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NYC ‘s Chinatown & Little Italy? – New York City

Chinatown in Lower Manhattan

Evening photo of one of the many markets/stores within the Chinatown in Lower Manhattan section of NYC.
Evening photo of one of the many markets/stores within the Chinatown in Lower Manhattan section of NYC.

Why go to NYC’s Chinatown? Many reasons my friends. For some Asians here, it’s to visit family or friends living there. For one Thai pal of mine it’s to pick up the most recent copy of Thai Rat his fave newspaper (it’s never more than 2 days off). Another friend goes to buy the vegetables, and yet another buys Ginseng and other specialty roots. I personally go there for all these reasons and more. I lose myself within on that hunt for the right priced item, for my bottle of siracha sauce (really hot!), or for my need to restore my stash of rice noodles. For you, maybe you’d like some chicken feet? ‘Or maybe some other delicacy? Cow’s tongue anyone? or maybe you’d want to buy some special herbs, or try that jar of Tum Yum Sauce or even Hot & Sour Shrimp Paste? If you pass through, try experimenting with some of the offerings you’ll find in their shops. They’re actually very good!

Here you’ll find an abundance of vegetables you’ll not find elsewhere in the city. If you do then you’re lucky. I’ve got a taste for some of them and find it near impossible to get them where I live.

With all the shops and restaurants, you’ll have quite a choosing of things to buy and eat. You might want to try some of the specialty dishes at that local Vietnamese restaurant, or any other for that matter. My favorites happen to be on Mott Street. ‘And your waiter may be Vietnamese, Cantonese, Fiujanese, Taiwanese, or perhaps even Malay? Unfortunately there aren’t any Filipino or Korean food offerings. At least I’ve never seen them here.

A corner market within Chinatown along Grand Street. It is one of very many you'll find down there.
A corner market within Chinatown along Grand Street. It is one of very many you’ll find down there.

There’s an abundance of shops selling vegetables, roots, poultry, fish of all sorts, electronics, gadgets, knickknacks, and even a sneaker shop or two. I’m a sucker for the bakeries in this area. You’ll find great looking deserts just mildly sweetened if at all. They’re great to munch on and really inexpensive!

The Chinatown Kiosk

The Kiosk to be found along Canal Street in Chinatown was added in December of 2004 as a wonderful visitor informational center at which one could not only pick up a map and printed guide to this culturally rich area but also ask questions as to where this and that might be. “The kiosk, managed by NYC & Co., will be open seven days a week — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends — and will have two staff members available on site to direct visitors, provide maps, and answer questions.”

According to the folks who came up with this wonderful idea, the folks who’ll staff the kios will provide in several languages (neat aye?), helpful information regarding how to go about making the most of one’s trip through Chinatwn as well as additional info on finding out those little treasures within from restaurants and shops to special events and other cultural attractions.

Where?

All dressed up for the Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations in NYC.
All dressed up for the Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations in NYC.

OK…..Chinatown. Before I go any further. What would I consider a New York City Cultural area? Well, if it doesn’t smell, taste or look like it then it ain’t! A newspaper writer wrote once about the exact dimensions of what and where Chinatown is. There I am sitting wondering…’WHAT THE HECK IS HE TALKIN’ ABOUT? You’ll come across this many times in many other places. I’ve been through Chinatown hundreds of times and could never tell you where exactly this restaurant or that shop is. I’ll come close half the time, but then most natives here would get lost themselves trying to find the address.

Just remember some street names: Mott, Mulberry, Canal, Bowery, Lafayette. There are plenty of train lines along the way to get you back to where you want to go. Chinatown over the years has gotten bigger and bigger. Further encroaching upon Little Italy’s space. Little Italy is adjacent to Chinatown….’actually, I’d say it’s swallowed up by Chinatown. It’s within sortof….and if you follow my train of thought, then it’s about maybe 5 blocks long with side streets along the way. ‘Because after that the feeling is gone. No more Italian restaurants. You can pretty much arrive there through virtually any subway line. Little Italy is a treat in and of itself. Meals at the local restaurants are relatively affordable (3 prix dinner for under $18 at some restaurants and less at others).

What?

I’ve heard it described as a slum by some. Not sure about what defines a slum exactly. Basically it’s a collection of restaurants, shops, vegetable and fish stands all huddled together in this wonderfully cultured neighborhood at and around the lower east side of Manhattan. You see the culture in the shops you visit, the restaurants you eat at and also by simply walking down any given side street. Here, you’ll find mobs on the weekends, and with the great rise in tourism, these mobs have gotten only larger in the past decade. On a hot summer afternoon it reeks of old food and fish…THAT IS, if it hasn’t rained in days and it’s been consistently hot. You’ll find that most of the shops, if not all of them, close at and around 6-7pm? Maybe a bit later?

The community is made of Chinese Immigrants who’ve come here for quite some time. Some seeking a new life, perhaps a better life in the land of opportunity?…as did the immigrants who came during the early part of the 20th century. ‘And many still come today. For three decades they’ve come here. In the late 1960’s there were maybe 10,000 Chinese people dwelling in a very small area. Today there are upwards of 100,000, thus causing this district to spill into the surrounding areas.

Should you choose to visit Chinatown then by all means come on down. Tourists and all are very well welcomed here. Eating here’s quite affordable. And be ready to do some shopping, since it’s hard to walk away from this NYC section without having purchased something.

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