The Vibrant NYC Chinatowns: A Journey Through Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Flushing Queens

Explore the Diverse Chinatowns of New York City: Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Flushing Queens

Chinatown NYC

New York City is home to a myriad of cultures, and among its most captivating are the NYC Chinatowns. Bursting with authentic culture, vibrant energy, and delectable cuisine, these Chinatowns offer both New Yorkers and visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a world of tradition and modernity.

The "Big Three", found in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Flushing Queens, brings a certain style to its surrounding borough with its deep set traditions, cuisine and inhabitants.

Manhattan Chinatown: NYC's First Chinatown

The most popular Chinatown in the city was the first established Chinatown in the city. Chinese immigrants began settling in the neighborhood in the 1850s, creating a small community that blossomed over the decades into a thriving Chinatown.
NYC Chinatown Mott Street
Today, Manhattan's Chinatown is centered around Canal Street. Visitors can shop in the many markets loaded with exotic fruits, vegetables and Asian ingredients. Don't miss browsing the shops selling Chinese traditional medicine, antiques and cheap souvenirs. Stop for a relaxing massage at practitioners like the renowned Wu Lim Qi Gong Master. Don't expect pampered spa experience, but you'll appreciate the no non-sense traditional approach to working out the knots.

Of course, Manhattan's Chinatown is also known for its fantastic restaurants. Grab bubble tea at a Taiwanese shop like TenRen Tea Company, then feast on dumplings, noodle soups, Peking duck and more at eateries like Joe's Shanghai, Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Amazing 66. Don't forget to indulge in Chinese bakery treats like mooncakes and egg custard tarts.

The neighborhood comes alive during Chinese New Year, with colorful parades, lion dances, firecracker displays and street fairs. The Museum of Chinese in America also offers fascinating exhibits on Chinatown's immigrant history.

Manhattan Chinatown Highlights:

  • Alimama: Indulge in boba-filled cream puffs and Japanese mochi donuts at this delightful cafe located at 89A Bayard St.
  • Golden Steamer: For doughy bao buns, ranging from pork to egg yolk, head to 143A Mott St. Don't miss their famous pumpkin custard!
  • Keki Modern Cakes: Located at 79 Mott St., this bakery is renowned for its "bouncy cheesecake" and other delightful treats.
  • Joe’s Shanghai: A visit to 46 Bowery is a must for their iconic soup dumplings. Also, try their peking duck and scallion pancakes.
  • Xi’an Famous Noodles: A staple at 45 Bayard St., this place is known for its delicious noodles and has multiple locations across NYC.
  • Peachy’s: For a cozy ambiance and inventive cocktails, visit Peachy’s at 5 Doyers St.
  • Apotheke: This bar at 9 Doyers St. offers drinks inspired by historic apothecaries, categorized by their restorative properties.
  • Mmuseumm: Experience one of NYC's most unique museums located in an old freight elevator at 4 Cortlandt Alley.
  • Chinatown Night Market: Organized by Think!Chinatown, this open-air cultural festival features local art and food vendors, offering a vibrant taste of the neighborhood.

Getting There: The easiest way is to take the N, Q, R, W, J, Z, or 6 trains to Canal Street.

Starting Your Experience: Begin at the Canal Street subway station, the gateway to Manhattan's Chinatown. As you exit, you'll be greeted by the bustling streets, making it the perfect starting point.

Brooklyn Chinatown: The Rapidly Growing Gem

Most tourists make a beeline for the Manhattan Chinatown, but there is also a hidden gem in Brooklyn worth exploring as well. It is actually one of the fastest growing Asian communities outside of China and now rank 1st, as the largest Chinatown of NYC with over 30 thousand inhabitants.
Brooklyn Chinatown Sunset Park Arch
Chinese supermarkets, shops, churches, and community organizations line the streets along 8th Avenue. Also arguably house the best of the big three for dim sum too ( East Harbor Seafood Palace and Pacificana ). Grab a table at any of these restaurants and be treated to a hearty meal of herbal teas and plenty of tapas-style savory snacks and dumplings stand alone or in soups. Just like old-school Hong-Kong, dim sum ladies with serving carts will roll around from table to tables where patrons can point out which they like to sample from the cart.

Brooklyn Chinatown Highlights:

  • Roast 28: Located at 5124 8th Avenue, this is the go-to spot for Cantonese-style meats. Stephanie Shih recommends the roast pork and soy sauce chicken over rice, which comes with a complimentary cup of pork broth.
  • Yun Nan Flavour Garden: Right across from Roast 28, this restaurant is a favorite for its guoqiao mixian, or crossing-the-bridge noodles, a Yunnanese specialty. Find it at 5121 8th Avenue.
  • LaoJie Hotpot: For hotpot enthusiasts, LaoJie is a must-visit. Known for its premium ingredients and All You Can Eat options, it's located at 811 53rd Street.
  • Tofu Pudding Lady: An unnamed street cart usually found in front of 5521 8th Avenue offers douhua, a classic Chinese dessert made from soft silken tofu topped with ginger syrup.
  • Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea: For bubble tea lovers, this popular Taiwanese chain offers a delightful pineapple green tea and brown sugar pearl tea latte. Located at 774 58th Street.
  • Lai Cheong Fun Cart: A staple for the past 10 years, this rice noodle roll cart stands at the corner of 61st Street and 8th Avenue. The owner, from Guangdong, offers a variety of fillings for the rice noodle rolls.
  • Lucky Jade Bakery: For those with a sweet tooth, head over to 6104 7th Avenue for the best egg tarts. However, be sure to get there before 2 p.m. as they tend to sell out.
  • Thanh Da: Dubbed by Shih as the best banh mi in the city, this Vietnamese shop at 6008 7th Avenue is a must-visit.
  • Taiwan Station: For a taste of Taiwan's popular night-market food, popcorn chicken, head to 5510 7th Avenue.
  • Chuan Tian Xia: Conclude your food journey at 5502 7th Avenue with some niche Sichuan specialties. Shih recommends the pork and cucumber in a cold chili garlic sauce and the griddled shredded cabbage and okra.

Getting There: Take the N train to 8th Avenue or the D train to 9th Avenue.

Starting Your Experience: Kick off your visit at 8th Avenue, the heart of Brooklyn's Chinatown. Here, you'll find a plethora of shops and eateries waiting to be explored.

Bustling Chinatown in Flushing, Queens

Bordering with CitiField, or the home of the New York Mets, get off the 7-train at main street station in Flushing Queens, you'll step in to the 2nd biggest Chinatown of the "Big Apple". Unlike its Manhattan counterpart, Flushing's Chinatown boasts a unique blend of American and Asian cultures. Originally known as little Taipei, many of the first to arrive and developed the Flushing Chinatown were immigrants from Taiwan. It may be also the reason why Flushing was the first to introduce a tea house offering bubble teas (originated from Taiwan) to New Yorkers, nowadays new bubble tea cafes are popping up everywhere in the city and around the world.
Flushing Chinatown Store Front Signs
The intersection of Main street and Roosevelt avenue is the heart of the Flushing Chinatown consisting of all nationalities but predominantly Koreans and Chinese. Explore a mix of shopping experiences, from mainstream brands like Old Navy to niche Chinese bookstores and herbal medicine shops.

Compare to the other Chinatowns, the supermarkets are bigger, such as the Hong Kong Supermarket, and it's truly a foodies paradise, many locals will say that you'll eat better here and cheaper. Visit one of the many Asian pastry shops for Egg tart or red bean bun while toking on bubble tea.

For dim sum, make a bee line for Asian Jewels Seafood Restaurant - for taiwanese ramen, head Liang's Kitchen or Taipei Hong for some of the best, you can even go for authentic Korean BBQ in the neighborhood.

Finally the extreme cheapo's popular $1 peking duck sandwich on Main steet.

Top Attractions in Flushing Chinatown:

  • New World Mall: A shopping haven with over 100 retail outlets, an expansive Asian supermarket, food court, and karaoke lounge.
  • Shun An Tong Health Herbal Co.: Experience traditional Chinese medicine with remedies made from ginseng, mushrooms, and more.
  • Real KTV: Sing your heart out with a vast selection of English and Chinese songs in a lively ambiance.
  • World Book Store: A treasure trove of rare books and magazines in both English and Chinese.
  • Magic Castle: A paradise for pop culture enthusiasts, offering toys and collectibles from popular Asian franchises.
  • Soy Bean Chan Flower Shop: Indulge in douhua, a unique Chinese dessert, perfect after a dim sum meal.

Flushing Culinary Delights:

  • Szechwan Absolute: Relish Chongquing-style chicken.
  • White Bear: Savor 34 varieties of delectable dumplings.
  • Haidilao: Enjoy a luxurious hot pot experience with added perks.
  • Dumpling Galaxy: Dive into an array of dumplings, from savory to sweet.
  • PappaRich: Experience Malaysian bubble tea and hand-stretched roti pancakes.
  • Yeh's Bakery: Relish classic Taiwanese baked goods.

Getting There: The 7 train to Flushing-Main Street is the most direct route.

Starting Your Experience: Begin at the Flushing-Main Street subway station. As you step out, you'll be instantly immersed in the vibrant atmosphere of Flushing's Chinatown.

Concluding Your Experience: Conclude your day at the Queens Botanical Garden, a tranquil oasis that showcases the beauty of nature amidst the urban landscape.