NFT New York City Hall / Chinatown

City Hall / Chinatown

Chinatown. Home of the NFT offices from 1998 until 2010, we truly have a love-hate relationship with this neighborhood. On one hand you have one of the highest concentrations of great (and cheap!) food in all of New York, one of the city's most interesting and diverse parks in Columbus Park, lots of history, and a daytime hustle-and-bustle that is probably only matched by midtown Manhattan.

On the other's quite possibly New York's grimiest neighborhood, there is almost no nightlife, and peace and quiet is, of course, nonexistent during daylight hours. But hey--if you want peace and quiet, what are you doing in the middle of New York City anyway?

Our advice is to just get in there and mix it up with the locals, many of whom live in the huge Confucius Towers complex at the base of the Manhattan Bridge. And mix  See more.

ng it up is something that New Yorkers have been doing in this area for hundreds of years, starting with the incredibly dangerous "Five Points" area north of Collect Pond (the setting for Scorcese's seething Gangs of New York). Both the Five Points and Collect Pond are gone (the area itself is now Columbus Park), but little Doyers Street (aka "Bloody Angle") was the scene of Chinese gang wars for over 50 years.

Today, though, you can stroll around like the most clueless tourist and have absolutely no problems at all--gang wars have been replaced with street and shop commerce, from the tourist vendors of Mott Street to the produce market in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, with all of Canal Street's wall of tourists and locals connecting the two. The mass of humanity is sometimes overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are some cool places to try and hide away for a few moments, including the Eastern States Buddhist Temple and Maya Lin's new Museum of Chinese in America. The best "living museum," however, is without a doubt Columbus Park, which has an incredible range of activities--from early-morning tai chi to afternoon mah-jongg--happening within its borders throughout the day. In summer, a stop at classic Chinatown Ice Cream Factory will also cool your jets momentarily.

Columbus Park also serves as the northeast border of the City Hall area. There are several standout examples of civic architecture, including City Hall itself, the Tweed Courthouse, the US Courthouse, the condo-ized Woolworth Building, the sublime Hall of Records/Surrogate Court building, and, one of our favorite buildings in all of New York, McKim, Mead, & White's masterful Municipal Building, complete with a wedding-cake top and the Brooklyn Bridge stop of the 4-5-6 trains underneath.

From the Municipal Building, a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge is almost a de rigueur activity; if you'd rather stay in Manhattan, though, check out the African Burial Ground or watch police procedurals being filmed from Foley Square. Or head back east a bit to discover another bit of New York City history, an ancient Jewish Burial Ground on St. James Place.

No matter what you do here don't forget to EAT. It's worth the traffic, the smells, the lines, and the general rudeness of people. Believe it.

Think Kansas is boring at night? You haven't been to Chinatown at 10 pm on a Monday. Fortunately, one of the best dive/Chinese gangster Karaoke bars, the inimitable Winnie's, is here for your pleasure. Otherwise, hit sprawling Fontana's (the site of several NFT parties), or dance with hipsters at Santos Party House.

First stop: the crab soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai. Second stop: the salt-and-pepper squid at Pho Viet Huong. On from there, classic Thai at Pongsri Thai, dim sum at Mandarin Court, 88 Palace, or Dim Sum Go Go. In a hurry? Get a kebab at street cart Xinjiang. Too much Asian? Head to SoHo gem Despaña for Spanish sandwiches.

Rule Number One: Stay away from tourist trap Canal Street, unless you're in the market for poorly made knockoffs whose proceeds help sponsor international terrorism. Do hit New Beef King for homemade jerky, Di Palo Fine Foods for Italian imports, K & M Camera for shutterbug stuff, Pearl River Mart for a massive selection of Chinese housewares, and papabubble to watch candy-making magic happen.

via @notfortourists - NFT - New York - New York - City Hall / Chinatown Facebook Buzz this delicious Digg Stumble Upon

This Neighborhood Featured in...
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The Grandest Street of All

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Join NFT head honcho Rob Tallia on an epic journey down the entire length of Grand Street in Manhattan. From the gritty to the sublime, Grand Street has it all.

On Our Radar:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Posted By:  Leigh Raynor
Photo:  Leigh Raynor

Yunhong Chopsticks Shop
I once was invited by a friend who worked in TV production to sit in the background of an episode of a matchmaking show. While the couple went on their awkwardly staged first date, my friends and I gorged ourselves on free sushi. Free lunch AND fifteen minutes of fame, who could ask for more? Well, that is until my abysmal chopstick skills banned me from the background of any shot as sushi rolls went flying across the room. If you relate to this story, and want to avoid this type of humiliation in the future, Yunhong Chopstick store is the place for you! This hole in the wall boasts chopsticks in various colors and designs for a range of prices. Grab your own pair, practice, practice, practice and "stick" it to all the haters!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Posted By:  Leigh Raynor
Photo:  Leigh Raynor

Eastern States Buddhist Temple
Oddly enough, even though this temple is situated right off the Manhattan Bridge, in the midst of a hectic intersection, and right next to the Fung Wah bus stop, inside it manages to be a surprisingly calming space; mere steps from the chaotic bridge traffic is a 16-foot golden Buddha. The temple bursts with color -- from the intricate drawings displaying the story of the religion's beginnings to the pink neon light that outlines the giant Buddha, the temple is certainly a surprising sight for the middle of Manhattan. Whether you're a Buddhist, just curious, or in need of some stress relief, this is a great spot. Also, for a $1 donation you can grab a fortune from the foot of the statue, and as if I wasn't surprised enough to be standing in front of a giant Buddha, imagine my surprise when my fortune read: "Do your things with real style and class. / Don't sit tight and widen your ass."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

African Burial Ground
This month the renovated African Burial Ground National Monument reopened to the public, giving us a spiritual escape in lower Manhattan again. Nestled into a quiet courtyard on Duane Street, this serene monument is made of African green granite. Beneath it, spanning 6.6 acres, thousands of enslaved and free Africans were buried, whose hard labor built the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in the 17th and 18th centuries, including roads like Broadway and what is now Wall Street. If that doesn’t make you re-imagine the city as you know it, I don’t know what will. Stop by the visitors center around the corner on Broadway to learn more and speak with the nicest park rangers you’ll ever meet.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Posted By:  Scott Sendrow
Photo:  Scott Sendrow

Shanghai Asian Cuisine
The Village Voice's Robert Sietsema recently wrote up Shanghai Asian Cuisine on Elizabeth Street in the ground floor underneath Jing Fong in Manhattan's Chinatown. He had high praise for the soup dumplings and various cold dishes (he was less excited about the main entrees). The soup dumplings are good -- definitely a nice option to have in Chinatown. They're packed with crab and pork, but where other places provide a giant spoon big enough to snare all the liquid that oozes out; SAC's spoon is rather small, though it's large enough to match the drizzle of soup that you get. I suppose it's a tradeoff -- do you want more meat or more soup? Another dish Sietsema liked was Noodles with Meat Sauce (Cha Chiang Mein). It was a sort of gut-busting Chinese Spaghetti Bolognese; great with a little bit of that spicy chili oil stuff on the table and perfect drunk food. SAC has a sister restaurant on Mott Street, Shanghai Asian Manor, that features the same dumplings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Posted By:  Scott Sendrow
Photo:  Scott Sendrow

Yes, food trucks are trendy now but the great thing about them is that they are efficient laboratories for actual brick-and-mortar restaurants. How often is it that you'd see first-time restaurateurs open not one but two spaces in a little over a year, as is the case with Mexicue founders David Schillace and Thomas Kelly? With their latest venture on the Lower East Side, the corporate world fugitives bring their successful Mexican-barbecue fusion to a nondescript stretch of Forsyth on the Chinatown edge of the neighborhood. And while the space isn't much bigger than a food truck, there are seats -- and you don't have to follow on Twitter to know where to go. We tagged along the other night at the restaurant's opening party and enjoyed the BBQ Brisket and Burnt Ends Chili sliders, the latter of which reminded me of what a crazy uncle might to do with some jalapenos to kick things up a notch.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Chinatown Visitors Kiosk
For anyone who flaked out on December 31st or forgot their resolutions the moment they were uttered, you've always got another chance with the new lunar year. The Chinese New Year parade in Manhattan Chinatown was a proper celebration on Sunday, filling the streets with sparkling confetti, firecrackers, floats, gigantic colorful dragons, rousing music, and a sea of spectators from myriad cultures. Bakeries were filled with sweets honoring The Year of the Rabbit and shops were open with all the stuff you need to ward off evil spirits and ensure prosperity. But weren't you worried about having to choose between the parade in Manhattan and the parade in Flushing? Not to worry, Flushing's parade is scheduled for next Saturday, February 12 at 11 am. Therefore, you have three chances to start the year right, so no excuses come April.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Posted By:  Georgia Lawson
Photo:  Georgia Lawson

Brooklyn Bridge
You can see the Statue of Liberty in the far distance as the sun sets on the city that never sleeps. A bride and groom being congratulated passes by, in hindsight they may have been models. A man and a crew record a low budget music video, people walking their dogs, cars going by, herds of tourists roaming, locals getting from A to B, and some very speedy cyclists. It's a hub of activity for convenience and leisure. It needs no explaining or justification, it just does what it says on the tin, and is a must for any new comer to New York.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Bulbs World
While you can buy bulbs at any of the lighting district's numerous stores on the Bowery, we recommend going around the corner to Chrystie Street instead. Among the beer distributors and chicken feet purveyors is Bulbs World, a tiny but comprehensive store for all your bulb needs. Circa-1910 filament bulbs? Check. Half-chrome bathroom bulbs? Check. Teensy-weensy bulbs for your 1940 Lionel Locomotive headlight? Check. Black light bulbs for your 1978 Rush poster? Check. And, of course, all those eco-friendly-long-life-recyclable-tree-hugger bulbs that don't look nearly as cool as those planet-killing halogens. Such is life.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Yuen Yuen
It took me almost two years to finally try this fantastic little gem, but when I finally did, it was well worth the wait. Maybe it was the attractive old-school sign that I just couldn't resist. Or maybe it was the smiling elderly woman making OJ with an ancient juicer in the window. Or the friendly waiter in the light gray smock. Whatever it was, I'm glad I finally took the plunge. I'm not sure what Yuen Yuen means, but I bet it translates to "down-to-earth and cozy." It's like stepping into the owner's dining room where family members cook up ancient recipes. It's so small that you usually share a table with a patron that's probably been eating there for decades. I've tried a handful of things like the fish with scallion and black bean, Chinese sausage over vegetable, and homemade drinks like coconut juice and almond milk. With nothing over $5, this place is a staple in the cheap Chinatown lunch circuit. If you want to spend a little more, Yuen Yuen is known for its special herbal stews and soups. Just bring a translator. All of the specialty items are listed in Chinese.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Pearl River Mart
Attention shoppers: you can now purchase adorable Chinese housewares for mere pennies and pick up a violin and a thousand ceramic cats, all in the same convenient place. Pearl River may appear to be a clothing store in the front, but they have an absolute ton of items for the kitchen and dining room downstairs, plus a section for tea, incense, lighting and lanterns, paper and stationery, parasols, and more. The prices are frighteningly low, given its chic and roomy location in Soho, so if you have spring weddings coming up or other occasions to buy gifts during this interminable recession, this is your destination. Pearl River has been around for about 30 years, so clearly they know a thing or two about retail, and how could they not, when the person next to you excitedly blurts out “hey, check out this weird UFO juicer!”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Xinjiang Kebab Cart
There are tons of incredible afternoon snacks in Chinatown, but nothing beats chompin' on some juicy grilled meat pierced on a bamboo skewer at 2:30 pm as the trains rumble over your head across the Manhattan Bridge. Or maybe that's just me. Anyway, at this food cart they serve up a huge variety of kebabs: chicken hearts or kidneys, cuttlefish, lamb, sweet potato, chicken wings, beef, fish balls, hot dogs, and probably a bunch more that aren't even on the menu. You place your order and wait patiently as they expertly grill everything to order over real wood (no Kingsford in sight here). I'm partial to the chewy cuttlefish or juicy beef, but the lamb and chicken always hit the spot as well. Just before it's done the grill masters ask you if you want it spicy (say yes!) and then sprinkle your food with a magic dusting of flavor powder. The kebabs come right off the hot coals and into your mouth. Forget the candy bar or a bag of chips, my afternoon delight is grilled meat on a stick.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Though New York has a top-notch Chinatown with an array of Asian cuisines, you can still run into the same old Americanized food, bearing too much sugar in impossibly thick sauces. For this reason, my favorite spot in all of Chinatown is the Malaysian restaurant Jaya, plus they have a terrific neon sign for the bathroom. But regarding the food, it’s spicy, sweet, tropical, fresh, and just a bit different. I recommend the nasi lemak (curry chicken with rice, cucumber, peanuts, egg, and a crisply pickled sesame salad), but I haven’t had a bad dish yet, and the prices make it a real bargain. Runners up include the watercress and beef rendang.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Sau Voi Corp
This little hole-in-the-wall has been selling excellent banh mi to court workers and Chinatown locals for years. It usually flies under the radar due to the awesomeness of Banh Mi Saigon located not too far away. However, the sandwiches at Sau Voi are definitely worth your time especially some of the unique choices--chicken satay, veggie ham, turkey, or coconut sweet jam. They all hit the spot. But don't overlook the other choices of take out foods. My favorite when the weather starts warming up is the shredded green papaya with shrimp and fish sauce. Filled with lots of papaya, carrots, peanuts, and two whole shrimp, it's crunchy and refreshing. Plus (and maybe even most important on a travel writer's salary), the price can't be beat at $2.25. Throw on the spicy fish sauce, bring it to Columbus Park, and you have the perfect sunny lunch break. And if the word "papaya" makes you hungry for something other than Vietnamese food,  do what the rest of New York does and grab a healthy drink and scrumptious grilled hot dog at the famous Gray's Papaya. There the papaya is totally optional.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

It's always fun to follow the lead of the great Village Voice restaurant reviewer Robert Sietsema. It's even more fun when the review outside the restaurant is 7 years old, as it was when we finally decided to try Congee on the Bowery, as opposed to continue to walk by the glowing review without trying it. So, first up: yes, the salt-and-pepper squid (pictured) is probably still as good as it was when Mr. Sietsema wrote his glowing review of this brilliant dish back in 2003. Unfortuantely, however, far too many folks must have enquired about the lobster congee since that time, since Mr. Sietsema's review quotes it at $5.95, and our waitress seemed to be saying it was in the neighborhood of $24.95 now. So we went with the frog congee instead, which was still quite good, although anyone who would prefer frog to lobster is either insane or a shithead, or both. Then the waitress sold us on some "house special fish," which, of course, was rather mediocre. But the squid was so great we're going to go back, and also see if we can find Mr. Sietsema's other big recommendation, the "sauteed dried squid and shrimp." And we might even bust out the NFT gold card (if it's still working) and spring for the lobster congee (don't tell Jane).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Great NY Noodletown
This place has always been packed since the The Grey Lady heaped it with praise back in '94. And rightfully so. This is one of the most reliable restaurants in all of Chinatown. Just don't ask me for an entire run down of the menu because I'm pretty much a one dish man--shrimp wontons in soup. A thin yellow wrapper surrounds perfectly cooked shrimp to make the perfect wontons that are swimming in a simple salty broth along with a few scallions. Throw some roast chicken, duck, pork, or veggies on top, and you have a hearty lunch (go after 2 pm when the crowds die down a little) or a glorious late night feast (they close at the righteous hour of 3:30 am every night).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

One of America's national treasures resides right here in NYC and you have every reason to take advantage of it, if you can get an appointment: StoryCorps. This nationwide oral history project allows you to converse one-on-one with someone who plays a unique role in your life, record it, and save it for posterity in your home and in the Library of Congress, all for free (donations are suggested and well deserved). After securing an appointment, head down to the StoryCorps recording booth with your interviewer (or interviewee), get settled with a sound technician in the comfy and intimate surroundings, and start talking about life and the meaningful experiences that characterize your relationship. Appointments last one hour, which will either fly by or painfully crawl along, so decide who will interview whom and prepare questions ahead of time. It could be an emotional evening, one of comic reminiscence, or a bit of both, and you may be surprised at the courage and inspiration you'll find in the process. At the end you'll have a priceless time capsule on CD, or at least an hour of free therapy, or the knowledge that you DO love the sound of your own voice, especially when filtered through those fancy microphones.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Aaron Schielke

Attention NFT lovers: it's time for some major fun in NYC. Yep, you guessed right. It's time for the annual NYC guidebook party! We recently released our NYC 2010 guidebooks in stores and worldwide, and we want to celebrate its release with you, our fans. Come join us at Fontana's to get your own free copy of the NYC 2010 guidebook (while supplies last) featuring new, fantastic places to shop, dine, and explore. We'll also be giving everyone a free beer thanks to Shmaltz (while supplies last, of course), and we'll have some cool prizes from local businesses to raffle off like Cafe Grumpy, Economy Candy, Exit 9, DUO, Paris Apartment, L'asso, and Idlewild Books. So on November 17th come on down to Fontana's at 6 pm. We promise more fun than your average Tuesday night. Sign up on Facebook or download the PDF invite.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Courtesy of Big Game Lab

Not For Tourists
It's time for another weekend of fun with psychogeography brought to you by our friends from the Conflux Festival 2009. Every year Conflux gathers psychogeographers (translation = map geeks, urban explorers, NFT fans, etc) from around the world for interactive events, lectures, parties, and all around city chaotic entertainment. This year there's an added bonus--NFT:LES, a special event sponsored by Not For Tourists and Big Game Lab. It all starts on Sunday September 20 at 1 pm at the NFT headquarters in Chinatown. We don’t want to give too much away but here are a few clues: Bring your mobile devices, we’ll provide you with an NFT, and then you hunt around the Lower East Side for a few hours trying to decipher the clues you’re given to find the secret locations to reach your goal. Now that’s what we call psychogeographic fun. But that’s not even the best part. Final destination: A super secret location where drinks and treats will be served. Check out for all the details.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Bo Ky
Sometimes you just need to eat like a ferocious rabbit. Sort of like the one from Monty Python's Holy Grail. In Chinatown it's hard to do better than the Mustard Green Noodle Soup at Vietnamese/Chinese hybrid Bo Ky. Plopped into a tasty broth swimming with yellow noodles is about a pound of fresh greens. This is a seriously healthy lunch that will make your taste buds as happy as your cardiologist. Share a table with three or four other locals and watch the chaos of lunch time in Chinatown unfold. Total cost of this only-in-New York experience: a whopping four bucks.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Ching Hsieh

There was a time in the Dark Ages when NFT only sold products printed on paper. Those days are now officially over with the release of the NFT Manhattan iPhone App. To celebrate we're throwing a big shindig with complimentary Belgian beer, free books, music, and a chance to mingle with other loyal NFT fans on Wednesday July 8 at 6 pm. Anyone who buys the iPhone App can drink free Palm, Belgium's best-selling ale. We'll also be handing out piles of free NFTs (while supplies last), bustin' a move to a DJ, and announcing the winner of the video contest. So join us at Fontana's for a true New York party that's for you, not them.

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See City Hall / Chinatown...
Restaurants (62)
Nightlife (10)
Shopping (84)
Landmarks (33)

Other City Hall / Chinatown Restaurants

Banh Mi Saigon
The best Vietnamese sandwiches. Ever.
Cong Ly
Most interesting Pho in the city. Plus grilled pork!
Fuleen Seafood
Chinatown gem; amazing lunch specials.
Joe's Shanghai
Crab Soup Dumpling Mecca. Worth the wait.
Le Pain Quotidien
Excellent breads. Communal table. Euro vibe.
New Malaysia
A hidden gem that's literally hidden. Try the specials.
Nice Green Bo
Amazing Shanghainese. Nice alternative to Joe's.
Sanur Restaurant
Amazing, super cheap Malaysian.

See more restaurants

Other City Hall / Chinatown Nightlife

Santos Party House
Eclectic music is the rule at this terrific venue.
Chinese gangster karaoke. We kid you not.

See more nightlife spots

Other City Hall / Chinatown Shopping

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Take home a quart of mango. Oddest flavors in NYC.
Di Palo Fine Foods
Delicacies from across Italy. Excellent cheese.
New Beef King
Serious jerky for serious jerks.
New York City Store
Great NYC books and schwag you can't get anywhere else.
Pearl River Mart
Chinese housewares and more. Almost mind-numbing.

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Other City Hall / Chinatown Landmarks

Brooklyn Bridge
The granddaddy of them all. Walking toward Manhattan at sunset is as good as it gets.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
The best ice cream (ginger, black sesame, mango, red bean, et al.), ever.
Doyers Street (Bloody Angle)
Rare curvy street in Manhattan; film scouts love it.
Surrogate's Courthouse
Great lobby and zodiac-themed mosaics.

See more landmarks