Chinatown 2.0: The Next Generation of Restaurants Redefining the Historic Nabe

Trendy newcomers change the dining landscape Downtown
January 26, 2017
by Priya Krishna

Chinatown has long been a destination food neighborhood — but up until a little while ago, the must-hit spots were mostly the historic, classically Chinese joints. Now, with its prime location Downtown, Chinatown is home to some of New York’s hottest dining real estate. Intermixed among mini-malls and specialty grocery stores, you’ll find a wide range of new restaurants — from poke spots to vegan cafes — many of which pay homage to the neighborhood’s storied history of Chinese immigration. Next time you’re winding through Canal Street, add one of these new places to your Chinatown rotation.  

Courtesy of Oleg March

Chinese Tuxedo 
The upscale Chinese spot from restaurateurs Jeff Lam and Eddy Buckingham explicitly aims to challenge the stereotypical view of Chinatown food as cheap and lowbrow. Their new restaurant serves modernized Chinese cuisine, complete with a charcuterie board with soy stock beef shin and a 14-ounce sirloin steak with a sweet and salty Jiangsu sauce. Fitting with its mission, Chinese Tuxedo is located in a historic building on Doyers Street, which once played host to a Chinese opera house and several tongs (gathering places for Chinatown gangs).   

5 Doyers St.; 646-895-9301

Courtesy of The Good Sort

The Good Sort
The sister spot to Chinese Tuxedo, The Good Sort is modeled after Australian cafe culture, but mixed with Chinese influences — the food menu is vegan, with selections like turmeric and coconut congee; the lattes can be made with everything from activated charcoal to algae; and the tea selection is vast. And with its chic, colorful interior, it’s sure to be a new go-to for Downtown breakfast meetings.   

5 Doyers St.; 646-895-9301

Courtesy of Liz Barclay

A few years ago, Gerardo Gonzalez made New Yorkers swoon with the clean, Mexican-tinged fare he served at El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette. Now, he’s opened his first solo restaurant project with Lalo, serving up more of the bright flavors you know and love from El Rey, plus some ambitious additions, like Chamoy char siu ribs served with Mexican sour plum sauce, and green mole with Bulgarian feta. The restaurant is housed in Chinatown’s formerly beloved karaoke bar, Winnie’s — though with its vibrant design and custom light fixtures, Lalo's interior is virtually unrecognizable from its predecessor. 

104 Bayard St.; 646-998-3408

Courtesy of Boba Guys

Canal Street Market
As food halls only continue to gain popularity in the city, it was only a matter of time before Chinatown got one of its own. This particular market, a sleek-looking building located on a bustling stretch of Canal Street, houses various art, design and jewelry vendors, with plans to open up several food stalls within the month — including the East Village favorite, Davey’s Ice Cream, artisanal sandwich shop Alidoro and the bubble tea hot spot, Boba Guys

265 Canal St.; 646-613-0622

Courtesy of Chikarashi

This higher-end poke spot bills itself as Hawaiian-style poke meets Japanese chirashi (a rice dish with fish and vegetables). The set bowls are engineered for big, bold flavor, and often take their tasting cues from Korea and China — like the Sichuan chile salmon, which comes sprinkled with nutty Furikake and pickled daikon radish.   

227 Canal St.; 646-649-5965

Courtesy of Talde

Rice & Gold (coming soon)
Rice & Gold is the tentative name for the Asian-inspired restaurant that Dale Talde and his team — known for fusion spots like Talde and Massoni — are planning in the upcoming Joie de Vivre hotel on Bowery. The concept, like Chinese Tuxedo, is intended to pull from the cultural history of Chinatown, but in a more updated setting — with potential dishes to the tune of Sichuan braised rabbit and roasted chicken pho. Look for it to open this spring.  

50 Bowery

Courtesy of Nickel & Diner

Nickel & Diner

The popular contemporary diner model comes to Chinatown in the form of Nickel & Diner, serving less greasy, more full-flavored versions of all the dishes that you crave on a hung-over weekend morning. The classic egg sandwich in particular — two eggs, melty cheddar, bacon and housemade pesto sandwiched in between a poppy seed roll — does not disappoint. 

1 Howard St.; 646-870-6100

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