There’s more to neighborhood retail than cheap jewelry emporiums and surreptitious dealers of designer knockoffs—chic boutiques are spilling over from Soho, Nolita and the Lower East Side. Purveyor of cult clogs, No. 6, and avant-garde survivor Downtown Music Gallery are among the best shops in Chinatown. When shopping fatigue sets in, retire to one of the local bars or grab a bite.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Chinatown, New York
Dave’s Quality Meats has been a downtown staple for skaters and sneaker freaks since opening in 2003, and the store’s namesake, Dave Ortiz, branched out with another retail venture. Hidden amid Chinese markets on an unassuming Chinatown street, the warehouselike skate and streetwear shop is lit by neon signs and inhabited by the store’s mascot, a pug named Squishy. There’s a selection of Zoo York skate decks ($50 each)—some of which Ortiz’s pro-skater friends have signed—and plenty of skate shoes, like a pair of colorful Etnies ($65). Nonskaters will also appreciate the selection of clothes that Ortiz keeps at rock-bottom prices, such as Zig Zag canvas sneakers ($20), Rothco waffle-check thermals ($10), Dickies twill pants ($22) and army-navy surplus messenger bags ($24). The shop also carries ADD+ (Another Dace Design), Ortiz’s own line of graphic tees ($18–$22) and hoodies ($40).Read more
Many landmarks of the so-called downtown music scene, including Tonic and Tribeca’s Knitting Factory, have shuttered in recent years, but as long as DMG persists, the community will have a sturdy anchor. The shop, which relocated from a plum Bowery spot to a Chinatown basement earlier this year, stocks the city’s—and perhaps the world’s—most impressive selection of avant-garde jazz, contemporary classical, progressive rock and related styles. An entire CD display devoted to John Zorn’s Tzadik imprint illustrates the store’s die-hard devotion—it’s doubtful that even the composer’s apartment contains such an encyclopedic array.Read more
Once you ring the buzzer to Morgan Yakus and Karin Bereson’s boho-chic boutique, you’ll feel as though you’ve been invited into an impossibly stylish friend’s closet. Half European vintage, half new designs, the store specializes in statement pieces from local and international talents like Electric Feathers, Stine Goya and Henrik Vibskov. You’ll also find No. 6’s own clog and boot line ($230–$450) and the duo’s silk dresses in signature prints ($285–$400). Bags from Wendy Nickel ($475–$700) and crocheted metal earrings, cuffs and necklaces from Arielle de Pinto and AESA ($120–$555) round out the collection. If you get tired while browsing, just lounge on the couch and shoot the breeze with the laid-back sales staff.Read more
The focus at this minimalist menswear store in Chinatown is a well-edited mix of under-the-radar international and New York labels, curated by co-owners Elizabeth Beer and Brian Janusiak, who also own the women’s boutique Project No.8 around the corner. Earth-toned clothing is hung neatly along half a dozen racks lining the perimeter of the shop, and include the store’s own brand, Various Projects, which features gems like a nanotechnology button-down shirt with built-in anti-perspirant and aloe ($180). While pricey, the pieces here have an uncanny attention to detail, such as Peter Weismann’s silky reversible briefs ($390), and Martin Margiela’s signature leather shoes ($785), made with extra space for your big toe.Read more
Founded by design collaboration Various Projects (for which the house line is named), the sleek Project No. 8 (the women’s store) and No. 8b (the men’s store) provide experimental spaces for design projects that have no other logical home; exquisitely tailored suits from Siki Im are displayed alongside a cork wallet by Maison Martin Margiela. Considering that the founders based the stores around themes like digression, it’s surprising how well the merchandise—culled from dozens of international designers— hangs together.Read more
At the only U.S. locale of this Beijing company, the wallpaper on the immaculate shop’s back wall explains how the Chinese tradition of giving chopsticks spreads happiness. Gift-hunters can choose from more than 200 different styles, many of which are hand-painted and crafted from materials like mahogany, ebony and sterling silver. Pick up colorful plastic sets (five for $9) for everyday use, or pony up for special-occasion sticks, like the handmade, seashell-inlaid sets with 20 layers of lacquer ($36–$268 for a pair). Once you’ve scored some of these stylish utensils, ordering takeout will feel like a lavish affair.Read more