Editor's Note: As of Tues. March 17, in light of the COVID-19 crisis, all New York City restaurants and bars have been temporarily closed, save for delivery and pickup. A few ways to help: Order food from these local businesses, tip well, and buy gift cards for later use.
The World Health Organization has now classified COVID-19 as a global pandemic, and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has officially surpassed 1,000. As an unfortunate side effect, there's a false connection being made between the virus and entire nationalities, or even races, of people—and Chinatown restaurants in particular are losing business for it.
"Xenophobia is a real thing. I feel it," Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor told Elyse Inamine in a Bon Appétit story last week. "I feel those weird moments, like a few days ago when I dropped off my kids for their gymnastics class. I got extra stares, as if I don’t get them already, being a six-foot-five Asian guy."
In times of public health emergencies, it's equally important to fight this kind of stigma brought on by fear. As the CDC reiterates, "People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American." Neither is eating at an Asian establishment more likely to give you the coronavirus. Regarding this, I especially appreciated food and culture writer Bettina Makalintal's tweet:
eat in chinatown you cowards— bettina makalintal (@bettinamak) March 3, 2020
We may not be able to stop xenophobia entirely, but we can certainly support victims of it. In this spirit, I've asked my colleagues at Food52 to share their favorite restaurants in N.Y.C.'s Chinatowns (and I invite you to do the same in the comments below). By continuing to go to these restaurants we love, we can show solidarity in the belief that the coronavirus should not color how we view these businesses, nor should it color how we view the people who run them.
1. Big Wong
"There's a Cantonese belief that you can judge a chef by his wonton noodles. Misunderstood by their schoolmates and neighbors, my newly-immigrated mom and her siblings would flock to Big Wong in Chinatown in the '60s for a bouncy bowl of egg noodles topped with glistening duck slices. At Big Wong, things felt and sounded a bit more familiar, less scary than the world outside." —Coral Lee, associate editor
2. Mei Li Wah
"Mei Li Wah is a must for me whenever I visit N.Y.C.. This is a Chinese bakery and restaurant in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown that is famous for its char siu bao (BBQ roasted pork buns). I have had these buns in Miami, Boston, Chicago, and New York, and I’ve tried many bakeries’ interpretations. These are the best, in my opinion. Always fresh, the fluffy bread encases a generous heap of sweet Chinese roasted pork with bits of melting fat. I can easily gobble up two (or more) in a few minutes." —Carlos Olaechea, contributing writer
"If I’m not in my apartment, chances are, I’m at Deluxe Green Bo. It’s easily the best place for a group dinner in N.Y.C.—I have yet to meet someone who didn’t fall in love with the entire menu. There are so many standouts; my top picks include the pork XLB, Shanghai noodle soup, wontons in chile oil, boiled pork and leek dumplings, and Tong Po pork." —Ella Quittner, contributing writer
4. Pho Vietnam
"One of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown is Pho Vietnam on Chrystie Street! I've had so many things on the menu but favorites have always been the grilled pork banh mi or the combination pho bowl. I grew up in a huge Asian community in Hawaii so this place has always reminded me of home. Ever since I moved to New York 6 years ago, my friends and I have constantly met here for dinners, brunches, lunches—you name it!—because it was such a comforting place for us." —Rebekah Daniels, account manager
"Nowhere else in N.Y.C. makes hot and sour soup, cabbage and pork pancakes, or fried pork and chive dumplings that I love more. For a fun weekend with friends, we'll often go museum hopping and end our day at Tasty Dumpling to fill ourselves with quick, delicious, and affordable food made right in front of us. And then if you want, you can grab one of their frozen bundles to make your own dumplings at home!" —Kaleigh Embree, customer care specialist
6. Buddha Bodai
"I adore Buddha Bodai, on Mott Street. It offers 100 percent vegetarian dim-sum (and lunch and dinner) options, which is especially exciting for me—I can order everything on the menu without abandon! Run, don't walk, to get plate after plate of the char siu (BBQ roasted pork, here made with faux meat). That is, unless I get there and finish it all first." —Brinda Ayer, managing editor
7. Jing Fong
"I love Jing Fong so much. You take an escalator (an escalator!) to reach the restaurant, which has 800 (800!) seats. Their weekend dim sum is pure chaos in the best possible way. When you see pork-shrimp siu mai rolling past, grab an order. Actually, grab two." —Emma Laperruque, food writer and recipe developer
8. Hop Shing
"Hop Shing serves my favorite dim sum in Manhattan. My family has been going there since I was a little kid. It has the best roast pork buns in N.Y.C., and the best egg custard in N.Y.C. In the restaurant, there are only four little red stools at a counter, making it perfect for a quick solo meal. I've always been reluctant to write about this spot because it's not too crowded—it's been my one secret for so long—but now is the time for everyone to support them." —Josh Cohen, video host and recipe developer
9. Wok Wok
"I'm unashamed about the number of times we eat at Wok Wok every month. Their food—specifically their roti, char kway teow, mee hoon, and crab and Chinese sausage fried rice—is excellent, and they also have lots of delicious Southeast Asian desserts, like mango sticky rice, halo halo, and pulut hitam (sweet black rice porridge)." —Joanna Sciarrino, executive editor
"This is my go-to for boiled pork dumplings with chile oil and a cold Tsingtao beer. In the spring and summer, I’ll usually have a bite there, then stroll around the corner to the family-run Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for a scoop. The lychee and zen butter flavors are my favorite, but they’re always coming up with new ones so make sure to grab a sample or two." —Erin Alexander, associate editor
"I don't ever feel that a trip to Chinatown is complete without going to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Even if I'm too full from whatever I ate for dinner in the neighborhood, I have to go. And every time I think I'm going to finally try something new out of the many exciting flavors they have, I always end up getting red bean because I know I'll regret if I don't. Once I went there during Lunar New Year and it was unseasonably warm, so we ate our ice cream while walking up and down the confetti-covered streets. It was magical!" —Alex Egan, senior SEO manager
12. Wu's Wonton King
"I love Wu’s Wonton King! It’s a great place to go with people with different budgets, as it’s BYOB and the food comes at a great price. The duck bao can’t be missed!" —Victoria Maynard, VP of finance
(Ella adds: "Wu’s Wonton King is not only king of large group dinners, but also of daytime dim sum. Go for a double order of pitch-perfect har gow.")
13. HK Wonton Garden
"Get the beef brisket wonton noodle soup! At a mere $7.50, the dish can’t be beat. Even better that it's filled with plump wontons and tender brisket. The restaurant is on a 'less-traveled' block on Mulberry Street, meaning it's also less crowded; places like Big Wong on Mott get way more foot traffic." —Joyce Kim, director of ad operations and programmatic revenue
Last but not least, Nom Wah has certainly been one of my go-to spots in Manhattan since I moved here 10 years ago, especially to meet my brother or friends for brunch. My favorite thing to eat is the sticky rice with Chinese sausage, and I always order the house-special roast pork bun. With a pot of hot chrysanthemum tea, it's the best breakfast.