One of the great dining pleasures in NYC is a trip to Chinatown for superb Chinese food. For over a century New Yorkers have flocked to the neighborhood to savor Chinese cuisine, which is a much-loved part of the city’s culinary offerings. But with hundreds of restaurants serving fare from numerous provinces, how does one know which place to choose? Here are several Chinatown spots that critics, foodies, and diners praise for their outstanding Chinese food.
Note: NYC has three Chinatowns, including Flushing, Queens and Sunset Park in Brooklyn. This list is focused on Manhattan’s Chinatown. Excellent food is available throughout the sprawling neighborhood, but these dining options are located within Chinatown’s historic center, and compliment our Chinatown Walking Tour.
Chinatown Restaurants –
Mott Street, Chinatown’s historic main street, offers three excellent restaurants clustered just south of Canal Street…
Amazing 66 – 66 Mott Street. Serving exceptional Cantonese cuisine (the Chinese regional food most familiar to Americans) from an encyclopedic menu. Specialties include grilled meats, roasted poultry, fish & seafood, soups (including shark’s fin & bird’s nest), casseroles, and noodle-based dishes.
Big Wong Key – 67 Mott Street. An “old-school” Chinatown favorite (plenty of locals there – always a good sign) offering a large, inexpensive Cantonese menu. Seafood, poultry, beef, and pork dishes are served in more than 100 different preparations.
456 Shanghai Cuisine – 69 Mott Street. Topping the list of most food critics, 456 Shanghai offers superb specialties of the region (mild, salty-sweet sauces, and seafood dishes). Highlights from their extensive menu include xiao long bao (steamed juicy pork buns), fried fish, casseroles, cold noodles, and stir-fries.
Just past Mott Street’s bend and the imposing Church of the Transfiguration you’ll find…
Peking Duck House - 28 Mott Street. More elegant (and pricier) than most Chinatown restaurants, their menu highlights cooking of Peking, Shanghai, and Szechuan (picante and spicy dishes). Aside from the famed crispy roast duck (ordered from a specific menu for a minimum of 4 persons), there is an emphasis on seafood, with 40 different shrimp, lobster, scallops, squid, and fish entrees.
Hop Kee – 21 Mott Street. It’s easy to miss this restaurant, found in a basement across tiny Mosco Street from the church. Hop Kee serves excellent Cantonese favorites in family-style portions, including pan-fried flounder, salt-baked squid, chow fun, and roast duck wonton soup.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor – 13 Doyers Street. A visit to Nom Wah, Chinatown’s first dim sum joint, is like dining in bygone era. Dim sum (assorted stuffed buns and dumplings) is ordered from a checklist and made to order. Favorites include “The Original” egg roll, scallion pancakes, and roast pork buns. Their almond cookies and moon cakes are legendary.
Oriental Garden – 14 Elizabeth Street. Praised for their fresh Cantonese-style seafood dishes (so fresh, in fact, you may pass your entre in the tanks of the restaurant’s façade). Specialties of the lengthy menu include steamed whole fish, glazed prawns with broccoli, and clams galore. Also a wide variety of dim sum offerings. A bit pricier than the neighborhood’s surrounding options, but the weekday $8.95 prix-fixe lunch is a genuine bargain.
Chinatown Noodles and Dumplings –
Popular spots for noodle-based dishes (soups or sautéed with meat, poultry, seafood, or veggies) include Tasty Hand-pulled Noodles, 1 Doyers Street, Great NY Noodletown, 28 Bowery, and Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street. Joe’s Shanghai, 9 Pell Street, is very popular for their soup dumplings (you’ll likely encounter a line outside the door). For delicious, cheap (like 5 for $1.25!) dumplings and pork buns, head for tiny Tasty Dumpling, 57 Mulberry Street or Fried Dumpling, 106 Mosco Street. It’s fun to take your Styrofoam package across the street into Columbus Park to nosh while people watching and enjoying locals playing traditional Chinese music.
Chinatown Sweets –
If you have a sweet tooth, you must try the famed Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, 65 Bayard Street. The tiny family-run landmark makes and serves ice cream in distinct flavors like Almond Cookie, Green Tea, Black Sesame, Lychee, Red Bean, and Zen Butter. The sliver of a storefront is often packed with a line to get in.
Chinatown bakeries offer fresh (and incredibly cheap) cakes, cookies, and pastries filled with pastes of almond, black been, lotus seed, yellow bean, or melon, and don tot (egg custard tarts). Savory treats include warm roast pork buns and hot dog buns. Outstanding bakeries include Lung Moon Bakery, 83 Mulberry Street, Mei Li Wah, 64 Bayard, and Fay Da Bakeries, at 83 Mott Street or 82 Elizabeth Street.
What’s your favorite place for Chinatown dining? Let us know in the comments!