Manhattan/Chinatown

Manhattan's famous Chinatown is a lively neighborhood, full of good values in restaurants and food shopping. Also on sale are cheap knockoffs of designer labels made in China, and all sorts of trinkets and toys. Chinatown is a much larger neighborhood in population and area than it used to be a few decades ago, and for all practical purposes encompasses most of "Little Italy" and a large portion of what was traditionally called the Lower East Side, north of Canal Street and on the north side of the Manhattan Bridge overpass. Indeed, in a real sense, it can be said that the center of Chinatown is no longer on Mott Street between Canal Street and Chatham Square (though that stretch is well worth visiting), but has moved further north and east to East Broadway between Chatham Square and Pike Street and Grand Street between the Bowery and Chrystie Street, where locals shop for foodstuffs - and you can, too, for good values. Chinatown has also been growing more diverse, becoming a bit less of a Chinatown and more of a China and Southeast Asia town, with a growing presence of immigrants from Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. And inasmuch as it remains a Chinatown, it is no longer dominated by Cantonese people the way it used to be. For example, Eldridge St. between Division and Broome Sts. is now known as Little Fuzhou, due to a recent influx of Fuzhounese immigrants who have given Chinatown a new flavor.

The Chinatown area also encompasses what little remains of Little Italy, an area which is essentially comprised of a few blocks of Mulberry Street north of Canal, plus a bit on streets perpendicular to Mulberry (such as the block between Mulberry and Mott on Grand Street, or part of it). Little Italy is almost devoid of Italian residents nowadays, and is primarily a kind of tourist theme park, but still contains a few eateries with reputations. What used to be the northern end of Little Italy, now called NoLIta (which extends north to Houston Street), is a quieter residential area, less touristy, but with upscale boutiques, and more often frequented by New Yorkers than SoHo, of which it is in some ways an eastern extension, nowadays.

Get in

Chinatown Map

By subway

For general purposes, the D or B subway lines to Grand Street are optimal for accessing Chinatown. The J and Z to Bowery leave you a little north of the center of Chinatown. The F train to East Broadway leaves you toward the eastern edge of the neighborhood. The 6, R, N, Q, J or Z to Canal Street leave you a few blocks west of the center of the neighborhood though in the midst of the excitement, congestion, and vendors of Canal St (this is generally the best stop for shopping for anything other than foodstuffs). Further afield, it is also possible to take the 4 or 5 to Brooklyn Bridge or the 2 or 3 to Park Place and walk north and east. The A, C, or E trains that stop at Canal and 6th Av. and the 1 train, which stops at Canal and Varick, are far west of the neighborhood though walkable in good weather.

By MTA bus

Several city bus lines including the M9, M15, and M103 traverse Chinatown.

By long distance bus

Chinatown is the home of several super-cheap long distance bus companies. You can take buses from Manhattan's Chinatown to other Chinatowns in Boston; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; to various cities further afield; and to casinos in Atlantic City. Ticket offices of the various bus companies are scattered throughout Chinatown, including those of Eastern Coach and Lucky Star Bus, among others.

On foot or by bicycle

You can of course walk to Chinatown. If you're coming from Brooklyn, you can cross the Manhattan Bridge, which opened to pedestrian traffic within the past few years. Note though, that your view will be partially blocked by a protective mesh, and that you will be periodically rattled by the B, D, N, and Q trains crossing the bridge. But on the plus side, you will exit on Bowery near Canal Street in central Chinatown. Another bridge that can be crossed from Brooklyn to Manhattan is the Williamsburg Bridge. After crossing the Williamsburg, you will be left on Delancey Street, a few blocks east of the northeast corner of Chinatown. All things being equal, though, it is most pleasant to cross the Brooklyn Bridge and then take the short walk to the southern reaches of Chinatown from the pedestrian exit. Note that it is also possible to use a bike path on the Manhattan Bridge and that the walkway over the Brooklyn Bridge doubles for most of its length as a bike path; the Williamsburg Bridge also has a bike path.

See

The iconic domed Citizen's Savings Bank building, now a branch of HSBC, on the corner of Bowery and Canal, across the street from the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge

The main attraction in Chinatown is just walking through the neighborhood, visiting the above-mentioned shopping streets.

Parks and squares

Museums

The Eldridge St. Synagogue, once a major institution in the Jewish ghetto that was the Lower East Side, is still a vital institution, but is now in Little Fuzhou in the heart of Chinatown

Do

Buy

Be mindful that most shops in Chinatown accept cash only. Canal Street east of Broadway is a paradise for bargain hunters and people looking to buy counterfeit knock-offs of high-end clothes and accessories. If you want to impress people back home with the fake Louis Vuitton bag you got for $30, this is the place to go. Also look at the stores that line Mott Street between Canal and Chatham Square.

NoLiTa has become synonymous with avant-couture boutiques in charmingly dilapidated buildings. Some stores are so idiosyncratic that they appear not to sell anything at all, yet are perpetually crowded and passionately trendy.

One of the many bargain stores in Chinatown

Groceries and food to go

Knockoffs

If you want knockoffs of designer labels, try the stores on Mott Street south of Canal first. There are other stores on Canal Street, but you may find them more expensive. And remember, you get what you pay for, so if you buy a knockoff watch and it lasts you more than six months, be happy. Price shop and don't be afraid to try bargaining.

Eat

Local specialties on the street

If you want to have a really cheap meal, or it's really nice weather, consider buying something on the street (the fried chicken cart that you may find on Canal or Walker Street right near the triangle between Canal, Walker, and Baxter Streets serves really tasty legs and wings, for example) or a cheap prepared thing such as is sold at the Bangkok Center Grocery on Mosco Street between Mott and Mulberry, and eat it in Columbus Park or another park as a kind of impromptu picnic.

If you'd rather have a sit-down meal, Chinatown probably has the largest number of inexpensive restaurants in Manhattan. They range from the "rice, soup, and four side dishes" steam table places to the "4 dumplings for $5" establishments to full-service restaurants like Great NY Noodletown and Noodle Village, which abound in dishes "on rice," noodle soups, and congees for around $7 or less, and on up to a seafood specialist like Oriental Garden, where specially requested, highly prized varieties of live fish and seafood can run up the bill somewhat. But what Chinatown lacks is anything truly high-end. For the most part (with the exception of off-menu items at Oriental Garden), $30-40 is about the most you are likely to pay, even if you pig out at a multi-course banquet.

Budget

The Manhattan Bridge, emptying its traffic onto the Bowery and Canal Street

Mid-range

Lombardi's Pizzeria

Splurge

Dim Sum

For dim sum eating halls, especially those with carts, it is generally best to arrive by 10:30 or 11:00 in order to beat the crowds and have fresh food that is hot. Grand Harmony opens early and is a pleasant place to have breakfast between 9 and 10.

Drink

The beautiful Bowery Savings Bank, one of many banks in this neighborhood of much frugality. However, this building is now a bar/restaurant, and no longer accepts deposits except for wedding receptions and other parties in its classy interior.

When in Chinatown, try some bubble tea. It's named for the tapioca/sago balls in the tea, which are sucked up with an oversized straw or eaten with a spoon. This kind of tea, which originated in Taiwan, has a popularity in New York that extends beyond the Chinese community, so you can find bubble tea houses outside of Chinese neighborhoods, but the greatest concentration of such establishments is still in Chinese communities like Manhattan's Chinatown and in Flushing, Queens. There are numerous bubble tea houses in Chinatown.

Sleep

St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, a historical NoLIta landmark, 260 Mulberry St. between Prince and Houston

Connect

There are a number of internet centers in Chinatown. Look for them on Mott Street between Chatham Square and Bayard and especially on Eldridge Street between Canal and Grand, where there are several. You could also try the   New York Public Library Chatham Square branch at 33 East Broadway, but expect it to be very crowded. That library branch is also a good source for teach-yourself-Chinese materials and Chinese-language books.

Go next

Obvious places to go next include the Lower East Side which almost seamlessly merges with Chinatown on its edges and sometimes beyond, nowadays; the Financial District, such as the area near City Hall; Soho; and Brooklyn across one of the nearby bridges. A somewhat more out-of-the-box idea is to go to Flushing next, to see an extensive and even more diverse Chinatown in Queens. There are vans that connect Manhattan's Chinatown with Flushing, but you might have to ask around to find them. They are sometimes on Division St. not far from the Bowery, and more recently have been seen on Elizabeth St. near Hester and lately on Forsyth St. just south of Canal.

Routes through Chinatown

Midtown Soho  N  S  Financial District
Midtown Soho  N  S  Downtown Brooklyn Coney Island
Financial District  W  E  Lower East Side Williamsburg
Midtown Soho  N  S  Downtown Brooklyn Coney Island
Midtown Soho  N  S  Financial District (weekdays only) Downtown Brooklyn (weekends only)


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.