11 Stops (YUM!) Self Guided Food tour of Chinatown, NYC and parts nearby.
The following is the first food tour that I put together from online research. We have taken it twice and modified the results based on our tastes. If you start out at 11:30AM when the first shop opens, it should take you most of the afternoon to complete. Enjoy. When we head into NYC from New Jersey we park in Jersey City by the Grove Street Path station and then take the Path over to the Christopher Street stop and walk East to begin the tour. At the end of the tour we head back to Christopher Street. Its a nice long walk for the day. You will probably get in 5 or 6 miles of steps in during the day.
Some thoughts before going on any food tour.
1. Go with people who like food! It may seem obvious, but if you are picky and only eat chicken fingers, don't go on a food tour. You will be bored. Find people with a passion for food and you will all have a much better time time.
2. Try new things. Get out of your comfort zone and try things that you may not like. Durian flavored ice cream for instance...
3. Use these tour notes as a guide, not a edict. If something else catches your eye during the day's exploration, go explore it. The sophisticated pig wont mind.
4. Bring a plastic knife and fork to help eat things on the street.
Stop 1: Prince Street Pizza – 27 Prince Street (opens at 11:30)
What to Order: The standard slices are fine, but what you really want is the Spicy Pepperoni, a Sicilian-style slice topped with a spicy tomato sauce, house-made fresh mozzarella, and natural casing pepperoni. The slice is big enough to share (there are 10 more stops on the tour). If you brought a plastic knife with you, cut it into sharing size pieces. Chris and I share one slice without a knife, we just switch back and forth taking yummy bites. Careful of burning the roof of your mouth at the first stop. The pies are so popular that you always get a slice that is literally right out of the oven.
Stop 2 Taïm – 45 Spring Street (opens at 11AM)
Once you've had your slice, walk south down Mott street for one block to Spring Street and and then turn right and go west for one block to the corner for Tiam. Here you can get excellent falafel. Ask for a sampler plate of falafel, its not listed on the menu, but if you ask an experienced person behind the counter, you will get a sample of the different available falafels for a little over 4 bucks.
Stop 3: Despana – 408 Broome Street (seats and a bathroom)
Continue to head south to 408 Broome Street for on of the best purveyors of Spanish delicacies in New York. Lots of samples are out to taste. Order any of the Hot or cold tapas available at the counter in the rear of the store. The octopus flatbread is one of my favorites. Also note that most Saturdays in the summer they will have their Paella afternoons starting at 1PM. You have to get in line to reserve a plate of Paella, but its awesome.
Stop 4: Golden Steamer - 143A Mott Street
Head east back to Mott street and then south to Golden Steamer for a Steam bun. They are big enough to share and come with a variety of filling. BBQ Pork is my choice. Very inexpensive, $1 each. Its not my favorite on the tour, but they are something I can only get fresh on the tour or in a specialty Asian Food market.
Stop 5: New York Mart – 128 Mott Str
Time for a break from eating. Continue south down Mott street and head in to this bustling market. When you step in, you will realize you are not in any ordinary grocery store. Anything Asian you can imagine and lots of stuff you can't imagine are sold here. Squeeze thru the crowds and browse the seafood department to see what fresh fish is about. You can get live turtles and frogs if you care to. If you want, go to the roasted pork/duck stand and buy some by the pound, its wonderful. Or just browse the different departments while you digest some for the next stop.
Stop 6: Shanghai Heping Restaurant – 104 Mott Str
Continue south on Mott street to get the the Shanghai Heping Restaurant. They have amazing soup dumplings. Go inside and get an order to go. Although you can eat inside, they have a minimum per person so get one appetizer order of dumplings to go. We split one order between 4 of us. The place has steps that you can sit on and enjoy your dumplings outside. To eat a dumpling, bite a small whole in the dumpling, slurp out the yummy broth, and then eat the rest of the dumpling.
Stop 7: Tai Pan Bakery – Canal between Mott and Mulberry (has seats)
Continue south on Mott street until you get to Canal street. Then cross to the south side of Canal and go west for 1/2 a block to reach the bakery. Chinese baked goods are not as sweet as US bakeries. I always enjoy one of the mini tarts, but everything looks amazing in the store. Have a seat as you eat your choice and rest a bit.
Stop 8: Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - 65 Bayard Street between Elizabeth and Mott Streets
Go back to Mott street and head south until you reach Bayard street heading off to the left. One half a block down Bayard Street is Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. At $5 a scoop, it’s a bit pricey, but they have unusual flavors like ginger, wasabi, dragon Fruit, Durean, and black sesame seed. They have more traditional flavors, but why not experiment. You wont see these flavors many other places.
Stop 9: The Crown Rooftop Bar – 50 Bowery Str. (bathroom)
Time to plop down, relax and have a drink. Head east to 50 Bowery Street. Go to the Crown Hotel and take the elevator up to the rooftop bar and enjoy a seat and the views of lower Manhattan's skyline. You might think its touristy, but face it, you are a tourist on a food tour.
Stop 10: East Dumpling – 46 Eldridge
We now can walk about 4 blocks to East Dumpling on Eldridge street. The place looks like a hole in the wall, but they make great pan fried dumplings. Order 10 for 3 bucks and enjoy between your fellow foodies. Note that they only speak Chinese or Spanish here. Some hand signals and pointing may be in order.
Stop 11: Vanessa's Dumpling House – 118 Eldridge (seats and bathroom)
Last, but not least, head north on Eldridge to get to Vanessa's Dumpling house. We are not here for the dumplings, but for the stuffed sesame pancakes. The Peking duck sesame pancake is awesome. Its hard to explain the dish, but imagine a sesame crusted focaccia that has been split in the middle and stuffed with Peking duck fixings. Each portion is the size of a pizza slice. Pure heaven. Chris and I split one because by this point, I cant eat much more.
The tour is done, and I hope you enjoyed it. At this point we head back to the Path train to return to New Jersey. Dinner that night would usually be something very small....