Still reeling from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, this guide will show you how to visit (and support) New York's family-owned shops and eateries in Chinatown.
Chinatown is one of New York City’s oldest immigrant communities and chock-full of vibrant, one-of-a-kind businesses, both old and new. As you wander its streets, you will discover memorable meals, unique sweets, cultural treasures, and much more. Sprinkled among the legacy shops run by multigenerational families are popular new spots from creative young entrepreneurs.
In the last century, Chinatown was centered on Mott, Pell, and Doyers Streets. Those narrow streets still hold a lot of history, but the community has spread out around them into a sprawling two-square-mile area, which continues to grow and is now one of the largest communities of Chinese people in the U.S.
The history of Chinese immigrants in New York and other cities has not been easy. Years of persecution, punitive immigration laws, and restrictions allowed them to work only in laundries, restaurants, and garment factories. But today, Chinatown is a living link to the past and one of the last Manhattan neighborhoods that haven’t been gentrified, where 94% of the businesses are still considered “mom-and-pop.”
Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are beginning to thrive again, thanks in large part to the determined families who often work together 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week. They have made Chinatown a bustling community of restaurants, bakeries, tropical fruit vendors, shops, Buddhist temples, tailors, food markets, herb stores, and butchers.
At night, the neighborhood streets are festively lit up with gayly colored lanterns. Many streets feature outdoor tables full of locals and tourists, enjoying dishes from classic Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Korean, and Japanese cuisines. Heaping plates of savory noodles, gleaming mahogany-colored roast ducks, a dizzying array of dim sum, and custard tarts with the flakiest pastry beckon visitors to explore the neighborhood with their tastebuds.