Over the summer, I traveled to New York City with one of the main reasons being to eat some delicious food. While New York has many famous and extravagant restaurants, no New York foodies’ adventure is complete without a Chinatown Crawl. Cheap, authentic, and plenty of options, what is there not to love about all the cuisine offered in Chinatown? After some research, I settled on some places I wanted to try. Although I completed my crawl in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Flushing’s Chinatown in Queens is another very popular destination for Chinese food enthusiasts. Everyone does their crawls a little differently, but here are all the places I visited and some places I hope to visit next time.

Shu Jiao Fu Zhou

Money Spent: $4

Address: 295 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

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My first stop in Chinatown was Shu Jiao Fu Zhou, known for its cheap noodles and dumplings. I ordered thick rice noodles with peanut butter sauce and a small order of pork and chive dumplings. The total cost for both the noodles and dumplings only came out to be four dollars. Simple yet delicious is the best way I can describe the food. The noodles were incredibly soft and lathered in the tasty peanut butter sauce. I still find myself craving those thick pillowy noodles months later. The dumplings were steamed and packed full of flavor. For the quality and low price point, it is difficult to get much better than that. Like many restaurants in Chinatown, Shu Jiao Fu Zhou was cash only. Also, depending on the time you go, be prepared to wait in line and fight for a seat. The line moved fairly quickly, but the tables remained fairly full.

Mei Lei Wah

Money Spent: 6.5

Address: 62 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

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Next up in my Chinatown Crawl was Mei Lei Wah. Personally, I would consider Mei Lei Wah an essential stop for any Chinatown Crawl. You will almost always see a line out the door, a testament to just how good the food is. I bought the pineapple bun with roast pork, steamed roast bun, and the famous bun. The filings were sweet yet savory, especially so in the pineapple bun with roast pork. I felt as though the buns were filled with the perfect amount of meat-to-bread ratio, a Goldilocks of not too little, not too much, but just the right amount of filling. While the famous bun was plain with no filling, there is just something so nice about a warm and soft piece of bread. Additionally, all the buns were super affordable with the price being around two dollars per bun. There is no seating, so be ready to eat on the go or walk a couple blocks to a park nearby with benches. The lack of seating is a common theme in Chinatown, and I would not let it discourage you from still visiting Mei Lei Wah. Lastly, although cash is not required here, paying in cash can let you potentially bypass the often very long line for the credit card kiosk.

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Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

Money Spent: 7.25

Address: 65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

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Right across the street from Mei Lei Wah, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory was next on my list of places to try. With an extensive list of different and unusual types of ice cream to try, I found it difficult to settle on just one. They offered all types of flavors such as lychee, ginger, egg custard, wasabi, Thai ice tea, taro, black sesame, green tea, red bean, and pandan, among others. While I will admit it may be basic, I decided to get the mango because the bright orange color and thoughts of the refreshing flavor were too tempting not to get. As expected, I greatly enjoyed the mango ice cream, especially after such savory buns just minutes before. The mango was a memorable mix of tropical and tart flavors that left me wanting more. My friend purchased two scoops picking the lychee and ube flavor. After trying some, I found the lychee to be a bit sweeter and a little citrusy while the ube was a little more of a nutty and vanilla taste. Once again, there was no seating so I finished my ice cream just outside the store. At Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, they were not accepting cards but cash and Venmo instead. This is a perfect pick for all ice cream lovers visiting Chinatown, and personally, I would definitely make a return trip to try more flavors.

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Spongies Cafe

Money Spent: 2:25

Address: 121 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013

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To round out the Chinatown Crawl, my last stop was to get another dessert at Spongies Cafe. This place sold single-serve sponge cakes in a variety of flavors. When I went the options were original, sprinkle, pandan coconut, purple yam, green tea, triple chocolate, blueberry, black sesame, Thai tea, and cappuccino. Since I had just eaten ice cream and was already quite full, I only got the original and purple yam sponge cake. Soft, fluffy, and sweet they were everything you would ever want from a sponge cake. I found them to be the perfect serving size as well. Each bite was light and airy, unlike some very rich and decadent desserts. I thought two was just the right amount after eating all day. However, I could easily see someone devouring more on an empty stomach, and with a price of $1-$1.25 per sponge cake, you would not break the bank doing just that. There were a couple of tables inside and outside the store, which was appreciated even though I ate mine on the move. Spongies Cafe accepted both cash and card, but they required a five dollar minimum to use card. Even if you are stuffed from an entire day of eating, I would still recommend stopping by because the sponge cakes could make a great morning snack the following day.

As much as I wanted to, I could not possibly indulge in any more food after the sponge cakes. I would have loved to just gorge myself on all the food Chinatown has to offer, but my full stomach and every growing food baby made this impossible. There were quite a few places I still wanted to try so here is a list of more great options to add to your ultimate Chinatown Crawl:

Wah Fung

Highlight items: roasted duck, pork, and chicken

Price Point for highlight item: 6-10

Address: 79 Chrystie St, New York, NY 10002

Known for its delicious roasted duck, pork, or chicken served on a bed of rice, Wah Fung was definitely high on my list of eateries to try. Unfortunately, at the time, the restaurant was dealing with a gas leak so they were temporarily closed.

Deluxe Green Bo

Highlight item: Hot and spicy wontons

Price Point for highlight item: 9

Address: 66 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

Located on the same street as Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and Mei Lei Wah, this was a difficult decision to have to skip. However, I wanted to prioritize having some room for desserts since I have a huge sweet tooth. I was particularly interested in trying Deluxe Green Bo’s hot and spicy wontons, however, their dumplings and steamed buns also looked tasty.

Super Taste

Highlight Item: Dumplings and noodles

Price Point for highlight items: 3.50-10.50

Address: 26 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

If I had not gotten dumplings and noodles at Shu Jiao Fu Zhou, Super Taste would have likely been my next pick. They offer fried, steamed, and Sichuan-style dumplings in addition to various noodle options. I was interested more in trying the steam dumplings, but honestly, I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the choices.

Keki Modern Cakes

Highlight Item: Bouncy Cheesecake

Price Point: 16 (serves 3-4)

Address: 79 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

I will admit I was pretty disappointed to have missed out on bouncy cheesecakes because the idea of a jiggly cheesecake sounded so fun. I planned to get the original bouncy cheesecake, but they also had an ube option. However, the cheesecakes are quite large with the serving size being between 3-4 people, and I did not save enough room for even another small dessert, let alone an entire rich cheesecake. If bouncy cheesecakes are not your thing, they also offer some other types of cakes.

Final Thoughts

Even if you are not the biggest foodie, I still recommend trying to complete a NYC Chinatown Crawl at least once in your life. The food is just too good to never experience, and unlike other parts of New York, Chinatown is known for uts very affordable and reasonable prices. My biggest takeaways and advice from my crawl are to bring cash and lots of it, be prepared for lines and little seating, and consider splitting your crawl over multiple days. While I am typically never one to fast, I did try to be as hungry as possible before my crawl, but you can only eat so much. So if you really want to maximize the amount of places you can try, make it a multi-day event, split the food with friends, or both.