Oh, Chinatown how we love thee. Packed with an enormous amount of amazing restaurants, street carts, dim sum palaces, noodle shops, hole-in-the-walls, dumpling joints, bakeries… the amount of good food here is astounding. While there are plenty of good blogs, websites, guidebooks, and other sources with helpful information on where to eat, it’s hard to find all the great spots in one source. That’s why I created the Chinatown Chow Down NYC app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that was recently released on iTunes. For five years I had the pleasure to work in the heart of Chinatown and feast on cheap and tasty breakfast, lunches, and dinners. I literally walked block by block to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The result is an app filled with over 115 spots to embark on an eating adventure that you can only find in Chinatown.
Here are just a few of my favorite places:
Ah Ping Snack Shop
2 East Broadway
This tiny restaurant is on an unassuming block right off the Bowery. You may have even walked past it a few times without even noticing. Next time, make sure you stop in. There’s a friendly woman (and a menu in English if you ask) who will take your order and disappear to a back room. Eventually she’ll return with glorious delicacies including lots of seafood options like sautéed clams and boiled snails. Most regulars get the fish soup — a big styrofoam bowl of tasty broth and lots of white fish (watch out for bones). For noodle fans, one of the cheapest dishes on the menu is also one of the best. The peanut noodles are hard to beat — expertly cooked and drenched in a wonderful sauce for only $2.
143 Mott St
This bakery is on the stretch of Mulberry between Grand and Hester that's packed with bustling vegetable and fish markets. Inside they only offer a few items with most locals coming in to grab a giant bag of plain buns for $3.75. They have a couple of excellent steamed buns, including a chicken bun that has an amazing earthy and mushroom flavor to it. If you want something a little more fatty, you can’t go wrong with the pork and cabbage bun. On the sweet side, they excel at pumpkin buns, so make sure to load up on those to take home.
124 Hester St
Cong Ly is a special place. The food is good, almost bordering on great. But it's the elderly gentleman who greets you and runs the show that will win your heart. His team serves up winning pho with a nice choice of toppings including the round eye beef, brisket, and tendon for a traditional taste. Ask for green chilies on the side to add some heat. If you're not in the mood for soup, try the lemongrass chicken over rice or the grilled pork on rice vermicelli crepe. Don’t forget to get a Vietnamese iced coffee and an order of spring rolls to make it a complete meal.
(All photos courtesy of Craig Nelson.)