NYC's Chinatown for 3 hours - whatcha got?
October 16, 2019 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I've got 3-4 hours to explore NYC before an afternoon commitment so I've decided to explore Chinatown. I have little to no experience here so I'm looking for a few great places to find quirky homegoods, textiles and gifts. I'm probably going to grab an early lunch too so any food recommendations would be helpful.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if it is exactly what you're looking for, but every time I go to Chinatown I get an aura photograph taken at Magic Jewelry on Canal Street. They have lots of good jewelry and crystals, too.
posted by stellaluna at 9:03 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you get the subway to Canal St you'll find dozens of 'hole in the wall' places selling all kinds of stuff - lots of knock-off handbags, watches and fake jewellery. Be prepared for people on the sidewalk to keep asking you if you "want Rolex? want Chanel? want Louis Vuitton?". If you say yes, they'll take you to the vendor. Say no, it's cheap crap.

Often what looks like a doorway will be a portal into an arcade of different vendors selling all types of stuff.

But ignoring all the fake designer stuff, I've found some lovely scarves and shawls which make nice gifts for people, easy to pack and good value. I know you can buy shawls/pashminas in a lot of places, but I've found ones there in unusual and beautiful patterns and colour combinations which I've not seen anywhere else. The vendors are always willing to haggle on price. There is a specific place which is near the back of one of these mini-mall/arcades that sells nothing but scarves and shawls. (Or at least there was last time I was down there a couple of years ago.) I couldn't for the life of me pinpoint it on a map but I'm sure it's not the only one.
posted by essexjan at 9:09 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think New Kam Man supermarket on Canal St. is the renamed store where I used to shop. If it is the lower level has a lot of Asian cookware, dishes and other housewares. And the street level has groceries of course.
posted by Botanizer at 10:10 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh! Botanizer reminded me; I think we ended up in Pearl River Mart on Broadway once many years ago to look for something specific and I remember wishing I'd had more time to shop for gifts there. Kind of a department store with lots of housewares, ceramics, textiles, clothing, etc.
posted by stellaluna at 10:30 AM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Here are some of the places I occasionally stop in around there (I work in the area). These are my perhaps somewhat idiosyncratic likes.

Pearl River Mart at 395 Broadway near Canal. Largely aimed at the tourist trade.

Western Spirit, roughly across the street from Pearl River Mart at 392 Broadway. Western/Native American themed rather than Asian, but is unusual for NYC. Seems to get a lot of German and French tourists. Pricey.

I like to window shop at Peony Chinese Bonzai at 106 Walker St.

There's a place with lots of kinds of tea at 107A Lafayette St.

Lucky Stone has lots of stones! and other trinket-type stuff at 234 Canal St Room #109, which is actually not on Canal Street, but at the corner of Centre St and Walker St.

Thai Jasmine at 106 Bayard St is a reliable place for courts and government office lunch crowd, so speedy service and good, but not inspired food.

My wife and I enjoyed Vegetarian Dim Sum House (not just Dim Sum) at 24 Pell St. on one of our meat free days. Very inexpensive too, because no meat.

Unfortunately, you're there on the wrong day for the interesting and amusing Mmuseumm at 4 Cortlandt Alley.
posted by Jahaza at 10:34 AM on October 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think New Kam Man supermarket on Canal St. is the renamed store where I used to shop. If it is the lower level has a lot of Asian cookware, dishes and other housewares. And the street level has groceries of course.

I love New Kam Man, I've gotten a lot of housewares and tea there. (Plus you can buy chunks of Peking duck in a to-go box.)

For early lunch though, I HIGHLY recommend Xi'an Famous Foods, which is not exactly a hidden gem these days but is still definitely a gem. Thick, chewy pulled noodles with cumin-spiced lamb and fragrant oil (and plenty of other things but that's literally all I ever get there). You order at the counter so it's quicker than some of the options above.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:42 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and Pearl River Mart, as mentioned above - it's not fancy but it is HUGE, and when my sister came to visit, we spent like an hour and a half just browsing in there.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:44 AM on October 16, 2019

Wing on Wo is cool!
posted by ohkay at 11:40 AM on October 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I haven't been yet, but I've heard good things about the Museum of Chinese in America - they also have walking tours in the neighborhood, but right now their website doesn't show any - you might have to call.
posted by Mchelly at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2019

I like Xi'an, but if you're going for that genre in Chinatown you actually want Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles. You also can't go wrong with any of the bakeries for dessert.

If you are looking for Thai food supplies/utensils, Bangkok Center Grocery, on one of the, if not the, shortest streets in all Manhattan (Mosco), is your place. You can get stuff there I've never seen anywhere else in Manhattan.

Aji Ichiban, on Mott Street, is a BIG Asian candy store.
posted by praemunire at 1:19 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bakeries bakeries bakeries! Tai Pan and Lung Moon. Nthing New Kam Man; I like the stationery upstairs. Around the corner is oo35mm, my (somewhat overpriced) stop for cute Asian beauty products. Tony Moly for even more cute face creams and lip balms and whatnot. Taiyaki NYC for silly instagrammable ice cream. You can also get egg waffles and rolled ice cream nearby. Sorry, most of my trips there involve dessert or skincare supplies!
posted by bowtiesarecool at 6:48 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Stop by Chinatown ice cream factory after lunch! Delicious homemade ice cream in like 100 flavors. Red bean is my favorite.

For lunch I love Deluxe Green Bo for reasonably priced soup dumplings or if you like Vietnamese, Nha Trang one is incredible, cheap, and a fun experience. My favorite thing to order there is the crispy squid with garlic sauce but they also have the best Vietnamese spring rolls I’ve ever had.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 5:20 AM on October 17, 2019

CW pencils on Orchard St. will sell you any kind of pencil, including custom printed ones (though I think there might be a wait for these).

2 bridges Music Arts has obscure music and art books and interesting second-hand of both.

JaJaJa has excellent (vegan) nachos. Kopitiam is supposed to be good.

Metrograph is good if you want to see a movie.
posted by beerbajay at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

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