Every metropolis has its Chinatown. Luckily, we New Yorkers have…six? Look beyond downtown Manhattan and even Flushing and Elmhurst, Queens, and you’ll find authentic neighborhoods with restaurants whose menus go way beyond Peking duck and pork fried rice. Brooklyn alone has a trio of endlessly fascinating—and quite delicious—Chinatown neighborhoods. Let’s explore!
Get Savory in Sunset Park
Once you’ve mastered the food courts of Flushing—if such a thing is possible—it’s time to take the N or R train to the 53rd Street station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s first Chinatown, not to mention one of the fastest-growing ethnic Chinese areas outside of Asia. A short walk will bring you to Eighth Avenue—eight being a Chinese lucky number—where you can stroll the fruit stalls and stop at as many restaurants as you can, working your way up to the top of the Sunset Park dim sum peak that is Bamboo Garden at 64th Street. If you’re with a brave group, start at Hot Space, a Chengdu spot whose specialty is a spice-roasted four-pound fish that you mix into the chili-bombed broth of your choice.
Taste of Guilin specializes in dry-fried tubular rice noodles served with toppings ranging from really adventurous (fried pork intestine) to simply adventurous (cold roast beef).
Next, sample Fujian snack foods at He Yi Xiaochi, such as pork jiaozi (dumplings), bone broth with oxtail and goji berries, and fish meatballs. Vegetarians will be happy at Lucky Vegetarian and Yun Nan Flavour Garden, the latter using meat and animal fat sparingly in its excellent yet simply prepared rice sticks/cakes/noodles. (Try the “crossing the bridge” noodles; you won’t be sorry.) Chi Ken is for lovers of all things fried, be it “crazy jumbo” squid; oyster mushrooms; or Taiwanese popcorn chicken, dredged with sweet potato flour. Until a few years ago, Taste of Guilin was the only Guilin restaurant in NYC. It specializes in dry-fried tubular rice noodles served with toppings ranging from really adventurous (fried pork intestine) to simply adventurous (cold roast beef).
Keep Blissing Out in Brooklyn
Liking this Brooklyn vibe? Now it’s time to try the “second” Chinatown, Avenue U, aka Little Hong Kong. You can get there by Q train directly from Manhattan’s Chinatown if you’d like. Restaurants, fruit stalls, beauty and nail salons, and electronics dealers fill the busy streets between Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Avenue, sharing space with Mexican taquerias, Uzbek restaurants, and Italian pizza joints and bakeries. Start with a Styrofoam cup of macaroni and Spam in chicken broth, topped with a fried egg, at Ka Ka Bakery. (Chinese bakeries like pairing spaghetti and macaroni with just about anything for breakfast, it seems.)
The pineapple bun and egg tart should not be missed.
For lunch, Golden Z offers more than 50 kinds of rice dishes, from crackling roast duck to beef with bitter melon, for under $6. Dim sum classics can be found every day at Wing Hing Seafood. (Hint: The baked pork bun is better than the steamed.) And the best examples of Chinese sweets are behind the glass at Long Wong Bakery. Try the pineapple bun and egg tart. Season Restaurant is the best dinner option, with creatively plated noodles, while the best Cantonese seafood is at 1818 Seafood Restaurant, where the salted fish with minced pork and buffalo fish casserole with dried bean curd sticks is the move.
Bensonhurst or Bust(ed Gut)!
And now, it’s on to Bensonhurst. While the Chinese offerings aren’t as dense, they are interspersed with traditional Italian spots of the Saturday Night Fever vintage. One favorite is New Ruan’s, open since 1991 and deemed the standard for its Chinese-American favorites, from fried rice to lo mein to beef with broccoli. If you prefer zero atmosphere and prices under $10, the mom-and-pop New Pull Noodle and Dumpling House packs them in for its authentic dry noodles and addictive beef rolls (rolled up in a scallion pancake, no less). The comforting Cantonese hot pots are a major draw at King’s Kitchen. If you’re a planner, call ahead to give them time to seal and simmer yours. Also excellent are the steamed rice rolls, congee, and roast pork. Next door is the ever-popular King’s Bakery, a modern spot serving a dizzying array of fusion-y cakes, breads, buns, and pastries.