As a New Yorker who lived in this city all her life (yes, even though I’m moving to Chicago, I’m still a New Yorker haha!) I can understand why locals many times stay away from this area. For starters, it’s usually packed with tourists and you can barely enjoy it because you might spend your time dodging people instead. So why do I insist you spend a perfect day in this neighborhood that sometimes can be overwhelming to all our senses ( and not always in the most pleasant kind of ways haha) – Well the reason I insist it’s because Chinatown is part of what makes New York City a melting pot. The area itself is not the melting pot but instead, a reminder of how different cultures coexist right next to each other in NYC yet each of them has a unique personality to it. I’m always in awe of how generations of families establish a strong foundation of their culture in a completely new place – I think that’s exactly what makes Chinatown so exciting to me!
For this guide, I asked my sister-n-law for help because she’s lived in Chinatown all her life and comes from a generation of a family that has too. I hope you enjoy the itinerary – let me know if you have questions or need any more tips!
Start your morning at a traditional Chinese bakery called Double Crispy Bakery – get a coffee and the flaky wife cake pastry. So yummy!
230 Grand St,
Just walk around and take in as much of the culture of the area as you can. I think walking without a plan is the best tip for any traveler (I mean don’t take it to the extreme and end up in some alleyway or dangerous area haha) but you all know what I mean! Chinatown is a maze and every street is beaming with markets and shops – the energy is vibrant and can only be appreciated by getting lost. Some of my favorite streets are Doyer, Mott, Grand and Elizabeth Street.
My two recommendations for a traditional Chinese dim sum meal are Nom Wah Parlor which has been around since 1920! It’s smaller than other dim sum restaurants in the area and tucked away on Doyer street, away from all the madness. 13 Doyers St
Jing Fong – my brother and sister-n-law live in the area and go there for a traditional dim sum. It’s a huge space and when your food is ready, the waiters serve your food decked in yellow suits with wheel carts piled high with a bamboo steamer. It’s quite the thing to see! So cool! 20 Elizabeth Street
Stop by Happy Bones for a mid-day cappuccino! Try to see if you can score one the cute tortoise spoons they sometimes sell as a souvenir 🙂
394 Broome St
If coffee in the afternoon is not your thing then head over for some ice cream at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory! It’s a family owned business and has been around for over 40 years. They have a huge variety of flavors – I recommend trying the almond cookie ice cream because the cookie is made from a local bakery in the area and it’s so good!! 65 Bayard Street
Chinatown has some amazing herbal shops – stop by the Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy – it’s a favorite in the area and has been around since 1973. They will make you any concoction you need. It’s like having grandparents on standby – they always know the secrets to curing anything. 🙂 211 Grand Street
Head over to Chinese Tuxedo for an upscale Chinese dinner! The restaurant’s decor is beautiful mainly because is housed in the old Chinatown Opera House so it still has that charm and character. These are a few faves from the menu: crispy skin squab; chicken liver; beef tartare; and whipped cream with strawberries and yogurt. Tip: No reservations for parties of 3 or less, but the bar is usually readily available for seating. 5 Doyers Street
End your night with a cocktail (obviously!) from an underground Mexican restaurant that serves really good cocktails and tacos called Pulqueria (11 Doyers St ). Another great option is Apotheke – if you’re a cocktail snob than this is where you want to go. It’s a mixologist dream serving cocktails with fresh and organic local herbs – the space is “pharmacy style” and has that “speakeasy vibe”. 9 Doyers St
Photography By: Paola Franqui