Tag Archives: Exploring Chinatown in Manhattan

Day Two Hundred and Eighteen: ‘Xin Nian Hao’/’Gong Hay fay choy’ or ‘Happy New Year’ in Chinatown February 12th, 2022

‘Gong Hay fay choy’ or Happy New Year!

It is amazing what three years can bring. Chinatown was all but dead over the last two years for the Chinese New Year celebrations and it was nice to see them come back in a vengeance.

It has been a rough time in Chinatown in Manhattan over the last three years. I wrote about going to the Chinese New Year parade in 2020 and it had been nothing like the parade in 2019. It had been freezing in New York City in 2019 but that had not kept the crowds away on a busy parade afternoon. In 2020, the looming crisis with COVID was spreading through China and people were very wary about coming to Chinatown for the parade. In fact, I did not see too many people of Chinese decadency at the parade two years ago. It looked more like tourists lining the streets.

New Year in 2022 was a different story as the streets were lined with people ready and happy to celebrate the New Year. That bottled up enthusiasm was shown on the streets in the core of Chinatown by hundreds of people having a good time. The morning had started out with a nice crowd that grew as the afternoon wore on. It helped that it was 60 degrees and sunny outside. It was the last day of the ‘Spring Thaw’ and the weather really helped (Sunday would bring snowy weather and 38 degrees).

It also gave me a chance to not just tour the neighborhood to see of any changes in stores and restaurants but sample foods at many of them. I came in with an appetite! There were places that I wanted to revisit but find new ones to try along the way. I arrived at noon time and needed a snack before I started my day.

The Lion Dances outside businesses all over the core of Chinatown were in full swing when I got there with groups of people following the troupes around Mott, Bayard, Canal, Pell, Elizabeth and Mulberry Streets south of Canal Street. Some of the troupes did go north of Canal Street but most businesses are in the core of the neighborhood.

The Lion Dance helps bring good luck in the coming year

Things were just really getting started on Mott Street, the main corridor of Chinatown so I walked down the street to the Bowery to see what was going on. When I arrived at the Bowery, I headed north on the Bowery on the edge of the original Chinatown. This is where I found Bowery Inn Bakery at Bowery. This must be a new bakery because I could not find it on any map.

The Bowery Inn Bakery has a wonderful selection of hot and cold baked goods, and the best part was that they did not take the pastries from the case. They were hot from the warmers behind the case lines. I ordered a Roast Pork Bun ($1.75) and an Almond Bun ($1.50) to get me through the walking around the neighborhood. The staff is really nice there and seemed happy when I wished them a Happy New Year.

I walked all the streets in the neighborhood watching the various clubs wishing all the businesses a Happy New Year. Colorful lions bowed and shook and raised up and down wishing stores and restaurants as prosperous New Year in a city environment that desperately needed it. I have been to Chinatown many times since the holidays, and it has been very quiet down here since the beginning of 2020. All the festivities had been cancelled last year and it had been tough on these businesses. Now it looks like better times will be ahead of us.

Here is a little history of the Lion Dance from when I ran the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Asian Grille back in 2011:

The Lion Dance

The Lion Dance has a very interesting history in Chinese culture. The story is that a monk had a dream which there were many sorrows and evils plaguing the land. The monk prayed and asked the gods how he could prevent these evils from occurring. The gods told him that a lion would protect them and fight back the evils. The Chinese people having never seen a lion, but had heard stories that the lion was the king of all beasts. So the monk combined all the lucky or magical animals he could think of and so made the lion.

The Southern Lion dance is very symbolic. It is usually performed as a ceremony to scare away evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The Chinese southern lion exhibits as wide variety of color and has a distinctive head with large eyes (of an eagle), a mirror on the forehead (demons are supposedly scared of their own reflection) and a single horn at the center of the head (the horn of a unicorn mentioned earlier). Lion dance costumes are considered to be spiritually protective when used as they are traditionally blessed before usage.

The Southern Lion Dance was originated from Guangdong, the homeland of the Chinese southern style lion. The Chinese southern horned lions are believed to be Nians (which are a mythical beast). There are many different styles of dance as well as different styles of lion’s heads depending on the region that the group comes from (Wiki).

It was fun following these colorful beasts all along the streets and listen to the drumming of the groups who I am sure had been practicing. While all that was going on, people were letting off New Year’s poppers and the whole street was filled with streamers and confetti and glittering paper. It was so nice to see people having such a good time.

This video from YouTube really captures the festivities in 2022

I started to explore the back streets to see if there were any changes to the fringes of the neighborhood. I have to say that more galleries and stores are starting to open where old warehouses and restaurants used to be as you can see the hipsters moving over here from the East Village, Alphabet City and the Lower East Side. Little by little I am seeing the changes in the neighborhood.

When I walked over to Chrystie Street, and I stopped at Chi Dumpling House for some lunch and then to Tao Hong Bakery for dessert. This little stretch of Chrystie Street by Sara Delano Roosevelt Park has three of the best and most reasonable take-out restaurants in the neighborhood, the other being Wah Fung #1 Fast Food.

Wah Fung #1 Fast Food at 79 Chrystie Street has long lines

https://www.facebook.com/WahFungNo1/

The lines for Wah Fung #1 Fast Food at 79 Chrystie Street was about thirty deep when I arrived and is always busy. People are always lined up for their containers of roast pork and duck with white rice and cabbage. You can get a delicious lunch here for around $5.00. It has been on more food blogs than I can name, and I have been here several times for their excellent roast pork and rice (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).

The roast pork and roast duck at Wah Fung #1 Fast Food has them lining up everyday

I bypassed the lines at Wah Fung and went to Chi Dumpling House (sometimes called ‘C & L Dumpling House) at 77 Chrystie Street. I was in the mood for steamed dumplings and scallion pancakes.

Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street still has the old sign

https://www.facebook.com/77dumplinghouse/

Even though I was not that hungry I always have room for more dumplings. Both the fried dumplings and steamed pork and chive dumplings ($4.00 now) are worth the wait. These large doughy delights are served with soy and hot oil sauces that bring out their flavor. The Scallion Pancakes are pan-fried to a crisp and are fun to dip into the sauces as well.

The steamed pork and chive dumplings here are excellent!

I took these little delights into the park and enjoyed them along with my scallion pancake while I was watching all these little kids climb over the jungle gym while yelling at one another. It was so nice to see all these families out and about on such a warm afternoon. By the time I finished my lunch, it must have hit 60 degrees and it was a perfectly blue sky.

For dessert, I went to Tao Hong Bakery at 79 Chrystie Street. They have the most reasonable baked goods and drinks and the best place to go when you have eaten at the other two restaurants.

Tao Hong Bakery at 79 Chrystie Street

I love coming here for their egg custards, raisin twists and their cream buns. When they have their lemon pastries, I try to get those too. This time I settled for a raisin twist ($1.25) because there was not much left. People really bought them out. These twists are loaded with butter and juicy raisins and are fun to pull apart.

The Raisin Buns here are the best

After I devoured my lunch, I needed a long walk to digest, and I walked down Chrystie Street and strolled through the park. The one bad thing about Sara Delano Park is that the bathrooms are really disgusting. They really need to clean them better.

I made my way back down Grand Street and walked to the Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street. The museum had finally reopened after almost two years and a very devastating fire in their storehouse in 2020. They almost lost their collection.

The Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street

https://www.facebook.com/mocanyc/

What I enjoy about this museum is the sheer history of the Chinese immigration to the United States and overt racism that has been felt by the culture since the beginning. I walked through the current exhibition “Responses: Asian American voices in the Tides of Racism” and it is heartbreaking to see what an entire society of Americans are enduring. This pandemic as one scholar noted has brought out the worst in people that has been bubbling up for a long time.

The permanent collection showed the strides though as a culture and the contributions of prominent Americans of Chinese decadency have made to the country. It was interesting to look at pictures over the years of the development of Chinatowns in cities all over the country and the progress in business and the arts that have been made.

The “Responses” exhibition

I took my time and read through the exhibitions, and it was an interesting timeline of history. It showed how generations of hard work and assimilation into the larger culture still holds dialogue. Nothing is clear cut in society. I ended up being there more almost two hours.

After I left the museum, I followed the music back to Mott Street and saw some of the more elaborate dances and saw several clubs competing with one another. There were large crowds all over Mott and Bayard Streets and since the heart of Chinatown was closed to traffic (finally people can walk around the restaurant district), there was plenty of room for people to enjoy the festivities and let off poppers in celebration of the performances.

By 6:00pm though most of the performances were slowing down and all the restaurants on Mott Street and the surrounding side streets were full of people sitting down to dinner. That was so nice to see at a time when so many of these restaurants were struggling over the last two years. It is good that they were packed the way they were pre-pandemic.

For dinner that evening I was not too hungry but when I was walking around following the lion dancers, I looked at the menu and the pictures of the dishes at Shanghai Heping Restaurant at 104 Mott Street on the other side of Canal Street from Chinatown in what had once been Little Italy. There was a picture by the front door of a Fried Duck dish and I had to go to try it.

Shanghai Heping Restaurant at 104 Mott Street

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Chinese-Restaurant/Shanghai-Heping-Restaurant-354325664598797/

The food lived up to the picture. The Fried Duck ($23.00) was excellent. The duck was boneless and marinated in soy and what tasted like Peking sauce and then the duck was breaded and pan-fried so that it was crisp on the outside and moist and succulent on the inside. The duck had such a rich taste to it from the flavor of the meat and so moist that it pulled apart.

Don’t miss the Fried Duck at Shanghai Heping Restaurant

Their Shanghai Fried Rice (Sum Gum Fried Rice) was excellent as well

The one thing I liked about Shanghai Heping Restaurant (see my review on TripAdvisor) was that they do not rush you. The restaurant started to fill up again after I got there and since the duck dish took some time to cook, I started to watch other patrons’ food come out and all the dishes looked so interesting and well-prepared, and people took their time to enjoy them. Since the restaurant was not on the other side of Mott Street, there were no hordes of crowds running around the street.

After dinner was over, I walked back into the heart of Chinatown to see the Sanitation Department cleaning the streets of all the confetti and streamers and popper packages. There must have been hundreds of them let off that afternoon to welcome in the New Year. It is so nice to see people back in Chinatown again. Maybe better days are ahead of us.

Gong Hay Fay Choy!

The colorful lanterns add a festive look to the neighborhood

My blogs on Chinese New Year in the past:

Day Two Hundred and Eighteen: Happy New Year 2022

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/21988

Day One Hundred and Three: Happy New Year 2018, 2020 and 2021:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/7280

Day Thirty-Eight: Happy New Year 2016:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/1152

Places to Visit:

Museum of Chinese in America

215 Centre Street

New York, NY 10013

(212) 619-4785

Open: Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm/Monday-Wednesday Closed/Thursday 11:00am-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 11:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d136145-Reviews-Museum_of_Chinese_in_America-New_York_City_New_York.html

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1258

Places to Eat:

Bowery Inn Bakery

(No information at this time)

Chi Dumpling House

77 Chrystie Street

New York, NY 10002

(212) 219-8850

https://www.facebook.com/77dumplinghouse/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 10:00am-10:00pm/Friday 10:00am-9:00pm/Saturday 10:00am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4277315-Reviews-C_L_Dumpling_House-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/727

Wang Fung #1 Fast Food

79 Chrystie Street

New York, NY 10002

(212) 925-5175

https://www.facebook.com/WahFungNo1/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 9:00am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4355773-Reviews-Wah_Fung_Fast_Food-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/745

Tao Hong Bakery

79 Chrystie Street

New York, NY 10002

(212) 219-0981

Open: Sunday-Saturday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d15083570-Reviews-Tao_Hung_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/750

Shanghai Heping Restaurant

104 Mott Street

New York, NY 10013

(212) 925-1118

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Chinese-Restaurant/Shanghai-Heping-Restaurant-354325664598797/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:30am-9:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d4168501-Reviews-Shanghai_Heping_Restaurant-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

Chinese New Year Parade

Day Thirty-Eight: Happy Chinese New Year! February 2016

Have you ever experienced a parade in 19-degree weather? I just did. Today was the Annual Chinese New Year Parade in New York City and I spent the morning watching the parade travel down Mott Street, the heart of New York City’s Chinatown. There was a large crowd for such a cold day.

The worst was the night before it was 0 degrees outside with a wind chill factor of 10 below. I felt like I was sleeping in Alaska. The breezes were the worst as the heat was on in the house and still it was cold.

We lucked out with the weather as it was a beautiful sunny day outside and at least when the sun hit, it started to get a little bit warmer. For a parade that was standing in a refrigerator, it was fun. The sights and sounds of the music as the lion dancers performed their dances. The contestants from the ‘Miss Chinatown’ contest were waving to the crowds with much enthusiasm.

It was not a particularly long parade. The parade was mostly made up of Chinese businesses, Lion Dance groups and small bands. The parade was led off by the NYPD Marching band and honor guard and by members of the Asian Jade Society, the Asian version of the Vulcan Society or the many organizations for Italian or Irish NYPD members.

What surprised me was how young they all were, mostly in their 20’s and 30’s leading me to wander when the first wave of Americans with Chinese decadency entered the NYPD. The oldest person there was a detective that looked about my age and I really wandered what his career must have been like in the late 80’s or early 90’s with the NYPD. The rest of the members were these fresh-faced guys who looked right out of the academy while this guy looked hardened from years on the job. It is amazing what years on the same job can do to a person.

The atmosphere was electric as with every passing float poppers filled with confetti and streamers were let off and confetti flew over the whole parade. I heard so many different languages in the crowd especially German and French, I wondered how many New Yorkers ventured down for the parade.

Chinese New Year 2015

The Chinese New Year Parade

The parade ended with many floats for the airlines and one last lion dance that included four different colored lions. I was impressed on how long this parade goes. It just does not go down Mott Street and ends. It goes up and around Chinatown going up East Broadway to the other side of Chinatown that has creeped into the Lower East Side. What has thrown me is how much of this neighborhood has gentrified in the last five years.

As I walked the streets on the edges of Chinatown, I am fascinated by how fast SoHo, Nolita, NoHo and the East Village have morphed and changed and have gotten more upscale pushing more into this neighborhood. So, I decided to explore it and I toured all around the Bowery, a street that when I was a kid was a dump! And it had always been a dump until recently.

I have never seen such a swift change in a place in ten years. I remember walking up the Bowery which stretches from Chinatown to about West 4th Street near Cooper Park. The area around Chinatown is slowly changing in that their businesses are there to stay as long as the population stays but it starts to give way by about Kenmore Street, which also pretty much ends ‘Little Italy’ over by Mulberry Street. Even ‘Little Italy’ doesn’t exist the way it did when I was a kid. That neighborhood is pretty much five blocks by a block.

Chinese New Year 2015 II

I love a parade!

The lower part of the Bowery is small restaurants, small businesses such as transportation companies and lighting companies. This slowly gives way to the first wave of galleries, hip restaurants and spas. Once you pass Kenmore Street it really begins to change. From Kenmare to West 4th Street, like the rest of the neighborhood, a lot of this has been knocked down and rebuilt with luxury housing and chic new stores. In some cases, I can see how the first wave of ‘hip’ stores have given way to even more expensive stores as the neighborhood have gotten more desirable and more expensive. Who knew that the Bowery was someplace that people really wanted to live?

No walk around Manhattan could be complete without something to eat. Having to rush into the city on a Sunday is never fun but we got into the city rather quick, and I always start my day off in Chinatown with baked roast pork and crème buns at Sun Sai Gai at 220 Canal Street (see reviews on TripAdvisor & DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com), one of the most traditional and cheapest places to eat in Chinatown right on the edge of the original Chinatown. It is a dumpy place that used to cater to mostly locals and workers in the local businesses but over time has its share of tourists as well.

They have the cheapest and most delicious buns for sale for around a dollar. I always go for their baked roast pork bun and when I sit down for lunch, I love their Roast Pork plate with fried rice. So good and so reasonable. What I always get the impression at is that the people who work there wonder why so many tourists are coming there. I guess they don’t read TripAdvisor.

Sun Sai Gai

Sun Sai Gai at 220 Canal Street

http://www.sunsaigai.com/

After I walked both sides of the Bowery and will take guesses of when gentrification will get to Canal Street (I give it about two years not even), I found that all the restaurants were still packed with people especially in the heart of Chinatown, so I decided to try someplace brand new and went to New Style Handpulled Noodles at 23 Pell Street (see review on TripAdvisor). What a nice meal. It is a small place that must be brand new because it was not even in the review books.

New Style Handpulled Noodle

New Style Handpulled Noodle at 23 Pell Street (Closed in 2020)

I had their pork soup dumplings which were freshly made and just excellent. They just burst in your mouth with a sweet pork flavor and to warm me up their roast duck and pulled noodle soup. The noodles were freshly made, and the broth really warmed up every part of my body that was cold. The place was just starting to empty out when I got there and was half empty when I left. Everyone else seemed to like the food as well.

For something sweet, I came across the Double Crisp Bakery at 230 Grand Street (see review on TripAdvisor), which I had passed on my way back down from walking the Bowery. They had this raisin what they called a “top”. It was just a sweet bun covered with a sugary top with raisins for a dollar (most everything there was a dollar) but I munched on this sweet, sugary treat while I was walking back to the subway. Another great find!

Double Crisp Bakery

Double Crisp Bakery at 230 Grand Street

https://www.menupix.com/nyc/restaurants/380147710/Double-Crispy-Bakery-New-York-NY

My walk will find me back in this next of the woods at this rate in a few months where I will revisit all these places, but for now it was a nice side trip while watching the parade and watching the neighborhood in another state of transition.

This was a fun video of the parade in 2016:

The parade still had a festive tone while we were freezing!

 

 

 

Places to Visit:

Chinese New Year Parade

Every February

Places to Eat:

Sun Sai Gai

220 Canal Street

New York, NY  10013

(212) 312-8800

http://www.sunsaigai.com/

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-9:15pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d534662-Reviews-Sun_Sai_Gai-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on my blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com”:

https://wordpress.com/post/diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/115

Double Crisp Bakery

230 Grand Street

New York, NY  10013

(212) 966-6929

https://www.menupix.com/nyc/restaurants/380147710/Double-Crispy-Bakery-New-York-NY

Open: Sunday-Saturday 7:00am-8:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d2475381-Reviews-Double_Crispy_Bakery-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

New Style Handpulled Noodle (Closed in 2020)

23 Pell Street

New York, NY  10013

(212) 285-8668

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60763-d10168319-Reviews-New_Style_Hand_Pulled_Noodles-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

 

My blogs on Chinese New Year in the past:

Day Two Hundred and Eighteen: Happy New Year 2022

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/21988

Day One Hundred and Three: Happy New Year 2018, 2020 and 2021:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/7280

Day Thirty-Eight: Happy New Year 2016:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/1152