If you want to experience the real melting pot of New York, this is the neighborhood to explore. While gentrification has reared its ugly head in the majority of Manhattan, this pocket has managed to keep the 7-Elevens and Dunkin’ Donuts at bay. Get here before that changes. There are plenty of mom-and-pop shops, Asian groceries selling exotic reptiles, a plethora of independently-owned restaurants (without celebrity chefs), and hipster cocktail bars.
From dumplings to dim sum, banh mi to bourbon, here's a range of places local chefs and bartenders recommend you visit. To get the full New York City Guide, download the Find. Eat. Drink. iPhone app.
COFFEE | Cafe Grumpy
Sourcing, roasting, brewing, and expanding. The Chelsea coffee shop is on the edge of Chinatown. Fuel up here before your Chinatown adventure.
“Owners Caroline Bell and Chris Timbrell have been central to NYC's coffee culture. Cafe Grumpy has been devoted to highlighting the very best that each origin coffee has to give." - John Moore, Q Grader at Dallis Bros Coffee
13 Essex Street, New York, NY 10002 | T: 212.260.3454 | cafegrumpy.com
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
This is the oldest dim sum parlor in Manhattan and luckily still retains the original decor.
"This is my go-to for dim sum. I love their egg rolls. Basically what they’ve done is take an egg crepe and then they stuff it, lightly bread it and fry it. It’s a traditional, original egg roll. The Har Gow is also fantastic. Their turnip cake is one of my favorites. Come hungry and have everything.” - Chef Miguel Trinidad of Jeepney, Maharlika
"One of my favorite things here is Rice Roll with Fried Dough. It's dough with a large sheet of white noodles wrapped around it and then served with a sweet soy sauce." - Chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu
13 Doyers Street, New York, NY 10013
T: 212.962.6047 | nomwah.com
Dim Sum Go Go
One of the few places that make dim sum to order, which means no carts trundling around the restaurant and much less yelling. They are also vegetarian friendly.
"Their dim sum comes out piping hot and freshly steamed. The size is not too big and the variety is small, but I believe that restaurants should have a small variety." - Pastry Chef Pichet Ong
"I like that the dim sum is à la carte from a menu. I get intimidated with the carts at the other places and all the shouting. It's just too hectic. Here they make it to order and it's good." - Chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu
"I’m a man of the classics and I like their Har Gau, shrimp dumplings. I think that’s a good standard, if you can do a really good Har Gau then that says a lot for your technique as a chef and for the rest of the dim sum." - Chef Paul Liebrandt, formerly of The Elm
5 East Broadway, New York, NY 10038 | T: 212.732.0797 | dimsumgogo.com
A classic large scale dim sum hall, serving from wheeled carts.
"I love eating dim sum on Sunday and when we get people in from out of town, I love to take them here. It’s cheap and cheerful and casual. It is like the size of a football pitch and the dim sum is really delicious." - Chef April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, Breslin, John Dory, Salvation Taco
"This is a classic large dim sum factory with carts and very reasonable prices." - Restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld of Red Farm, Decoy
20 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.964.5256 | www.jingfongny.com
A Chinatown bakery known for their Portuguese-style egg custard tarts.
"I get these cocktail buns that are made with a Chinese dough and an egg yolk and sugar mixture on the inside and glazed on top and baked. You can get them for a dollar." - Chef John Wells of Fung Tu
271 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002 | T: 212.226.8882
Tai Pan Bakery
This Chinese bakery offers both sweet and savory pastries, as well as breads and cakes and mini-egg custards.
"It’s a very good Chinese bakery and I really like their Napoleons, which are different from the western Napoleons. The western ones are more creamy, whereas the Chinese Napoleons are light, dry and crispy with a nuttier walnut flavor. The texture is also very airy and soft. They are a great match with Vietnamese coffee or tea." - Restaurateurs Yiming Wang & Xian Zhang of Cafe China, China Blue
"I like to come here and order the pork buns." - Chef Jonathan Benno of Lincoln Restaurant
194 Canal Street, New York, NY 10013 | 212.732.2222 | www.taipanbakeryonline.com
Beef Jerky | Jung’s Dried Beef
A small shop on Mulberry street selling dried meat in a few types of flavors. Buy a bag, walk across the street to the park and watch the locals playing checkers while you snack.
"They only sell beef jerky and we use it as a bar snack with roasted peanuts and dill." - Chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu
58 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.732.7645
Tofu Factory | Fong Inn Too
Not the friendliest place to shop in Chinatown, but the warm tofu with syrup is worth it.
"They’re an old school tofu manufacturer. It’s like walking into a different world. They make this sweet tofu custard that we do a dessert with called Doufu Hua. We also use their pressed marinated tofu." - Chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu
46 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013
Hong Kong Supermarket
Wander the aisles hunting for exotic Asian specialties.
"We can go through the whole Asian rainbow and get anything we need here." - Chef Miguel Trinidad of Jeepney, Maharlika
"They have a huge inventory of interesting ingredients and a wide variety of Chinese condiments. Everything from the doufu-ru to century eggs. Because it's a supermarket there’s a convenience to it so I can get garlic chives and scallions and yuzu and at the same time I can get rice cakes for staff meal." - Chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu
157 Hester Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.966.4943 | www.hk-supermarket.com
Bangkok Center Grocery
"This is a Thai and Indonesian grocery store. I come here once a week for kaffir limes. They carry things like hot sauces, fish sauces, curries, galanga, coconut milk and sticky rice in banana leaves." - Chef Scott Bryan of Corvo Bianco
"I can come here and pick up everything I need to make a nice Thai meal." - Chef Harold Dieterle of Kin Shop, Perilla
104 Mosco Street, New York, NY 10013
T: 212.349.1979 | www.bangkokcentergrocery.com
New American | Dimes
Not necessarily an obvious choice in Chinatown, but this tiny spot located on the fringe of Chinatown is serving healthy, flavorful food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
"This is a very small LA feeling kind of place. They do quinoa salads and smoothies and the food is amazing. But it can be very crowded." - Restaurateur Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor
49 Canal Street, New York, NY 10002
T: 212.925.1300 | dimesnyc.com
Vietnamese | Banh Mi Saigon
At the crossroads of Little Italy and Chinatown, this Vietnamese sandwich shop is tucked in the back of a jewelry store.
"I’m addicted to the #1 spicy banh mi. I could eat one everyday for the rest of my life." - Chef Marc Forgione of Restaurant Marc Forgione, Khe-Yo
"Nothing compares to a #1 Extra Spicy Banh Mi with pork, pate, and extra pickled vegetables." - Chef Michael White of the Altamarea Group
198 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013
T: 212.941.1541 | www.banhmisaigonnyc.com
Dumpling Shop | Fried Dumpling
Quick and cheap dumplings eaten standing up in a tiny space.
"The dumplings are really tasty and they make these little buns that get grilled and add different fillings. It’s pork with diced dried mushrooms and maybe diced water chestnuts, something that is crisp that’s really nice. They are Northern Chinese and usually the lady who is doling them out is so gruff, but can also be very tender. I love that." - Chef Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu
106 Mosco Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.693.1060 | frieddumplingnyc.com
This Chinatown cocktail bar doesn't have any obvious signage. Just look to the left of Nom Wah. The inside is like a luxurious chemistry lab.
"I'm blown away by the cocktails at Apotheke. The lighting, the bartenders in white coats, it all makes you feel like you want a cocktail." - Bartender John Bush of Talde, Pork Slope, Thistle Hill
"For cocktails, you can't go wrong with Apotheke if you want to push the boundaries of sanity on your liver. You go through the Chinatown maze to arrive at a door that has no signage. You're walking in and all of a sudden you're transported to this completely different scenery." - Chef Philippe Massoud of Ilili
"They have beakers on the wall, seven bartenders with mustaches and lab coats, and a back bar that is not even lit, with a bunch of bugs bunny looking bottles. But the cocktails are amazing!" - Bartender Ryan Goodspeed of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
9 Doyers Street, New York, NY 10079
T:212.406.0400 | www.apothekenyc.com
Peking Duck House
Opened in 1978, their friendly corkage fee ($0) has made this a beloved destination for chefs and sommeliers.
"I love Peking duck and this is a great place to get... Peking duck." - Chef Harold Dieterle of Kin Shop, Perilla
28 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.227.1810 | www.pekingduckhousenyc.com
An authentic Cantonese, cash only restaurant on the corner on Elizabeth and Bayard Streets.
"This restaurant is authentic and amazing. They make all their own barbecue in-house, like BBQ pork, soy sauce chicken and roast duck. They have a banquet-style menu featuring ten different traditional and classic dishes for ten people (Chinese menu only). The cost is from $299 to $599 and includes Chinese fried chicken, steamed fish, rice and noodles, a bunch of veggies, and some sort of cold platter. Bring a Chinese person if you don't speak Chinese." - Restaurateur Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor
1 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.219.3686
LATE NIGHT EATS & DRINK
Wing Kee Restaurant
This is the tiny scruffy type of restaurant that you might walk by a million times before you notice it. For many years it existed as 69 Chinese Restaurant with the walls papered with dollar bills. It closed (for about a month) and then reopened with the same menu and same staff, but a new name. Time to repaper the walls with new dollar bills.
"I come here at least once a week. It is a hole-in-the-wall and great for late night. I order the Salt & Pepper Fried Chicken Wings, a rice plate and a small wonton soup. It's like a Chinese-American diner that is open until late at night." - Restaurateur Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Open until 4am
69 Bayard Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.227.1173
You can pull an all-nighter at this classic Cantonese restaurant and leave as the sun rises.
"Wo Hop (downstairs) rocks! It's one of my favorite late night places. The best dishes are 4D Chow Fun and the half-fried chicken." - Chef King Phojanakong of Kuma Inn, Umi Nom
Open until 7am
17 Mott Street, New York, NY 10013 | T: 212.962.8617 | wohopnyc.com
Up Stairs Bar
This is a divey Chinese karaoke bar located on the second floor of a Chinatown / Lower East Side apartment building. How can you resist? BYOH (Bring Your Own Hipster).
"This is a hole-in-the wall up a narrow staircase with disco lights and karaoke. You can get a large glass of whiskey for $7. It used to be a neighborhood bar where you'd see Chinese people playing dice games, but now it's more of a mixed crowd since it was discovered by hipsters." - Restaurateur Wilson Tang of Nom Wah
"It's a few blocks south of my restaurant, Kuma Inn, and like Kuma, you walk up the stairs and enter another world. After a warm greeting from Rena and crew, I get to enjoy a couple of bourbons and belt out a few tunes by Journey and Bon Jovi." - Chef King Phojanakong of Kuma Inn, Umi Nom
Open until 3am
59 Canal Street, New York, NY 10002 | T: 917.608.6978
Chinatown Cover Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk [flickr]