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The seven best hidden gems in Chinatown, according to an expert

Written by
Dan Q Dao

While Chinatown remains perhaps the grimiest 'hood in downtown Manhattan, many of its top restaurants and local attractions have been blown up by hungry tourists and local culture vultures alike. Still, some of its best spots have flown under-the-radar for years, frequented mostly by residents and longtime patrons. To discover some of the neighborhood's lesser-known spots, we spoke to Wilson Tang, proprietor behind Chinese-American eatery Fung Tu and Nom Wah Tea Parlor—the city's oldest dim sum joint. As a New York native and long-time Chinatown small business owner, Tang knows a thing or two about the area's best kept secrets. From beef jerky to jewelry, here are his seven must-visit hidden gems in Chinatown. 

RECOMMENDED: Chinatown, NYC neighborhood guide

1. Jung's Beef Jerky

Find excellent handmade beef and pork jerkies in sweet and spicy variations at this over 50-year-old mainstay, also called Ping's Dried Beef. The owners, a husband-wife duo, cut, marinate and dry the meat daily in small batches. Wilson's tip: "Get here early because once they are out, they are out." 58 Mulberry St (212-732-7645)

2. Chen's Watch Repair

Operating out of a small cart outside Fong Inn restaurant, this father-son business carries most types of batteries and bands needed for replacements. The elder Mr. Chen is a watch connoisseur who is very capable of handling higher end watches. Wilson's tip: "Looking for used luxury watches? He might just be able to get you one!" 46 Mott St

Mama Eatery
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Yelp/Doris C.
3. Mama Eatery

A breakfast-to-lunch standby for lawyers, cops and jurors from the nearby courthouse areas, the kitchen turns into a Malaysian curry pop-up by night. Wilson's tip: "The avocado salad is a must for a light lunch but if you are in the know, they have curry chicken over rice that is a total sleeper hit." 46 Mulberry St (212-608-7440) 

4. Po Wing Hong

This specialty grocer was founded in 1980 by husband-wife duo Patrick and Nancy Ng as a tiny shop on Hester Street. Now in roomier digs on Elizabeth, it offers authentic Asian goods ranging from dried foods to snacks and pantry items. Wilson's tip: "This is the go-to for Asian sauces, noodles, drinks and other obscure Chinese ingredients." 49 Elizabeth St (212-960-1080)

5. Latino Jewelry, Inc

Nestled between the crowd of jewelers on Canal Street, this family-owned standout boasts one of the largest selections on the block. Wilson's tip: "Shopping for a special occasion? Ask for Tommy and he'll help you out with what you need." 211 Canal St 

Kam Hing Coffee Shop
Photograph: Krista Schlueter

6. Kam Hing Coffee Shop

The specialty of this Baxter Street favorite is sponge cake—offered in varieties like vanilla and green tea, and stored in giant Tupperware containers behind the counter. Wash down the treats with any one of the milk teas or a Vietnamese iced coffee. Wilson's tip: "Stating the obvious, but this is the best sponge cake in the city." 199 Baxter St (212-925-0425)

7. Lee Chung Cafe 

Cheap eats don't come any better than this. At this no-frills, cash-only eatery, find a diverse selection of pan-Asian specialties ranging from Myanmar fish soups to Cantonese pork chop sandwiches and Taiwanese bubble tea. Wilson's tip: "For just $5, you get a well-seasoned and pan-seared chicken cutlet over rice and veggies. The chicken is marinated with citrus, garlic and shallots—it's delicious!" 82 Madison St (212-233-5142)

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