I can't believe it's taken me so long to write this post, LOL. It didn't take me too long to gather the content... but what I mean is that Chinatown has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am 100% Chinese-American, and my mom actually grew up in Chinatown. I still have a grandma who resides there, as well. I have been visiting Chinatown since my early childhood... and my favorite part about it has always been the FOOD. It's about time I write this guide! ;)
This year, Chinese New Year falls on Friday, February 16 (tomorrow!) - so I figured now would be the perfect time to share my recs. Are you heading into Chinatown to celebrate and experience the dragon dancing / parade? The confetti filled streets alone are worth the trek! I'm sure the festivities will continue into this weekend and maybe even into next week, too. If you have never been, it should be on your NYC bucket list. Highly recommend. ;)
Of course, before or after the festivities - you'll want to stuff your face! So I've compiled this guide for ya - in the case that you aren't quite sure where to begin. If you don't frequent Chinatown on the regular, it can be kinda intimidating (kinda like stepping into another country for a hot second). The places on this list are a combination of the places my mom has frequented over the years as well as some newer wave Chinatown spots that I've scoped out on my own.
Big Wong - This has been my family's "go to" for so many years to sit down and eat. I love their chicken congee (rice porridge), wonton noodle soup, and their fresh shrimp rice crepes. Everything is SUPER cheap and delicious, but it can get pretty loud during their busy hours. You'll notice waiters and staff going back and forth between the kitchen and orders being yelled in Chinese back to the chefs. A true Chinatown experience, though. ;)
Hop Shing - I've never actually sat down and eaten here, but have gotten dim sum at their always bustling to go counter (there is ALWAYS a line)! I love their coconut bread, chive dumplings, fried shrimp dumplings, and $1 massive pork buns!
Sun Hing Lung Co - One of my favorite hidden gems in Chinatown. They make fresh rice noodle crepes to go. It's a window / counter situation - so there is no seating area.. and feels very "street food style." It's actually a rice noodle factory, and if you go early enough you can even watch them peeling massive noodle sheets off of a conveyor belt. I always get the chicken rice crepe (+ ask to add scallions).. then load on the soy sauce and sriracha (SO good!). And it's only like... $1.50. You can also buy an assortment of other things from them like fresh tofu or plain rice noodles to cook at home.
Mei Lei Wah - A very small but cozy dim sum spot. Prices are also very good! I've only been here once to sit down and eat -- and actually don't remember what I ordered, but remember thinking it was yummy, haha. I have a friend who goes here often and always gets (at least) 10 pork buns to go (they're $1 each)!
Golden Mandarin Court - Have never sat down to eat here, but have gotten their steamed shrimp dumplings ("ha gao") and steamed taro dumplings to go many times. So good!
Dim Sum VIP - A little bit pricier than most of its neighbors.. but everything here is delicious. They have these pig shaped carrot custard buns that you have to try... because, well, have you ever seen anything cuter??! The pork buns are more than $1 here, but have a really unique airy texture to them with a light but flakey topping. Also, it's super easy to order if you aren't too familiar with dim sum (or speaking Chinese) because they give you a menu to check off / write your order on! Very tourist friendly. ;)
Vanessa's Dumpling House - A cult favorite. So so cheap, too! I usually get their pork / chive dumplings and their sesame pancake filled with veggies. You can also get a bag of frozen dumplings to cook at home! I have noticed both Chinatown locals and nonlocals eating here.
Mimi Cheng's - This is definitely a "new wave" Chinatown option... more on the outskirts and not quite in the "heart" of Chinatown. But still a great option! They're a little bit pricier, but I love that they have vegetarian dumpling options (which can be hard to come by in traditional, old school Chinatown eateries). Their chili oil dipping sauce is also to die for, and I always request extra!
Yee Li - It's not quite dim sum, but this is my mom's go-to place for soy sauce chicken and roast pork (with the crispiest skin). Yum!
Manna House Bakery - Hands down my FAVORITE bakery in Chinatown. They make the BEST egg custard tarts (perfect flakey crust). I also love their sweet topping buns, pork buns, curry hand pies, and vanilla sponge cake rolls. There pretty much isn't a single thing here I won't eat, haha.
Nice One Bakery - The name alone of this bakery should be reason enough to go. ;) They have adorable tiny little colorful stools for seating, and I always laugh at seeing grown adults (Chinatown locals) sitting in there. My favorite things to get here are their sesame balls, fried dumplings, or curry hand pies.
Taiyaki NYC - A traditional Japanese dessert: soft serve ice cream served in a fish shaped waffle cone. I love their matcha and black sesame swirl soft serve with a side of mochi and strawberries!
Frozen Sweet - Thai ice cream rolls! I love their thai tea / lychee combo... topped off with a (freakin' adorable) panda cookie. PS: There are also monkey cookies. AND vegan ice cream options!
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - This place has been in business for 30+ years! They have a HUGE variety of ice cream flavors to choose from - both Asian and non Asian. When I went, I got a scoop of egg custard and a scoop of taro. During the summer, there's always a line out the door.
Sweet Moment - I have never actually eaten any of the dessert items here, but they do specialize in the most adorable "creamart" latte art. I have been wanting to go back to try their epic-sounding "bingsoo" (milk shaved ice).
Kung Fu Tea - I am not the most well versed in boba, lol. My mom can't get over the "weird texture" and isn't a huge fan and therefore I never really grew up with it - but so many of my Asian American friends (and also non Asian friends) LOVE it.. so I ended up trying it eventually and giving it a fair chance. This was the first boba place I ever tried, and I liked it enough to go back again, haha. Their winter gourd tea is really yummy - as is their honey green tea!
Completely unrelated to food - but you can also get your aura photo taken at a little hole in the wall (right next to Kung Fu Tea) called Magic Jewelry. I went on my birthday, and it was such a fun + cool experience! It costs $20, but I think it's worth doing at least once in your life. Mine was creepy accurate!
Boba Guys - This is my favorite boba spot that I've discovered. They have multiple locations in the city, and I'm so happy that they opened up a fairly new location in Canal Street Market. There is always a long line, but it's worth the wait. I always get the Thai tea boba with oat milk. As someone who is allergic to almonds, I love that they have milk options other than almond milk. After you have your boba in hand, you can shop the artist vendors in the market!
New York Mart (Fresh Mart) - This is probably the largest "traditional" Asian supermarket in Chinatown. They recently rebranded themselves as "Fresh Mart" I believe, which is funny to me because sometimes their stuff isn't the *freshest* haha. (This sounds bad, but I think it's just because I usually go in the morning when they are switching out old stock still...) They have a HUGE variety of veggies (okra, daikon, Chinese eggplant, winter melon, etc), fruits (dragon fruit, jackfruit, durian, etc), snacks (spicy shrimp crackers are a MUST), and frozen goods (frozen dumplings!). There's also a meat / fish market, AND a bakery (all under the same roof).. although I can't say they offer up the freshest looking meat / fish / baked goods.. it's very convenient to have it all in one place? Across the street, there are tons of smaller produce markets which often times look fresher or have better prices.. so you could check those before / after stopping here too.
Po Wing Hong - This market doesn't carry produce, but they do have a large variety of dried / preserved goods (most of which are unfamiliar to me). But my mom often goes here to get dried shiitake mushrooms, (easy to cook and so tasty!) There's a lot of noodle options and also a whole shelf dedicated to ramen on the far right of the store. And they carry these really yummy scallion crackers that I always snag a box or two of every time I go.
Where are your favorite food spots in Chinatown?! Despite spending a lot of time there over the course of my life - I still haven't tried everything, and surely there are probably some gems I still don't know about! I'm always looking to try new eateries, and would love to hear your recommendations. :)