Editor’s note: Black Friday is, of course, in full swing throughout New York City. Whether you’re braving the crowds today or over the weekend, there’s no better post-Thanksgiving, post-shopping treat than a good meal in Chinatown. And as Wilson Tang, the second generation owner of the Nom Wah Tea Parlor points out, there’s never been a better time to show your support for your favorite neighborhood restaurants.
As a restaurant owner in Chinatown and a lifelong Lower Manhattan resident, I wanted to write a few words to encourage people to dine downtown in the upcoming days and weeks — and especially to come check out Chinatown, a place that’s dear to my heart.
Now more than ever, Chinatown needs customers in its restaurants and shops. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you Hurricane Sandy really did a number on the neighborhood’s commerce. Long after the storm passed, businesses continued to suffer. The losses from spoiled produce and seafood were in the thousands for places like my restaurant, which uses a lot of shrimp. The worst part is that the residual effects are still being felt by most businesses, since rent, utilities and labor costs just keep accumulating. It would not surprise me if some restaurants don’t make it in the upcoming months.
It’s been nice to see all the marketing efforts over social media encouraging people to #dineoutNYC or to #dinedowntipup. But the sad reality is that most Chinese restaurants in Chinatown are run by immigrants who really aren’t prepared to use social media to their advantage. But there’s hope; it makes me happy to see how the New York news media has rallied around Chinatown.
So be cool and eat out downtown this weekend. It does not have to be at my place. Actually don’t come to my place! Instead try out three other fabulous Asian restaurants just on my block, Doyers Street; you can come to Nom Wah another time. I hate doing restaurant “reviews” but here are my notes on the the other places right here on one of the best streets in all of Chinatown.
Sanur, 18 Doyers Street. This little upstairs/downstairs spot has been around for years. They serve authentic Indonesian and Malaysian food. The upstairs part is great if you want to “grab and go.” There are numerous rice box combinations with different meats and vegetables for under $5. The downstairs is the star! It is very small with just a handful of tables. I recommend starting with their roti canai and a thai iced tea. For the main course, I love the bean sprouts with salted fish and Hainan chicken. Their Malaysian style on-choy is also so good with just a little bit of spice. I would also consider the egg & seafood chow fun. For dessert, they have all these different layered cakes made with glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour. Ask which flavor is which and I am certain you will find one that you like!
Excellent Pork Chop House, 3 Doyers Street. I mean seriously, the name says it all. Order the special pork chop over rice. This is the bomb! Fried pork chop… you cant go wrong. I usually just get that or the chicken leg over rice. They make excellent pickled cabbage that comes on the side and you can even add an egg. Their pickled jelly fish with garlic sauce always makes a good starter. Same with the wontons with spicy oil. If fried stuff is not your thing, their rice cakes always hits the spot, too!
Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, 1 Doyers Street. I mean, this place does not need much introduction. They are the OG’s, when it comes to the hand pulled noodle game. This restaurant was around before hand pulled noodles became popular and before they were available at every other storefront on Eldridge Street. Anyway, you are basically in good shape as far as the broth and noodles go. I’d stick with the fish balls or beef as the topping.
So depending on what time of the day you come down to Chinatown, you can get your groceries done, your hair done, have lunch or dinner on Doyers Street and end your trip with a beer or cocktail at my favorite bar in Chinatown, Whiskey Tavern at 79 Baxter Street. Ask for Marty or Rob and tell them I sent ya!