Food is everywhere in New York City. There are the “usual suspects”—franchised restaurants and fast food joints—,a deli at every corner, plus vending machines and street food vendors. Grabbing a bite to eat is convenient and cheap.
Yet I was wary of the food. First, it was very hot and I really didn’t feel like having pizza, burgers, hot dogs or pretzels, foods most commonly found around Manhattan—call me picky. Second, this kind of food isn’t exactly healthy. In New York State, chain restaurants must post calories count on menu and while I usually don’t pay too much attention to nutritional info (let’s just say I don’t obsess over calories), the number beside most items was just scary. Seriously, 500 calories for a pretzel? Or 600 calories for a slice of pizza? That’s like a quarter of the recommended daily calorie intake! At one point, I started to wonder what the hell they put in the food, because portions didn’t seem that big. I think that’s what frustrated me the most: if I have a burger and fries, I expect to have eaten a fair share of calories but I’m also likely pretty full. If I order a small veggie sandwich at the deli, I don’t expect it to be a more fatty meal than a burger and fries… yet it can be. Ugh. Nonsense.
So we decided to focus on ethnic food and small restaurants, hoping to find healthier and more interesting choices. That’s how we ended up in Little Italy and in Chinatown several times for dinner.
Chinatown in Manhattan is huge. It sprawls from Grand Street to Allen Street, and from Worth Street to Lafayette Street. It is both a residential and a commercial area: green-grocers, fishmongers, restaurants, banks, jewellery shops and bakeries are clustered around Mott Street and Canal Street, and some quieter streets have apartment buildings.
The area is very touristic (on a side note, do buy your NYC souvenirs there, it’s much cheaper than anywhere else!) although most people don’t wonder deep into Chinatown but stay around Canal Street, where they can buy fake Louis Vuitton and Rolex bags.
Naturally, Chinatown is home to hundreds of traditional restaurants, and we had great food there, from Northern 饺子 to Southern-style soups. There are also dozens of bakeries selling delicacies like egg tarts, moon cakes, buns, etc. I could have eaten them all day long!
Nearby Little Italy was tiny compared to Chinatown, and didn’t seem as “authentic”. Indeed, much of the neighborhood has been absorbed and engulfed by Chinatown, as immigrants from China moved to the area. What was once Little Italy has essentially shrunk into a single street with a lot of restaurants geared towards tourists, but there are few Italian residents and “real” Italian businesses.
Chinatown is a must-see, as you really don’t feel you are in the U.S.A. anymore! Everything there reminds me of China, and it almost made me feel nostalgic.
You can see the set of pictures taken in the U.S.A. on Flickr.