A lot of people always ask me what to do once they are in Chinatown, so I thought putting a list together would be nice. I also get asked a lot for advice on the best restaurant in Chinatown to go to. So I am combining both into one list for everyone to check out! I’ve actually been to majority of the restaurants there and even a few that are now closed. First, a little about Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, they are always super packed and many times, if you go to the restaurant in a small group of 2 or 3, you will share tables with other people. I don’t really care because that is the culture, but some may not feel comfortable. Don’t worry, this is no big deal, everyone will mind their own business. Here is a few old school restaurants that I love and will keep going until they close:
- Joe’s Shanghai (9 Pell St) – my ultimate favorite of Chinatown. This is my go-to restaurant when I want to take someone from out-of-town. They don’t take reservations, so there’s always a big line outside. What you should do is go there early for dinner, around 6pm – 6:30pm would be perfect. Their best dish would be the soup dumpling, click here for my blog piece on how to eat a soup dumpling. Another few of my favorite dish from them is the Salt and Pepper Squid, Kau Fu, Lion’s Head and Shanghai Noodle with pork (if you like vinegar, you can put some of the soup dumpling vinegar in it). If you have a small party, there is a high chance that you will share a table with others.
- Shanghai Cafe (100 Mott St) – another one of my favorite place in Chinatown. This is also my go-to restaurant. You can order a lot food there and still come out with a $20 tab. It’s a very cheap place to eat, but very good quality food. This place is also known for their soup dumpling. However, their soup dumpling’s dough is slightly thicker then the ones at Joe’s Shanghai. I prefer Joe’s Shanghai soup dumpling because it is supposed to have thin layer of dough, so thin that you can even see the soup in the dumpling. But, some people prefer the thicker dough so it really is a personal preference. Some of their other dishes that is a must to order: Kau Fu, Braised Noodle Shanghai Style, Sticky Rice in Bamboo Leaf (a must), and preserved vegetable and pork noodle soup.
- Jing Fong (20 Elizabeth St) – a favorite for Dim Sum. This is a huge place for dim sum. You have to go and give your name then they will give you a number. When they call your number, you go upstairs to get seated. Most likely if you have a small party, you will be seated with other diners. Once seated, you will get a long card where if you order a dish from the cart ladies, they will ask for the card to mark the size of the dish. The card is everything. If you want to get a dish at the cooking station, you have to bring the card. When you pay, you have to bring the card so they can tally up all the dishes you ordered from the cart lady and the cooking station. I can’t even begin to tell you what is good there because just about everything is good and they have tons. The only suggestion I can give is, if you do decide to go for dim sum, it is a good idea to go early so that the food is fresh and you don’t have to wait a longtime. If you have a small party, you will likely share a table with others.
- Aji Ichiban’s Munchie’s paradise – you can get all sorts of candies, dried fruits, Chinese beef / pork jerky there. I will say that their beef/pork jerky is great however, there are other places that you can get better ones in Chinatown that is freshly made. They have a few locations, here are a few: 37 Mott St, 167 Hester St, 188 Lafayette St. You can get exotic munchies that you found in Asia but no one else would carry but them.
- Peking Duck House (28 Mott St) – If you like fancy restaurants, this is the only one in Chinatown that you can say has fancy decor and good waiter service. This restaurant of course is known for their Peking duck. They will carve it perfectly and wrap it up for you. If you like duck, this is a must! Some of their other great dishes: Crispy Orange Beef, XO Lobster, Steamed sea bass (the sauce is to die for!)
- Taipan Bakery (194 Canal St) – my all time favorite bakery. They have so many delicious cakes plus traditional Chinese sweets. You can’t go wrong there.
- Food Heaven (16 Pell St) – Chinatown is also known to have great massage places. This is one of them. A lot of these places have people who used to be doctors in China but because they don’t have a degree here in the US, they can’t practice medicine, so instead, they do massages. If you are lucky, you will get someone who is very knowledgeable and can tell you what is wrong. For example, by massage my feet, the person who was taking care of me was able to tell me that I am very dehydrated and that I need to be careful with my liver. Without going into my medical history, this is pretty accurate. I don’t drink as much water as I should as well as I do have issues with my liver (no I don’t drink a lot of alcohol) 🙂
So these are a few suggested places to go in Chinatown. I also recommend exploring. Chinatown isn’t big so you can’t really get lost. You can also go to Little Italy on Mulberry St (also very small, just find the street and you will see the “Welcome to Little Italy” sign) but cool to walk by as you will see the different Italian restaurants competing for your business. I’ve eaten at 4 different restaurants in Little Italy and they all have their own specialties and they are all good. Even though Chinatown is small, it will take you a few visits to really get comfortable there and try everything you want to try. Chinatown is also a great place for groceries, like vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, shell-fish, etc… If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below!
The Style Gourmande