The history of Manhattan’s Chinatown stretches all the way back to the 1820s, when crew members from mainland China began arriving at the docks of what is now Two Bridges. The New York Times first called the neighborhood around Doyers, Pell, and Mott Streets “China Town” in 1880, declaring it to be a “nuisance.” Just two years later, the U.S. government would pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, dramatically curbing immigration. Despite facing decades of racist policies and rhetoric, the neighborhood has endured and flourished for well over a century. Today, it is the largest Chinatown in the United States in terms of population, as well as one of the oldest.
It would take a book to cover all of the superb food and multigenerational businesses in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Think of the following short-list as a jumping-off point, a concise collection of iconic places as well as a few deeper cuts that might not already be on your radar. All of the following places are within easy walking distance of one another, meaning you can nosh your way through our guide in one delicious afternoon.
Among Gastro Obscura’s favorites are an old-school factory that still sells artisanal noodles for a few dollars, the family-run business responsible for bringing sesame noodles to Chinese-American cuisine, and roasted pork-and-pineapple buns that cause lines to wrap around the block.