After our re-group at the hotel we hit the subway and went to Chinatown. I’ve been to several large Chinatowns in including LA, Seattle, and Vancouver and some have been more touristy than others. And yes, some streets and shops here in NYC were geared to the tourist with jade trinkets and Chinese New Years leftovers, but there are also many signs that this is still a thriving Chinese neighborhood.
We passed several fresh Asian fruit markets filled with passion fruit, durian, mangos, and kiwis; fish markets with squid and octopus; teas shops with loose leaf tea; traditional eastern medicine herb shops; oriental bake shops; pekin duck hanging in the windows of restaurants and much more.
After taking in the neighborhood we headed to our planned lunch spot: Xi’an famous foods. A long narrow eating area, you are immediately put in line to order from a menu on the opposite wall where dishes are listed by name or number. Luke ordered the tingly beef noodle and I got the spicy lamb noodle.
As we waited we read the many newspaper clippings and signed photos from travel channel and food network stars who have advertised to the world about this Asian fusion noodle shop. The kitchen is next door and food is brought in through a metal slot in the wall between rooms.
When our food came it smelled amazing. The lamb was so tender, the sauce amazingly flavorful and spicy, and the noodles wide and thick. We shared a fragrant jasmine tea to quench the noise-dripping heat of the sauce. It was really good.
Walking around a little more we got one more snack: fried dumplings. There are several famous dumpling places in Chinatown. This place is a true hole in the wall with only a counter with one women frying up dumplings. The menu is simply fried dumplings, pre-made dumplings to take home, and drinks. That is it.
For one dollar you get three fried pork dumplings on a small paper plate. There are not seats, only a small bar with soy sauce, siracha, and plastic forks. The steaming hot dumplings were so full of flavor they needed no extra sauce.
After all the eating we crossed into Little Italy. A much different vibe than Chinatown, as most Italians have move to the Brooklyn or New Jersey, it is no longer a thriving neighborhood. Several large white tableclothed restaurants take up the empty first floors of this neighborhoods. As we passed the owners were in front advertising deals for their mostly empty restaurants, trying to hold on to the tradition through tourist money. We passed gelato stands, old catholic churches, and Italian bakeries again, based on tourist clientele.
Are only stop was a large Christmas shop where we bought two ornaments for our tree to remember our trip by. We were grateful we were not limited to “I heart NYC” stores with only cheesy souvenirs.
Up next: The Lower East Side, NYU, and Blue Man Group