Eating in Chinatown is a must for those visiting New York City. Just wandering around the neighborhood, looking at all the exotic fruits and vegetables for sale and people-watching, is interesting in itself, but the food is so affordable that it’s easy to squeeze in at least one meal.
There are numerous different routes you can take for Chinatown eats. You can get insanely cheap dumplings to-go at places like Prosperity Dumpling. You can get some famous soup dumplings at a restaurant like Joe’s Shanghai. You can have a sit-down meal somewhere like Shanghai Cafe where you order Chinese favorites. Or, you can get dim sum.
Dim sum is such a fun activity, one most popular on the weekends from around 11 AM to 2 PM, where you order by selecting from an assortment of dishes being pushed around in carts. It’s fun waiting to see what comes around and catches your eye and trying things you would have never normally noticed on a menu.
A few weeks ago, I had a friend visiting New York City for the first time who was down for anything. I definitely wanted her to see Chinatown and when I suggested that we get dim sum, she told me that she had never had it before. Perfect! Dim sum is even more fun when you haven’t experienced anything like it before.
I’ve only been to two dim sum places in NYC, Jing Fong and Golden Unicorn, and while both were tasty and had nice atmospheres, I think I prefer the former more. One of the reasons is that Jing Fong is MASSIVE. Easily the biggest restaurant I’ve been to in this city, and not just by New York standards. It’s like a giant ballroom decorated in red and gold and filled with circular tables. It seems like the perfect event space, so it’s not surprise that they have wedding receptions here every now and then.
Be warned…Jing Fong can get packed on the weekends during primetime. If there is a wait when you arrive, you get a ticket with a number and wait to be called. At that point you’re allowed to go up an escalator to the second floor where the magic happens. And yes, it’s totally suspenseful and exciting when you’re going up if you’ve never been before because you have no idea about the huge, bustling room you’re being taken to. Once you’re at the top, you hand your number to a waiter who directs you to a table. Unless you have a large party, you’re probably going to have to share a table with other people. Don’t be weirded out.That’s just how it goes.
And then it’s time for the real fun! Don’t feel bad about having to just point at what you want, because sometimes what something is can get lost in translation. Take a chance and listen to your gut! My dim sum favorites are shu mai, har gow, and shrimp rice noodle rolls (pictured in the first and third photos). We also tried some fried shrimp wrapped in seaweed, shrimp dumplings with peas, and barbecue pork pastries. This all brings me to the other reason I love Jing Fong. I feel like they have a great selection of items. While I love shu mai, it’s nice not having to keep ordering it to make a whole meal because there are so little options.
I haven’t experience the following two things, but I thought they were worth bringing up. Some people recommend getting up from your table and searching for the items you want because they go by fast and you might miss them by the time that cart comes to your table. I’ll leave that up to you! And the other thing…supposedly on Yelp there has been talk that there is now a woman who pushes around a drinks cart with mimosas and the like, turning dim sum into a more brunch kind of event. It’s such an exciting recent development in the Jing Fong world that she even has her own hashtag (#jingfongali). See if you can spot her when you go? Ha, as if she’s some mystical unicorn or something amid all the other food carts…
If you ever want to show an out-of-towner what Chinatown has to offer, take them to Jing Fong and they’re bound to be impressed. Or you could totally just come here and pig out on your own. I support that.
20 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013