This summer, a girlfriend of mine told me about a perfect beach read called “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan. Have you heard of it!? Well…three books and a movie later, I am obsessed with not only the series but also the whole Asian culture! After seeing the movie, I started thinking about how much fun it would be to spend the day in Chinatown, NYC and explore all it has to offer. I had always heard that Chinatown has so many hidden gems so I asked around and did some research to find the best places to visit. I spent an entire Saturday walking around Chinatown to scope out these places and am so excited to share my favorite spots with you!
Looking for the best dim sum in NYC? Without a doubt, head to Golden Unicorn in Chinatown to have an authentic Dim Sum experience. Let me start off by saying… be prepared to wait! Definitely get to the restaurant at least 30 minutes before you’re hungry to grab a ticket (deli style). You will definitely end up waiting downstairs in the lobby along with 50 other hungry dim sum goers!
Golden Unicorn is the first upscale restaurant that offered traditional Cantonese-style dining in Chinatown. It opened its doors in 1989 and has been a secret NYC hot spot ever since. (Well…I guess it’s not as secret as I thought considering my 45-minute wait time). Regardless, it is such a fun authentic Cantonese dining experience and definitely worth the wait. The restaurant is located on the 2nd floor and as soon as the elevator opens, you feel as if you have been transported to China because of the décor and overall ambiance. I went with a girlfriend and we were seated family style next to two other ladies also enjoying their Saturday lunch.
It was such a fun experience to see the waitresses walking around the restaurant, pushing small carts filled with a variety of dim sum options. If something looked yummy, all you had to do was stop a waitress and she would happily provide you with a plate of whatever your heart desired. My personal favorite dim sum was the shrimp shumai and vegetable soup dumplings. I did get a little adventurous and tried some dim sum that included red bean but the dumplings were much more up my alley.
After enjoying a delicious meal at Golden Unicorn, we headed to one of my favorite stores located in the heart of Chinatown. Yùnhóng Chopsticks is a true hidden gem of a store. How many times have you asked yourself, “what do I get the person who has it all?” Well, do what I do and opt for a fabulous set of chopsticks. Yùnhóng Chopsticks is one of only ten stores in Manhattan that sell just one item: chopsticks. When I say chopsticks, you probably are thinking the kind you get at any Chinese restaurant…not even close. This store is filled with colorful chopsticks, each having its own story. There are over 200 different styles that line the walls of this small store located in the heart of Chinatown. The chopsticks range from a simple pair of plastic chopsticks costing $1.99 to an ebony mahogany set with silver tips, costing over $600. Talk about a luxurious pair of chopsticks!
Not only do I love this store because of its simple and elegant beauty but also because of its history. The Mahogany collection is based on a controversial book called Dream of the Red Chamber, which was banned during the Revolution. Each chopstick signifies one of the twelve main female characters from the novel. Want to live like a Crazy Rich Asian and own one of the most luxuries pairs of chopsticks? Head to Yùnhóng Chopsticks!
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
A trip to Chinatown wouldn’t be complete without ice cream! Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is one of the oldest businesses that sits in the heart of Chinatown and is knows as an “unofficial landmark”. This is as original as it gets! They offer an incredible variety of flavors, ranging from wasabi to matcha to plain old vanilla. No matter the flavor, you are guaranteed a delicious scoop of ice cream.
If you are looking for an “Instagram worthy” spot, definitely head to Eggloo. This is one of the most popular places to visit if you are looking for that perfect Instagram picture to show off your over the top ice cream. Eggloo is THE spot for Hong Kong egg waffles filled with delicious ice cream and topped off with a variety of savory options. After trying one, I officially understand why Eggloo is NYC’s newest dessert craze.
Although it may not be the most luxurious spot in Chinatown, a must-stop spot is Zuyuan for an epic foot massage. No, it’s not the most glamorous spot, no, it’s definitely not the Four Seasons but talk about an amazing massage. It’s so incredible that it’s virtually impossible to get a massage on the weekend unless you book way in advance. The space is rather small and consists of two rows of comfortable lounge chairs. When I walked in to get a massage, half of the people I saw were already napping or relaxing while listening to music (this is always a good sign). So if you are in need of a great foot massage, make sure to make a reservation ahead of time at Zuyuan!
Next on my list is Doyers Street, which is only one block in length, 200-feet long, located in the center of Chinatown. Although it is a tiny street, it is so rich in history and culture. This street was where the first Chinese Theatre in NY was located in 1893. The theatre eventually was converted into a rescue mission for the homeless and in the early 1930’s it became known as “The Bloody Angle” or the deadliest street in American history. Now, it is covered in beautiful graffiti, making it a must-see spot in NYC! The entire block is filled with graffiti on both the ground and walls. It’s crazy to think that this beautiful street was once filled with horrible crimes and now it’s a huge tourist attraction filled with shopping and yummy restaurants.
Spending the day in Chinatown was so much fun and I truly enjoyed visiting the secret spots and finding some amazing gems. You can easily spend an entire day in this part of town, visiting delicious restaurants, shopping at unique stores, eating an abundance of dumplings and of course, enjoying one of a kind desserts. I live less than 10 blocks away from Chinatown and felt like I was in an entirely different city. That is one of the best parts of NYC, feeling as if you are in a different part of the world depending on the neighborhood you are in. With all that being said…anybody know when the next movie is coming out?!? I am ready!