5 Things I Love In Chinatown

Having favorite neighborhoods is not uncommon for New Yorkers.  While I think we all tend to be especially loyal to the neighborhood we live in (unless it’s just a REALLY far walk to the subway or been infested with bedbugs, shudder), we all have hoods we gravitate to that we’ve never lived in, but just particularly love.  For me, that place is Chinatown.  Anytime I have an afternoon free to wander and the weather is even a little bit nice, you can find me here.

Here’s 5 things I especially love about Chinatown, and do at least one every time I visit.

1. Coconut Cream Pastries

Walking down Canal Street, you’ll see a Chinese Bakery basically every other storefront–they’re everywhere.  Typically they’re cash only, and you can load up on a week’s worth of pastries for next to nothing.  My favorite treat to grab at these are the coconut cream-filled pastries.  So soft, so sweet, and I promise you it will be $1 well spent, every single time.

L10200482. Tea + Herb Shops

I find Eastern medicine fascinating.  While I’m not exclusively a believer in it (if I’m sick, give me a Z-pack!), I do think that keeping healthy the natural way obviously has its perks!  Sun’s Organic Garden on Bayard Street is filled with canisters of every kind of tea you could possibly think of, and the woman in charge is super helpful.  You tell her your symptoms and she recommends the best tea (or a blend of them) that will help.  Also, it’s way cheaper than loading up on tea bags at your local Duane Reade.  If tea isn’t your jam, there’s a plethora of herb shops in the area, too.

L1020050 L10200633. Veggie Dumplings

This is like the healthy alternative to the $1 slice, am I right?  There’s so many places in Chinatown where you can load up on a plate of them for pocket change, but if you want a sit down tea parlor experience Nom Wah Tea Parlor is basically THE NYC institution.  3 veggie dumplings plus a full pot of tea for $5, my friends!

L1020051 L10200534. Back + Foot Rubs

I’ve sung the praises of these places before, but really, where outside of NYC can you find an hour massage for $40?!  These massage parlors are dotted all over Chinatown, I swear, it’s the best deal in town.  Most take credit cards, but if you pay in cash you can skip the tax, which is always a plus. 

L10200615. Getting My $1 Fortune At The Buddhist Temple

The Mahayana Buddhist Temple has been a special place to me for a long time.  On the first date I planned for my now husband, I took him on an iPod walking tour of Chinatown.  One of the stops on the tour was this temple, and we each drew our fortune for $1 donation as we stood in front of the giant Buddha.  Mine read “happiness is standing right next to you.”  Aww:-)  So now it’s a bit of a tradition for me to pop in whenever I’m in the neighborhood.  Added bonus: once inside, you really will feel transported to the Far East, far, far away from Manhattan.


Would love to know…what are your favorite stops in Chinatown?  Share below!

p.s. if you’re interested in doing the Chinatown walking tour on your iPod, here’s more information!


  • Mala says:

    Great list! I need to explore Chinatown a bit more – I only go there for the Golden Unicorn’s dim sum. But now I’m craving those cream pastries…!

    • Used York City says:

      Oh yum! I haven’t heard of Golden Unicorn, will have to check it out, thanks!

  • Heather says:

    I never spent much time in Chinatown when I lived in Manhattan, it was just a little too intimidating. Which is pretty ironic considering I later lived in China for two years! But if I’d known about those coconut cream pastries, I would have been down there in a hot second :-)

    • Used York City says:

      Haha, there ARE a lot of people on Canal Street, it’s crowded and overwhelming! I stick to the smaller side streets–still bustling, but not so claustrophobic;-)

  • Tamara says:

    I don’t know much about it, but those dumplings and pastries would be high on my list!
    Hope you’re doing well!

  • Oh, I love that I can escape to New York when I visit you, Jess. (If only in my dreams). Here I thought NY was one of the most expensive cities in the world. Turns out China town has some great deals! I should visit China Town in my city and seek out some tea and a massage. Hope you’re having a great week!

    • Used York City says:

      That’s a great idea, Lisa! I would love to hear if there are similar deals where you are, do report back!:-)

  • I love those coconut cream pastries!! They sell them at Chinatown in Melbourne, Australia – yum!!

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