonable prices, including bento boxes, curry rice, udon and combination plates of sushi and sashimi. The ambiance, service and expansive menu are enough of a draw to put it ahead of the city’s other (often frankly mediocre) Japanese restaurants.
Best Vietnamese Food in Niagara Falls: Pho Vietnam 3969
Don’t be put off by the generic name or distance from the city’s tourist traps: this is genuinely one of our favourite restaurants in the city. Consistent quality food? Check. Incredibly fast and friendly service? Check. Awesome old-school diner aesthetic with red pleather booths and checkerboard tiles? Check and check. Affordable prices? Hands-down the most affordable restaurant on this list. Bountiful portions? We always have leftovers. Basically, Pho Vietnam 3969 does literally everything right. When the pandemic hit, they even erected a makeshift patio in their enormous parking lot on the corner of a busy intersection—and it was actually tastefully done, with nice wooden beams, greenery and screens to shield diners from the wind. If we had a gripe, it’s perhaps that the menu is too big—while we usually get different items (and are rarely disappointed), it can be overwhelming unless you know what you want. Pho, fried rice, vegetarian dishes, steamed rice, egg noodle, rice noodle—they play all the hits. We often opt for the fresh shrimp spring rolls and rare beef pho, with the spicy mango salad and vegetable fried noodles making nice healthier complements.
Best Korean Food in Niagara Falls: Fried Chicken ROKs
For a long time, there was simply no good Korean food in Niagara Falls. There were three restaurants—who cares, we’ll name them: Pokpo House (now Sushi Soo) on Victoria, Korean Garden south on Stanley and Young Garden near Fallsview. Pokpo has always been overpriced and is now more focused on Japanese food than Korean; Korean Garden has authentic style but they seem to have scaled back quality and portion size while keeping prices high; and Young Garden is usually fine, but the flavour is lacking and it seems expressly geared towards (and priced for) tourists. Having lived in Busan for two years, we here at Found in the Falls simply resigned ourselves to not having good Korean food available in this city. But then, in 2021, Fried Chicken ROKs came into the scene, moving into a tiny blue house on the outskirts of downtown, propping up a giant chicken outside and advertising a proud cross-national Canadian-Korean hybrid style of patriotism. And while they don’t offer a full breadth of Korean food, it’s perhaps more admirable that they chose to specialize in one thing: Korean fried chicken. Known for its spicy sauces, sesame covering and extra-crispy double-fried recipe, Korean fried chicken is arguably the ideal bar food, best paired with soju and beer. (Google search “soju bomb”; it’s more palatable than you think.) Fried Chicken ROKs offers soju—and beer—and also classics like yang nyum fried chicken, pork katsu and fried mandu, plus Western-fusion burgers like bulgogi and galbi burgers. For a night out, it’s worth the short drive south to Chippewa.