Going to David’s Mai Lai Wah is a Philadelphia rite of passage. Not for dinner, but at 2am on a Saturday when people swarm this Chinese spot after a night of drinking. That’s when this restaurant effectively turns into a post-party fever dream with food that can ward off even the worst hangover.
This long-standing staple in Chinatown serves a wide range of Chinese food, like fried dumplings, mu shoo beef pancakes, and seven different types of egg foo young. Everything is good - especially after six drinks and dancing to Sean Paul on top of a speaker - but the one thing you absolutely need to get is the salt and pepper wings. They’re cooked perfectly, with a thin layer of crispy skin on the outside. And at only $7.50 for 10 wings, you might be tempted to order their whole supply and carry out the leftovers wrapped up in your jacket.
More memorable than the food, though, is what’s happening around you while you’re here. The late-night crowd is a microcosm of every single type of person that lives in Philadelphia - from huge groups of Temple students to drag queens who just finished a show at Woody’s to 50-year-old divorcees who “haven’t partied like this in years.” You’ll see smeared eyeliner, broken heels, and at least one person crying and/or asleep in a corner booth. It sounds weird - and if you’re not on the same level as everyone else it definitely can be. But mostly it’s fun, and it’s one of the few restaurants that everyone in the city can agree is great. At least for a couple of hours in between drinking, eating, and then climbing into bed.
These wings aren’t slathered in spicy buffalo sauce, but instead simply fried and sprinkled with some salt and pepper. They’re only $7.50, and they’re the best late-night food you’ll find in the city.
There’s nothing super special about the fried pork dumplings, but it’s the sauce that makes these worth ordering. It’s almost like a salsa with lots of salt and garlic, and it’s delicious.
If your normal late-night move is to drive through Taco Bell and get a bunch of chalupa supremes, try the mu shoo beef pancakes from David’s as an alternative. They’re like little burritos filled with salty soy-marinated beef and cabbage, and they’re better than anything you’d get from a drive-through.
This is basically an egg omelette over rice. While it won’t change your life, it will fill you up - which is really what you need at 2am after a long night.