Sweets Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) replaced the well-known ‘Dragon Land Bakery’ a few years ago and their baked products consistency and quality are excellent. The prices are very fair as well as most items in the bakery are not over $3.00. The cakes vary in price as well as the beverages.
Most times that I stop there I will have the Sugar Doughnut ($1.40), which is a large almost pillowy doughnut that is large in size and almost three doughnuts in one. The doughnut is skewered and three pieces of sweet dough are fried and then rolled in a large amount of sugar. When you pull it apart, it is like a sea of sugar crystals will fall all over you as you enjoy each bite.
I have visited Wah Fung Number One Fast Food Restaurant several times on recommendations from YouTube and reviews on TripAdvisor . It is considered to be one the best restaurants in New York City for Chinese Roast Pork and one of the cheapest (see my reviews on TripAdvisor).
Wah Fung has a simple menu
This tiny hole in the wall restaurant is located across the street from Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, a thin strip of park that separates Chinatown from the Lower East Side. The lines for food that are mentioned online are no exaggeration. The two times I visited during the week the lines were about ten deep but move very quickly. Everyone takes the food to go.
The food is wonderful if you like simple Chinese cooking. They have…
Happy Chinese New Year! (2018) & Happy New Year Again (2020)
After a long day in the Soup Kitchen (I have to stop doubling up events on days), instead of finishing the walk of the Upper East Side, I decided to head downtown to Chinatown for the first day of Chinese New Year. What a madhouse!
First off, it was a gloomy day. The clouds kept threatening rain which finally came around 4:00 pm but it did not damper everyone’s spirits. The city closed off the main streets of Chinatown, so people were able to walk around Mott, Mulberry, Bayard, Elizabeth Streets and all the side streets around the core of Chinatown.
It was a very festive afternoon of Lion Dances in front of businesses and a non-stop of silly string and firecrackers going off all over the neighborhood. It was fun watching all the kids with the help of their parents set off these long cylinders of confetti and streamers. Nothing gets lost in the translation of the holiday as it was a very diverse crowd of people enjoying the beginning of the New Year. I was able to walk around the neighborhood and watch all the families having a ball watching the lions and the musicians play music and dance in front of the businesses that requested them.
The meaning of firecrackers translates to ‘Baozhu’ or ‘exploding bamboo’ that was used in early years to scare off the evil spirits at the beginning of the New Year. It seems that there was a legend of a monster called ‘Nain’, who used to destroy homes every New Year and the use of burning bamboo used to pop to scare him away. Bamboo was replaced with the invention of fireworks. The cylinder tubes are all colored ‘red’ which is a lucky color in the Chinese culture.
I watched the Lion Dances all over Chinatown. These according to custom are to ward away evil spirits from the businesses and bring prosperity for the New Year. There must have been over a dozen of cultural groups from all over the city hired to visit the businesses during the afternoon. It seems that the loud cymbals evict the bad and evil spirits (the picture above is the ‘Lion Dance’ from the Chinese New Year Celebration that I ran for the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library in 2011 at the Asian Grill in East Rutherford, NJ).
I walked all over the side streets of Chinatown and stopped in Sara D. Roosevelt Park for the opening festivities of the New Year that were sponsored by Better Chinatown USA. The place was mobbed with people. All the kids were playing games or the families were socializing with one another. It was so busy that I took a walk around the neighborhood, walking through the fringes of what is left of expansion of Chinatown into the Lower East Side, which is quickly gentrifying. The Lower East Side has gotten very hip over the years.
When I rounded the corner at Hester Street, I came across Chicken V (see review on TripAdvisor) at 124C Hester Street, a small Taiwanese fried chicken place that I found out has a branch in Brooklyn. I decided to order something different and got the Chicken Omelet, which was a chicken wing stuffed with fried rice, the popcorn chicken, which was made with thigh meat. I ordinarily hate this but they did a great job with the seasoning and OFC French Fries. Everything had a salty, garlicky taste to it and the popcorn chicken I could taste a hint of ginger and garlic in it. If you like salty food this is the place for you.
Chinese New Year Parade
I walked around the Bowery and crossed back over into the heart of Chinatown as it started to rain. It had been threatening all day and it started to pour after 4:00pm. The last of the Lion Dancers were performing outside a business on Mott Street and all the restaurants at that point were still busy with people wanting to get out of the rain. The streets were quiet but were loaded with the remains of firecracker streamers and confetti.
My last stop in Chinatown before I headed uptown was Sun Sai Gai See review on TripAdvisor & DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) at 220 Canal Street, which has been my go-to place for roast pork buns ($1.00). I love this place. It is a little on the dumpy side but it is one of the best hole-in-the-wall places in Chinatown and I have always enjoyed it.
Sun Sai Gai in Chinatown at 220 Canal Street
As it poured rain, I saw the last of the people begin to leave Chinatown. To celebrate the beginning of the New Year was a lot of fun. There was a lot of energy in Chinatown. People of all ages and races were enjoying the festivities and families really were enjoying their time together.
Chinese New Year 2020:
In 2020, the weather was almost the same thing. The day of the Fire Cracker Festival and Lion Dance it rained and drizzled the whole day. I had to be uptown the whole morning and afternoon so it was a not a nice day to be in Chinatown.
For the parade day, the sun came out and it was really pleasant for most of the parade. With it being an election year, both Congressman Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill DiBlasio were marching in the parade. So there was a lot of security around. The beginning of the parade had the Lion and Dragon Dances and those were really energetic. The bands really got the crowd going.
The Chinese New Year Parade 2020
The Jade Society (the Asian Police Society) and the Phoenix Society (Fire Fighters and Paramedics) were out in full force. I swear the Jade Society has tripled since the last parade I went to two years ago or else they were not all out.
Then came all the floats for all the business and cultural organization. Because of the Flu pandemic going on in China and spreading all over the world, a lot of the groups were handing out literature and giving their support of the Mother Country. Some of the churches were handing out prayer pamphlets.
The Chinese New Year Parade 2020
The most heartening thing was all the little Girl and Boy Scouts from the local groups. Those kids were so cute. They looked so proud and the parents proud of their children.
The end of the parade it was all political groups and then a long line of sports cars. The parade was over in about an hour or maybe just a little longer. The one thing I did notice was that the crowd was not the same as usual. It usually is much busier in Chinatown for the parade and I could see that the gift shops had a lot Chinese poppers and firecrackers left over, more than usual. Two years ago everyone sold out by the end of the parade and there were none to be found. This year they started to discount them as soon as the parade was over.
This Chinese flu is really scaring people and I think it kept them away from Chinatown today. I have never seen the parade route so quiet or the restaurants busy but not as busy as usual this year. It has really spooked people this year.
Still for the most part is was a sunny day and as the afternoon wore down it got a little cooler. I just went around visiting my favorite snack shops like Tao Hong Bakery at 81 Chrystie Street and Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street for lunch and dessert. I swear the ‘Hipsters’ have discovered both places and most of the customers now are white. It is such a change from ten years ago where it was mostly locals.
Don’t miss the delicious buns at Sun Sai Gai
Chi Dumpling House (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) is one of my favorite places to eat. It is really bare bones but their steamed and fried dumplings you can get eight for $3.00 and that is a steal. Their soups are really good on a cold day especially their hot and sour soup. Their noodle dishes are wonderful and the portion sizes are rather large.
Tao Hung Bakery at 81 Chrystie Street
I still go to my old favorites Tao Hong Bakery 81 Chrystie Street and Sun Sai Gai at 220 Canal Street for my favorite Cream, Roast Pork and Pineapple buns. At between $1.00 to $1.50 they are well worth the money. It really warrants a trip to Chinatown.
Don’t miss Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street for their delicious dumplings
Even though there was a damper on the parade with the flu scare, people were in good spirits and looked like they were having a good time. That’s where the fun really is in celebrating what is positive in this crazy world.
This CBS Report is what the mood is right now:
(I credit CBS News for this report)
Sorry folks but that can’t keep me away from Chinatown. It will always throw my support first to small business people and restaurateurs. This why I created the sites LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com to support businesses not such in New York City but all over the Tri-State area.
Isn’t it what the New Year is all about?
Gong Hei Fat Choi!
There was an underlining problem on parade day of the Coronavirus outbreak in China and how it affected business that day. Here is a video shot later on that tells the story since Chinese New Year:
When things head back to normal, head back to Chinatown for lunch or dinner.
Places to Visit:
Chinatown New York City
All Along Mott, Canal, Bayard and Chrystie Streets and Sara Delano Roosevelt Park
Every February for the start of the Lunar New Year Festival (Started January 28th in 2020)
To all of my readers and fellow bloggers following my blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. I created two more blog sites to accompany the main site.
I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ to take what I have discovered on the walk around the city and put it into more detail.
I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ to feature all the small and medium museums, pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that I have found along the way in my walking the streets of the island and in the outlining areas of Manhattan. There are loads of sites you can easily miss either by not visiting the neighborhoods by foot or not consulting a guidebook. Most of the these places are not visited by most residents of the City and should not be missed.
I never realized how many small museums exist in New York City, let alone the outer boroughs and in New Jersey. I have discovered so many wonderful and interesting artifacts in these museums that not only have so much historical value but they also deal with local history.
Gallery Bergen at Bergen Community College
There are so many pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that you would miss if you did not walk the neighborhoods. What has also been fascinating about it is the people you meet along the way that volunteer in these facilities. There is so much pride to be had by these local residents dedicating their time to make these places successful.
‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ is my latest site:
I am featuring and promoting wonderful local restaurants that I have found along the way when doing the walk as well as places I have recently visited outside the city for $10.00 and below. I am not just featuring them for their price but for the quality of the food, the selection and the portion size.
Delicious Dumplings at ‘Dumplings’ on Henry Street
These little ‘hole in the wall’ dining establishments offer a good meal at a fair price as well as supporting the local economy. I have a very limited budget for meals and thought this blog site would help all of you economize when touring New York City and the outlying regions. I cross reference my reviews on TripAdvisor.com.
For anyone thinking of doing a similar project like ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, I want to let you know how expensive it is to do. I have to pay not just for bus tickets, subway passes, meals, donations to museums and historical sites but the general wear and tear on my clothes. I am on my third pair of sneakers due to this walk. This is why you need to set a budget for it:
Please check out my fire fighting blog sites, ‘The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association’, ‘tbcfma.Wordpress.com’, where I am blogging about the activities of the association that I am volunteering for at the home on a quarterly basis and the support that the organization gives to The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, New Jersey. Firemen for all over Bergen County, where I live, volunteer their time up at the nursing home with activities to engage and cheer up our fellow fire fighters.
The second site about fire fighting I blog about is ‘The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department”, ‘EngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartmentNJ.Wordpress.com’, where I blog about the activities of Engine Company One, in which I am a member, as part of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. We do a lot of volunteer work for the department and many of our members are very active and hold a lot of positions on the department.
The Brothers of Engine One HHFD (site now closed-Blogs moved to section of MywalkinManhattan.com called “My life as a Fireman”):
The most frequented of my blogs is “BergenCountyCaregiver.com’, a caregivers blog site to help adult caregivers take care of their loved ones. This helps caregivers navigate a very broken system and put all sorts of programs that might help them all in one place to read and chose what might help them. This deals with county, state and federal programs that most social workers miss because there are so many of them that don’t get a lot of attention. It is by far the most popular site.
The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association
I wanted to share these with my readers and thank you for following my main blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. Please also share this with your friends who are visiting New York City to really tour the city by foot and see it for its own beauty and uniqueness.
(This project is dedicated with much love to my father, Warren George Watrel, who still inspires me!)
Hello and Welcome to ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, an extensive project to walk the entire island of Manhattan. My name is Justin Watrel and I will be your guide in exploring the island of Manhattan, searching every nook and cranny of the island for the unusual, the usual and the in between.
‘Walking the Island of Manhattan’ may not be terribly original as there are about four other people doing the project at the same time, but this project is different in the way I see the island. Not rushing through to prove I have walked it but to see what these neighborhoods are all about and what is there to discover and enjoy.
For all you ‘Manhattanites’ who think you know your island, I will show you things that you have never seen and places you have never gone, restaurants you have never tried and historical sites and museums you never knew existed. Maybe just a few blocks from where you live. As the son of two “Brooklynites’, I have traveled around the city a lot since 1969, my first time in the City when my parents took me to Chinatown to Hunan Gardens, a Chinese restaurant on Mott Street. I ended up there for eight birthdays until it closed in the early 2000’s.
Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown
“My Walk in Manhattan” is a project to walk the entire island of Manhattan in New York City from top to bottom from the beginning of the Summer of 2015 until I finish the walk. Manhattan is 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles wide and covers a total area 23.7 square miles. Along the way of walking the streets of Manhattan, I will be walking into parks, museums, restaurants and looking at the architecture of the neighborhoods and the buildings in them.
My soon to be path around the Island of Manhattan
I have found that people miss a lot when they walk with their cellphones and only look down at it. When you look up, you see the true beauty of the City. You see the stone work of old brownstones, you see small boutiques off the beaten track and can indulge in those hole in the wall restaurants that are usually found by foreign tourists. Nothing is more interesting then seeing a stone face on a building staring back at you, a tiny pocket park that residents created out of a garbage dump and that small entrepreneur trying to create a vision.
The Cable Building at 631 Broadway
This project was inspired by many things. My major inspiration for this project follows the recent passing of my father, Warren George Watrel. My dad and I loved to walk around the city and spend the day at various museums, walking around Central Park and the Conservatory, taking the subway to try new restaurants in Chinatown or Little Italy or any new place I had read about in the Village Voice (my Bible when looking for things to do on weekends).
Columbus Circle on the West Side
My father was a ‘Brooklynite’ from Williamsburg (long before it was ‘Hipster Central’, he would have been amused) and loved the city, so this voyage is dedicated to him. Having watched the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen, we look for inspiration in our travels and try to find the answers to why something happens the way it does. Walking to explore does that.
I was my father’s caregiver after his illness hit him and I continued my trips into Manhattan as my father got better. It was the inspiration to this site’s sister site, ‘BergenCountyCaregiver.com’. After he passed in 2014, I wanted to spend Father’s Day doing something different yet do something that we would have done together. Thus started the first walk in Marble Hill.
My first Day in Marble Hill, Manhattan
Another inspiration was a recent article in New York Magazine entitled “Which New York is Yours? A Fierce Preservationist and a Pro-Development Blogger Debate” in which the author Justin Davidson asks about the disappearance of New York’s Character. “What does that character actually consist of? If we did make an all-out effort to preserve it, how would we know what to protect?” How much is the city changing? I have worked off and on in New York City since 1988 and the answer is in some parts of Manhattan it is night and day. Could you imagine walking in Bryant or Tompkins Square Parks in 1990?
I did and they were very different places back then. With the changing Zoning Laws and gentrification of many neighborhoods, its not the city of 1970’s movies. What I am looking for are those unique little pocket parks that we pass, those statues of people we have no clue who they are and those historic plaques of places gone by and people we don’t know.
Astor Row Houses in Harlem
Another are the books, ‘Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul’ by Jeremiah Moss and ‘The Death and Life of the Great American City’ by Jane Jacobs. How do cities keep progressing and changing? How does change effect a city and what direction are we going in? Does the Island of Manhattan have to be all luxury or can it be mixed to help keep the creativity alive and keep innovation going? Do we want the big bad 70’s again or the luxury brand of the 2010’s and 20’s? How is it impacting and changing the city? How much has Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs changed with the rezoning of the city under the Bloomberg Administration. This can also be looked at in the documentaries “Gut Renovation” and “My Brooklyn”.
The last inspiration was my doctor. He said I have to lose ten pounds. I am hardly over-weight but like many people he feels that I will be healthier if I lose the weight and keep it off. I want to see how a walk like this tones the body.
Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan
I know many people before have walked the entire length of Manhattan while others have or are attempting to walk the every block in the city, mine has a more personal reason. To really see the city I love from the ground up and explore parts of the island that I have never ventured to and see what I find there. Along the way, I want to see how the city changes while I am taking the walk. This is not the “Christopher Columbus” attitude most people are taking when exploring the neighborhoods but more honoring those residents who are trying to make the City better.
My project also includes stops at various points of interest and to get a better feel for all the neighborhoods, I am walking both sides of the street to get a better look at the buildings in each neighborhood and what defines the character of a neighborhood. I get the impression from some of the readers of Mr. Davidson’s article and from comments on the Internet that Manhattan is some “playground of the wealthy that is being gentrified to the hilt and soon no one will be able to afford any part of Manhattan”. Like in any place, there are people struggling everyday to survive in New York and like every city in the country, people are moving back in droves and want a quality of life for them and their families.
Delacorte Clock in Central Park
In the Age of COVID, it has been interesting starting the project again. I had been on hold from March 13th, 2020 through June 10th, 2020 when the City was closed for anyone other than First Responder and people who had to work there. I was so happy when I could return and continue walking Manhattan. My walk down Broadway for the forth time was a surprise with all the businesses closed on the Upper West Side and I met the challenge of “The Great Saunter Walk” , the 32 mile walk around the perimeter of the island in 14 hours. There is now more to see and explore and write.
The COVID world though has me facing closed businesses that I have covered over the years. Restaurants and stores that I have mentioned in this blog since 2015 have since closed permanently or closed for the time being, I am not too sure. We also have a walking world of masks that keep us safe. The times in Manhattan are changing from the way we eat in restaurants to the way we shop and visit museums.
SoHo boarded up after the June Riots 2020
Fifth Avenue boarded up after the June Riots 2020
Things are constantly changing in Manhattan since the riots in June and COVID keeps raging in the City with people not wanting to wear masks. I hope that things will get back to normal soon. I still see people out and about doing their thing and enjoying the warm weather so I am optimistic about life. Still though, Manhattan keeps changing with the Theater District boarded up and Chinatown looking like a ghost town. We will see how New York City recovers from COVID like the rest of the country.
I have now expanded this site to three other blogs, ‘VisitingaMuseum’ (VisitingaMuseum.com), which features all the historical sites, community gardens and small museums and galleries I find in not just Manhattan but throughout the rest of the NYC and beyond in the suburbs.
‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ (DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), where I feature wonderful little restaurants, bodegas and bakeries that I find along the way. The one requirement is that the meal is around $10.00 and under (for us budget minded people).
“LittleShoponMainStreet” (LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com) where I find unique and creative stores in Manhattan and locally whose merchandising, displays, merchandise and service stand out in an age of Amazon. This harks back to a time when shopping was enjoyable and not a chore.
I have also added two new sections to the blog, “My life as a Fireman”, which I have moved from an old site that I had created for my old engine company to describe my experiences on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department over the last 16 years. Also, this is what takes up my time when I am not exploring New York City.
Justin Watrel, Fireman
Another is “A Local Journey” are tours of downtown’s and communities outside the New York City area to travel to when you need to escape the City’s clutches. I have specific guidelines in finding stores, restaurants and museums/cultural sites in the area. This has lead me to really explore my own town of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and exploring out of town destinations like Red Hook, NY and Beach Haven/Long Beach Island, NJ. You would be amazed on what these small towns offer.
Downtown Red Hook, NY in the Summer months
So to readers who will be following me on the journey walking through Manhattan and beyond, I hope you enjoy trip walking by my side!
Me in Red Hook, Brooklyn discovering my new love in “Street Art”
This project is dedicated to my father, Warren George Watrel, with lots of love and many wonderful adventures and memories to keep me company as I take “My Walk in Manhattan”.
My dad, Warren and I at a Grandparent’s Day Brunch in 2013