Back in 2005, Xi’an Famous Foods began as a food stall in Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, NY. Fast forward a decade and they now have over ten locations throughout New York. It’s a true testament to their delicious and affordable food.
This popular chain is named after the city of Xi’an in the northwest region of China. Unlike the typical Chinese fare many of us are accustomed to, the food in this region is a cross between Chinese and Middle Eastern cuisines where you’ll find the heavy use of cumin and chili.
Mike and I visited the 34th Street location, a stone’s throw away from the Empire State Building. This particular location is open everyday from 11:00am to 8:30pm. All locations tend to get extremely busy during peak lunch periods so I recommend checking their website which has a ‘real-time store traffic meter’ for each of their locations indicating whether it is ‘not busy’, ‘moderately busy’ or ‘very busy’.
When you enter the space, you’ll find a large menu on the wall consisting of hand-pulled noodles, noodles in soup, cold noodles, cold dishes, ‘burgers’ and other specialties like dumplings and spicy tofu. I really appreciated the fact that each menu item had a picture so you know what to expect. The low prices (by Manhattan standards) are part of Xi’an’s draw with most noodle dishes around the $8-$10 mark.
Once you’ve decided what to eat, head over to the cashier to place and pay for your order, grab a seat and wait for your number to be called. The restaurant is much larger than it appears from the outside. While it’s quite narrow, it stretches pretty far back. There’s counter seating along the open kitchen as well as additional seating in the back of the space behind the kitchen.
We shared a Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger ($5). The fragrant slices of lamb were out of this world. Don’t worry if you’re not a big fan of gamey meats – the cumin and spices they use help mask that gaminess. The bread which sandwiches the lamb is really more like an English muffin as opposed to a traditional burger bun. It holds up surprisingly well against the slices of oily lamb.
My only complaint would be the amount of lamb in the burger. I felt it could’ve used a few more slices of lamb as there were a few bites which were all bread. Another point I’d add is that this alone probably won’t be enough to fill you up for as a meal. You might want to supplement this with something else as well.
We also ordered the Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-Ripped Noodles ($9.50). In case you’re wondering if lamb is the only protein on the menu, they also offer spicy & tingly beef, stewed pork, stewed oxtail and pork but lamb seems to be the most popular.
The spicy cumin lamb in the noodles, which is sautéed with onions, pepper, ginger and garlic, is the same lamb that you’ll find in the lamb burger. The lamb is mixed with long and wide noodles covered in a delicious blend of black vinegar, soy sauce and spices. The al dente noodles had a wonderful chewiness to them and the fact that they were so wide allowed each bite to be coated in the sauce.
I have to admit, it was a little off-putting when I looked at the bottom of the plate where a pool of oil had collected. You certainly won’t feel great about yourself after eating this but boy will it taste amazing as you’re shoveling it into your mouth (I speak from experience).
The last thing we shared was the Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad ($6). It’s a pretty sizeable portion so I’d recommend ordering this to share. While this was another spicy dish, it was a refreshing change of pace (and very much necessary!) with the fresh, crispy cucumbers. I’d happily order this again.
Needless to say, we had a really satisfying meal at Xi’an Famous Foods – all for the price of a cocktail! The affordable prices was just the cherry on top!
At a glance:
- Started out in 2005 as a food stall in Flushing, NY; now has over 10 locations throughout New York
- This post is about their 34th Street location (open everyday from 11:00am to 8:30pm; accepts credit cards)
- Named after the city of Xi’an, the northwest region of China
- Unlike typical Chinese fare – a cross between Chinese and Middle Eastern cuisines
- Fast food-style; reasonable prices
- Loved the spicy cumin lamb (both in burger and noodle-form)
Ratings (out of 5):
- Food: 4 stars
- Service: 3 stars
- Atmosphere: 3 stars