There are just some restaurants and shops that are institutions in their neighborhoods and the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is one of them. I have been coming to the store since the 1990’s when I fell in love with their Lychee and Fortune Cookie Ice Creams. What I have loved about the flavors here is that they follow a Chinese-American theme with flavors based on fruits and desserts popular here in the states.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory logo
Since the first time I ate there, I have tried their Almond Cookie, Banana, Mango and Passion Fruit flavors over the years along with some of their seasonal flavors like Pineapple and Strawberry. Since then they have added flavors like Durian, Black Sesame, Green…
This was at the beginning of the Pandemic in March of 2020
Chinese New Year in 2021:
I returned to Chinatown for Chinese New Year 2021 and what a change to the neighborhood in just a year. I have never seen so many “For Rent” signs in the core of Chinatown. This pandemic has destroyed so many well-known businesses. Not just restaurants and snack shops that could not adjust to the take out business that many places have had to adopt to now. It was well known gift shops, hair and nail salons, body massage businesses and several well-known bakeries.
When I saw a sign on the Lung Moon Bakery 83 Mulberry Street (visit my reviews on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and TripAdvisor) that the bakery closed its doors after 53 years in business that is telling you there are problems here. Sun Sai Gai at 220 Canal Street (visit my reviews as well on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and TripAdvisor as well), which has been there for over 30 years has been closed as well and I am not sure if it is going to be reopened. This is heart breaking because these were my go-to places for years.
The weird part was it was not just on Mott Street, the heart of Chinatown, but on the side streets off Mott and outer parts of the neighborhood reaching out to East Broadway and into parts of the Lower East Side like Hester and Henry Streets. It is not just in Chinatown because at the end of the evening I walked up to Little Moony at 230 Mulberry Street (visit my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com and TripAdvisor) to see if that store was still open and walked through the heart of Little Italy Mulberry Street.
Three well known restaurants had closed for business including Angelo’s and Luna which has been mainstays of the neighborhood for over 40 years. A lot store fronts were dark here as well and slowly but surely NoLiTa (North of Little Italy) is creeping further and further into Little Italy. Even the two well known Chinese restaurants on Mulberry Street are now closed for business.
My journey on this gloomy Saturday morning started when I took the C train down to Canal Street and started to walk around Lower Manhattan to see what was open and not. The City had lifted its ban on indoor dining, I think too little to late, for Chinese New Year and Valentines Day. Still even with the 25% indoor dining allowed, people choose to eat outside or else some of the restaurants were not ready to open indoor dining. On a 30 degree day I could not believe that people wanted to eat outside. Even bundling under heat lamps does not make pleasant dining. The mood was festive but people were cold.
It was the second day of Chinese New Year and there were not that many people out in the streets as I thought there would be. In the early morning, there were small groups of people walking around but not the throngs of people on parade day. Last year, the Chinese New Year Parade was very subdued and there were not that many people around the route. The parade was cancelled this year and even though there were lights and decorations all over Mott Street there was not a lot of people walking around.
Chinese New Year 2021-Mott Street
When I visited the provision and grocery stores in the neighborhood, they were mobbed with people doing their grocery shopping telling me that people were opting to stay home and have small intimate dinners with their families. This is where I saw no social distancing.
My project today was to see not just what was happening for the New Year but to visit many of the stores and restaurants I had mentioned on my blogs to see if they were still open. Thankfully many of the establishments that were already take-out were surviving the storm. Plus I came with an appetite.
My first stop was Fried Dumpling on 106 Moscoe Street, a little hole in the wall for fried pork and chive dumplings. The owner/chef is a real hoot. I am figuring she changed her prices and serving sizes to increase sales because I ordered 17 dumplings for $5.00 which I thought was too much to eat but ended up devouring all the them in record time while sitting next to the bathrooms in Columbus Park just off Mott Street. In the summer months this park is packed with people but with the two feet snow piles and over flowing garbage cans, it was not the best place to eat. Even with the cold weather, these delicious little pan-fried pork and chive dumplings can warm any heart in the New Year.
Fried Dumpling at 106 Moscoe Street
After this snack that warmed me up I walked all over the neighborhood, walking the side streets and the Bowery which is the northern border of the traditional neighborhood. Again many of the well known restaurants and stores were either empty or closed for the New Year celebrations.
I walked up and down the side streets of Chinatown that border with Mott Street along Bayard, Pell, Henry, Division and East Broadway to look at the status of restaurants that I enjoy and have written about and to see what is still open there as well. It has not been pretty.
Dumplings at 25B Henry Street, one of the few places left in Chinatown where you can get five dumplings for $1.00 is closed except for takeout (visit my reviews on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and TripAdvisor). That was always the fun of this place was squeezing in and having their delicious pork and chive dumplings. I was always sharing soy sauce with the kids from the local school that would come here for a snack and I would listen in on their very adult sounding conversations.
Dumplings at 25B Henry Street
Walking up the side streets until I got to the Manhattan Bridge was just as upsetting, There were so many closed businesses on all of these streets that I wondered where the locals were eating and shopping. What really surprised me was how many art galleries had opened in the places where provision stores and small restaurants had once been. When I started to see white twenty year olds walking out of the tenements in the neighborhood, I knew that it would not be long until this whole area started to gentrify.
The walk took me further into the Lower East Side then I had ever been. I walked down the length of Catherine Street to the river and then turned around and walked down Market to the park under the Manhattan Bridge to watch the skate boarders. Those kids were really talented. They were performing some amazing tricks.
I stopped at this little deli, the K & K Food Deli at 57 Market Street just to take a peek inside. The cook was so friendly to me that I felt I should get something. Even after the 17 dumplings I was still hungry and I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a roll ($3.25). It was mind-blowingly good. The roll was fresh chewy and soft and the perfect combination of scrambled eggs with the cheese melted just perfect and crisp bacon. On this cool now afternoon it really warmed me up and I devoured it while I walked along Cherry Street.
K & K Food Deli at 57 Market Street
This area of the City is all housing projects and even in the small park in between them all it was really quiet. The one thing I find when I visit the areas around the projects is the assortment of restaurants are so creative with their menus and they are so reasonable. I just popped in and out and looked at their menus.
I walked around Little Flower Park at Madison and Jefferson Street, which lines all the housing complexes and was watching as kids were using the swings in snow drifts. I thought that was dedication of wanting to get outside as the weather grew colder that day.
I walked back down Madison Street and around Monroe Street and back up Market Street to get to the foot of the Manhattan Bridge entrance and then walked around that to Chrystie Street. Then I made the turn to see if my favorite group of restaurants were still open Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street , Wah Fung Number One at 79 Chrystie Street and Tao Hong Bakery at 81 Chrystie Street. I called this stretch of Chrystie Street the ‘triple threat’ as these three restaurants are mind blowing and the best part reasonable (visit my reviews on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com and TripAdvisor).
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street
Even after 17 dumplings and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich I was still hungry so I stopped in at Chi Dumpling House for steamed dumplings and scallion pancakes. This little hole in the wall has the most amazing food and for $5.00 I got an order of steamed dumplings ($3.00) and an order of scallion pancakes ($2.00). Both were just excellent.
Because there was no indoor dining in the restaurant yet, I had to eat them in the park across the street. In between the snow piles and the pigeons, I found a place to sit down. The dumplings and the scallion pancake let off so much steam you could see it in the air. The scallion pancake was loaded with freshly chopped scallions and was pan-fried to be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The dumplings were plump and bursting with juice when I topped them with soy and hot chili sauce. They warmed me up at the day grew colder.
I walked back through Mott Street and saw many people twisting poppers and letting streamers into the air. About a dozen people got into it and were having a good time blocking traffic. It was nice to see a little celebrating that day.
Sweets Bakery at 135 Walker Street
My last stop on the agenda was Sweets bakery, one of my favorites in Chinatown at 135 Walker Street, which is right across the street from Sun Sai Gai. The pastries here are just excellent and I have never had a bad baked item from here. I treated myself to an Egg Custard tart ($1.50) and a Pineapple Bun ($1.25). Both had just been baked and were still warm. I started eating them as soon as I left the store to explore Little Italy.
The Egg Custard Tarts at Sweets Bakery are amazing
I devoured them before I crossed the street. The egg custard had a rich creamy texture and was still warm when I made each bite. The taste of the butter in the tart and the eggs was so good. The Pineapple Bun was made of a rich dough and topped with a sweet crumb topping that crackled when I bit into it. It was a nice way to end this ongoing meal.
Walking through Little Italy was just as bad as Chinatown. The main thoroughfare, Mulberry Street was like looking at Mott Street. Some of the most famous restaurants closed like Luna and Angelo’s. I could not believe how many empty store fronts were open. Even for a Saturday night it was really quiet. There were a few people eating inside.
What I did notice just like in Chinatown was that NoLiTa (North of Little Italy) was creeping further and further down Mulberry Street and the surrounding blocks. All of a sudden all these little trendy stores and restaurants started opening up where the Italian restaurants once lined the streets.
I reached my destination, Little Moony at 230 Mulberry Street (visit my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com), one of the nicest children’s stores in Manhattan and one of the most creative. I was so happy to see that they were still open. I felt a little over-whelmed because the owner was showering attention on me as I was here only customer. She looked determined to sell me something. I guess I looked like a high spender. I was polite and looked around. As a store it is so visually appealing with the greatest window displays.
Little Moony at 230 Mulberry Street
The owner showed me all the new clothing that had come in, the artisan toys she was carrying and some new books carried. If I had someone to buy something for I would have bought something. The merchandise is that nice. I was just afraid that she had closed.
I walked back down Mulberry Street again surprised by the number of people in the restaurants and the number of new buildings opening up on the lower part of Mulberry Street. I do not even give it five years before the entire core of Little Italy is just a block if that.
I walked back to the A train up Canal Street and looked at the buildings in various stages of renovations. I have to say one thing that the City is still progressing as COVID still goes on. It is like walking through NoMAD (North of Madison Square Park), the neighborhood just keeps getting sandblasted and going through another stage of its life.
Maybe this is what the New Year is about, new beginnings and new life to something. Even though there was no formal parade, there was still the feeling that the New Year was here and let’s hope it is a better New Year!
Happy New Year in 2021! Gong Hei Fat Choi!
Chinese New Year 2021-Very Subdued
Helping Chinatown during the New Year 2021
Chinatown restaurants need help-Chinese New Year 2021
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…
When visiting Chinatown in New York City there are many places to get a reasonable snack. This traditional bakery has been around since the 1970’s and before and has been serving Chinese-American sweets to customers for years.
The family that owns the bakery I have found to be very friendly and engaging with their customers as I am sure that they are used to tourists coming in and out of the store. The bakery has seen a lot of competition over the years with a mass opening of Hong Kong style bakeries and bubble tea shops that litter the entire neighborhood with more opening every day selling pretty much the same food items.
What separates Lung Moon Bakery from the other bakeries is their quality and their prices. I have been…
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.
Tao Hong Bakery is a tiny hole in the wall bakery across the street from Sara Delano Roosevelt Park and next to both Chi Dumpling House (79 Chrystie Street) and Wah Fung Number One Fast Food Restaurant (81 Chrystie Street), which makes a nice place for a progressive restaurant experience. You can go to the first two for your appetizer and main dish and then enter Tao Hong Bakery for your dessert. The best part of the experience is that all the desserts are fresh and I watch them bring them out a little at a time (See reviews on TripAdvisor).
The cases are stocked with all sorts of sweet and savory baked items including Hot Dog Buns ($1.00), Pineapple Buns ($1.00) and Raisin Buns ($1.00). All have a distinct sweetness…
I have been to Chi Dumpling House (formerly the C & L Dumpling-sign still stands out front) several times for meals and have enjoyed the food at the restaurant.
It is truly ‘bare’ bones in its appearance. There are a few small tables in the restaurant but it is not most attractive place to eat at in Chinatown. It is a ‘workers’ type of restaurant where the employees from other restaurants come for a meal after work. The inside is more for take-out and the tables are for a quick meal. Many people taking the bus a few doors down from the restaurant came here the days I visited for a quick snack or take out food for the ride.
What the restaurant lacks in appearance it makes up in food and in the prices…
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…
Sun Sai Gai is a small restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. I have been coming here for years after discovering their selection of buns for sale for between $1.00-$1.50. Two of these buns are the perfect quick meal or afternoon snack. I love both their Roast Pork Baked Bun ($1.20) and their Steamed Pork Bun ($1.00). Both are soft buns that are loaded with sweet roast pork. They are huge and flavorful and I have always found them to be fresh (See review on TripAdvisor). They are a great snack when walking on the street.
The roast pork buns are excellent
Another recommendation on the sweet side is their Custard Buns ($1.00) and their Egg Tarts ($1.00), both of which are on the savory/sweet side. The custard buns are…