One of the most eclectic neighborhoods in NYC has to be the streets of Chinatown. Located in downtown Manhattan (hop off the subway at Canal Street), this area is rich with food, shopping and entertainment and is home to one of the densest populations of Chinese immigrants in the Western Hemisphere.
You can spend an entire day wandering the streets and soaking in the culture and eating dim sum until you simply cant anymore. Here are some of my top picks for your exploration.
20 Elizabeth Street
Come here for the bustling Hong Kong style dim sum carts. This large banquet hall offers some of the best dim sum in the city. Bring your ticket up to the dim sum carts that interest you if you feel like you’re missing out on the good stuff that’s circulating around.
New Green Bo
66 Bayard St
This may possibly be the best Shanghai-style restaurant in town. The soup dumplings and vegetarian duck are delicious, and hearty food like casseroles topped with an egg crêpe filled with tiny shrimp, braised pork shoulder, or giant “lion’s head” meatballs are excellent winter meals. But the fried dumplings? Those are the stars of the show. Order them crispy, you will not be disappointed.
Great N.Y. Noodletown
If you’ve been out all night (perhaps taking on some karaoke) stop here for some late night munchies. Perfect for a hot bowl of noodles with roast duck after a night of bar-hopping.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard Street
Famously known throughout the city, this is a must stop for anyone with a sweet tooth. Try the Lychee flavor (my personal fav) or get one of the delicious sorbets!
90 E. Broadway
You wont find a Starbucks in this neighborhood, but if you’re looking for dessert through a straw, stop here for their watermelon with tapioca bubble tea. Bonus? They’re only about $2-$3.
This traditional Chinatown gate was dedicated in 1962 “in memory of the Americans of Chinese descent who lost their lives in defense of freedom and democracy.” The stout, Leninesque statue is Lin Ze Xu, a nineteenth-century anti-narcotics crusader and hero of the Opium Wars.
Museum of Chinese in the Americas
70 Mulberry Street
The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) is the first full-time professionally staffed museum dedicated to reclaiming, preserving, and interpreting the history and culture of Chinese and their descendants in the Western Hemisphere. Swing by on Thursdays, when the museum stays open late and admission is free.
Mahayana Buddhist Temple
133 Canal St.
The temple is free and open to the public, and offers a large meditation area with plenty of space to rest and reflect under a 16-foot-high golden Buddha. While the giant Buddha is the temple’s main attraction, don’t miss the series of intricate ivory carvings on display in the second-floor shop.
45 Mott St
Don’t be intimidated by the dark, underground location and karaoke diehards there to sing high-pitched Chinese pop. This is a chance for a true Lost in Translation experience. To avoid long waits at peak hours (around midnight), reserve one of Galaxy’s glowing karaoke rooms. Room charge: $50 an hour Fridays and Saturdays nights.
“Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Coach?” Chinatown is known for its street vendors selling items (knock off’s) of designer handbags, sunglasses, jewelry and perfumes. First sign of law enforcement and these guys are off. But the deals are great and items, well, as close to a Chanel that some of us will ever get.
Pearl River Mart
With 30,000 square feet of space, there’s more to buy than you can possibly imagine: soy sauce, teapots, medicinal herbs, underwear, musical instruments, embroidered silks by the yard, Chinese checkers sets, pencils, Buddha statues. A true cultural shopping experience. Be sure to head up to the third floor, where you’ll find the largest gallery of Oriental furniture in Chinatown.
75 Mott St.
Ten Ren is the largest tea company in Taiwan and this Chinatown outpost features a broad range of indigenously grown loose-leaf teas, like King’s Tea, a blend of oolong and ginseng, and its seasonal Spring Tea, a light, floral green oolong harvested in limited quantities. With five grades of jasmine tea alone to choose from, the selection here can be overwhelming, so let the staff guide you. Call ahead to schedule a traditional tea ceremony for up to 10 guests and enjoy a sampling of two teas of your choice, as well as information on the tea’s origins and proper brewing techniques.
Need help finding your way around? Here’s a map to get help you get to where you need to go!