Chinatown is one of my favorite neighborhoods in New York City. Located in Lower Manhattan near the Lower East Side and Little Italy, there’s something for everyone, whether you are adventurous and want to try new foods, want a trendy dessert to take a picture of for Instagram, or just want to experience the culture. If you want to visit and don’t know where to begin, here are my tips and must-see recommendations.
Eat dim sum.
Let’s face it: you win some, you dim sum. Dim sum is no joke in Chinatown, and the best part is you can enjoy it all day, although it is mainly eaten in the morning/early afternoon. For an experience with the whole nine yards, I recommend paying a visit to Jing Fong Restaurant. It is basically a banquet hall where waiters push dim sum carts around and stamp your card based on plates you pick out. You can find all types of standard dim sum fare, from siu mai (shrimp and pork dumplings) to chicken feet and xiao long bao (soup dumplings). For all-day dim sum, my second pick is Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Open since 1920, Nom Wah is a classic restaurant on Doyers Street with a house special roast pork bun, pan-fried dumplings, and house special dumplings in soup. You honestly can’t go wrong with dim sum in Chinatown.
Try an innovative dessert.
One thing that Chinatown is known for are their creative desserts, from rolled ice cream to taiyaki soft serve. While there are so many places to visit with Instagram-worthy sweets, there are a few standout spots. The first I would recommend is Taiyaki NYC, where you can order soft serve in taiyaki: a fish-shaped cake (in this case a cone) typically filled with red bean paste or custard. The taiyaki is made in-house, and truthfully it’s worth stopping in just to get either the soft serve or taiyaki. The matcha green tea and black sesame swirl soft serve is a flavor combination I constantly think about because it’s that good. In the same vein of innovative cones is Eggloo, where customers can order ice cream served in Hong Kong-style egg waffles. You can even top it off with Pocky: a Japanese biscuit stick dipped in flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, or green tea. Bonus: stop by Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for flavors including almond cookie, zen butter (peanut butter ice cream with toasted sesame seeds), and durian. These may sound unique to you, but “exotic” flavors at this shop include vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry!
In my opinion, a trip to Chinatown is not complete without boba. There are many chains such as Gong Cha or Chatime, but there are also some standout smaller places like Pa Tea and Ten Ren’s Tea Time. You really can’t go wrong with a simple black milk tea with tapioca pearls.
Visit a skincare shop.
Asian skincare is effective, standardly priced, and accessible in Chinatown. There are many Korean brands such as Tony Moly or The Face Shop, or smaller shops chock-full of products. There is one store in particular that I visit that has homeware when you first walk in, and a whole area of makeup and skincare upstairs. It’s worth wandering in to any store to see what you can find.
Venture to a bakery.
Baked goods are always a highlight in Chinatown. Grab a tray and pick out whatever you want, whether it’s egg tarts, sesame balls, and my personal favorite: pineapple buns. Taipan Bakery or Fay Da Bakery are two popular places to visit.
Stop by a market.
Markets in Chinatown offer produce and other goods you typically would not find at your standard grocery store. There is an open-air market under the Manhattan Bridge (I don’t even know what it’s called), and I found the largest, freshest ginger I have ever seen. Walk through Canal Street and see what types of seasonal produce vendors are selling, from rambutan to lychee and durian.