In Manhattan’s East Village, a thriving restaurant scene led by Chinese-American millennials is making way for the city’s second Chinatown.
New York City’s 150-year-old Chinatown is being reimagined for a new generation. In the nearby Lower East Side and East Village, at least 30 Chinese and Asian restaurants have popped up within a 15-block radius (from Avenue B to Fourth Avenue between East 4th and East 13th Streets). Many weren’t here even two years ago.
Sources such as Grub Street have already christened the budding area “Chinatown North.” However, the neighborhood is entirely separate from its predecessor. For starters, renowned restaurants including Michelin-starred dim sum spot Tim Ho Wan and The Bao (Grub Street’s pick for “the absolute best” dumplings in New York) are more abundant in the newer neighborhood. Then there are the specialty restaurants that offer hyper-regional cuisines, including Hunanese noodles (Hunan Slurp), home cooking from Gansu province (Dunhuang), and Beijing-style shellfish boils (Le Sia).
Restaurant owners and writers agree that the main difference between the city’s new and original Chinatowns is the atmosphere. As a spokesperson for Hunan Slurp explained to Culture Trip: “Newer restaurants [care] more about the holistic and complete dining experience. Dining is about service, atmosphere, and food combined into a single experience. Not only do we value food, but we also care about bringing to our guests the best dining experience.”
According to Eater NY, Chinatown North’s restaurants are accomplishing this through touches like EDM music, exposed brick walls, and painted murals. That isn’t to say the area’s next-gen eateries are shirking tradition entirely. Hunan Slurp proudly admits it “definitely [looks at] places like Cafe China and China Blue as examples … [in] many ways they gave [Hunan Slurp] inspiration and showed [it] a new pathway on new possibilities in the industry.”