Why I love Chinatown
Tue Aug 25 2009
Working his way as a nomad through Washington Heights to the Financial District, Chris Schonberger, TONY's assistant Web editor, has finally found a home in Chinatown. "The abundance of legitimately cheap and delicious food is a big selling point for me (as well as a rare commodity in Manhattan), and the fact that I am much taller than the majority of the people there seals the deal," he jokes.
Read about the places he loves after the jump.
His favorite restaurants:
Paris Sandwich Bakery Cafe (113 Mott St between Canal and Hester Sts, 212-226-7221) "I eventually realized that there are better places to get banh mi in the area (e.g., jewelry and DVD stores that peddle sandwiches as a side hustle), but this bustling bakery is still a great snack spot any time of day. Try the green-tea waffles, delicious garlic bread and sweet Vietnamese iced coffee."
Nice Green Bo Restaurant (66 Bayard St between Elizabeth and Mott Sts, 212-625-2359) "Whether or not the staff is actually nice is sort of beside the point once you've tried the best soup dumplings in town. I've developed a technique for eating them without looking like a moron (puncture the dumpling with a chopstick then catch the liquid in your spoon), but figuring it out yourself is part of the fun."
Sau Voi Corp (101 Lafayette St between Walker and White Sts, 212-226-8184) "This place basically sums up Chinatown's appeal for me: a tiny Vietnamese CD-DVD-porn store that happens to make unbelievably cheap (under $4) and fresh banh mi. I recommend the BBQ meatball version, but I can't vouch for the film DILFs."
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard St between Elizabeth and Mott Sts, 212-608-4170) "Go here to taste all the flavors you won't get down the street at Hagen-Dazs, like lychee sorbet, taro, Zen butter and wasabi. Also, I really like their dragon logo, because if I were a dragon I would definitely eat lots of ice cream to cool down my mouth."
Fay Da Bakery (191 Center St between Canal and Hester Sts, 212-966-8934) "I used to live on a daily breakfast routine of a couple steamed roasted pork buns and a milky cup of tea from this place. As with all good things in Chinatown, my stomach eventually protested this activity. Still, Fay Da's several locations are my first port of call when sticky buns are required."
Tasty Dumpling House (54 Mulberry St between Bayard and Mosco Sts, 212-349-0070) "Since Vanessa's Dumpling House (118 Eldridge St between Broome and Grand Sts, 212-625-8008) got a nice makeover, I needed a place that looked disgusting enough to make eating five delicious pork and chive dumplings for $1.25 feel like a sordid guilty pleasure."
His favorite bars:
Apothke (9 Doyers St at Pell St, 212-406-0400) "When you take a date down this atmospheric alleyway and into an unmarked den of mixology, they will think you are awesome. You'll soon be saying, 'Thank you, scientist!' when one of the vial-toting bartenders mixes you up a bespoke cocktail, though it's safe to say your wallet will not thank you at all."
Winnie's (104 Bayard St between Baxter and Mulberry Sts, 212-732-2384) "Finding a good Chinatown dive bar is a lot harder than it should be. Thankfully, Winnie's has everything you could ask for—terrible karaoke, bizarre shot specials and an amusing, no-nonsense staff. A visit on a Sunday afternoon will either be the most hilarious or most depressing thing you've ever done."
Onieal's (174 Grand St between Baxter St and Centre Market Pl, 212-941-9119) "I love the blocks along Grand and Hester where Chinatown and Little Italy duke it out for real estate. I also like the fact that Onieal's has nothing to do with either—it's an oasis of understated reasonableness set back from the madness of gaudy Italian joints and shady handbag hustlers."
His favorite things to do:
Chinatown Fair Video Arcade (8 Mott St between Chatham Sq and Mosco St, 212-964-1542) "At what point did it become a requirement for all arcades to be overpriced boozers filled with tourists in button-down shirts? Take it back to the old school at this dingy video-game emporium, which is primarily frequented by Asian teenagers and people who wear actual workout clothes to play Dance Dance Revolution."
New York Table Tennis Federation (384 Broadway between Walker and White Sts; 646-772-2922, nyttf.com) "Head down to the basement to find a Ping-Pong mecca. For $10 a person you can use a table for an hour (paddles are included), and there are even private lessons should you want to make a gold-medal run. Some of the people who train here—yes, train—are insanely good."
Columbus Park (Mulberry St between Bayard and Worth Sts) "This feels to me like the heart of neighborhood—from the old folks doing tai chi at dawn to the mah-jongg players who take over the tables in the afternoons and evenings, it's always buzzing with activity. For those who are interested in Manhattan's history, it marks the center of the infamous Five Points neighborhood."
Grocery shopping is reason enough to visit Chinatown. A little patience and savvy will make even the Trader Joe's zealots swoon. Look for fish markets on Grand Street between Chrystie and Eldridge—cook your 'catch' the same day and you'll be good to go. Veggies and fruit stands are plentiful on Mott between Hester and Grand, as well as under the Manhattan Bridge near Forsyth and Division. For groceries and household goods hit up Hong Kong Supermarkets (135 East Broadway between Pike and Rutgers Sts * 157 Hester St at Elizabeth St), which stock basics and fun stuff like toads and turtles and crocodile toes. Tea and herbal medicines are also a dime a dozen throughout the 'hood, so do some exploring. And don't forget to get a massage!