Friday, March 26, 2010

Halfway to Heaven

Eight is a lucky number to many Chinese. Addresses, hotel rooms, floors in buildings, dates with eights are prized. So, it is appropriate that I offer 8 half-time picks in the order experienced now (as of March 26, 2010) that I have been to 39 Chinese restaurants:

1. Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street is the quintessential Chinatown joint. Down a steep flight of stairs into a crowded space where you share a table with a stranger. Fabulous fried noodles with mustard and weak duck sauce (maybe you should bring your own) are given to nibble. The very standard Chinese food is just what you expected. And it’s cheap.

2. Peking Duck House, 28 Mott Street is the place to go for (you guessed it) Peking duck, but at lunch by myself I had beef with orange flavor, the single best main course I’ve eaten so far.

3. ABC Chinese Restaurant, 34 Pell Street had great beef chow fun. A large portion with lots of beef and that edgy, oily, smoky flavor to the wide noodles that places it second only to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist’s lukshen kugel as the Noodle Supreme.

4. Joe’s Ginger Restaurant, 25 Pell Street served a scallion pancake that left all others behind. After pan frying, it must have been deep-fried briefly to give it a little crunch. Yet, it wasn’t greasy, messy. It was really a treat.

5. Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway not only solves my dim sum dilemma, that is, how not to eat like a pig eating alone when they give you 4 things on a dish and you want to try several things and you grew up eating for the starving children of Europe, but offered a high-quality olio (very handy crossword word along with oleo and Oreo) of tastes, colors, and shapes.

6. Fried Dumpling, Mosco Street. You get more dumplings for one dollar then there are seats in this minuscule joint on a hidden street.

7. 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street has its walls and part of its ceiling covered entirely by US dollar bills adding up to at least a thousand dollars. The food, classic Chinatown Cantonese Chinese is also very good.

8. Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth Street is enormous, a whole city block long able to hold several weddings or bar mitzvahs at once. 15 women roll dim sum carts around while you can get ten hot foods served from chafing dishes and/or order from the menu. I had very good dim sum, discounted Monday through Friday. Go with a lot of people even if you don’t intend to marry them.


  1. Wo Hop downstairs, wow, that takes me back. I started going there before you were born. Well, before I was born. Well, a long time ago.

    My first experience going to a cheap Chinatown restaurant with friends -- we came down after playing soccer in Sheep Meadow, most of us were from your high school alma mater, it was summer '78 -- was at Lin's Garden on Bayard, which now exists only in the lyrics of a Paul Simon tune, Paranoia Blues. But soon after we discovered Wo Hop. All the cheap we could want, and open 24 hours.

    Nowadays it even has an entry in Wikipedia.

  2. Good morning, Alan, and thank you for what, this time of year, I'll refer to as your halftime eight. Sam Sifton gave a mediocre review to Chin Chin, on 49th Street, this week, but he noted this from a review given Chin Chin 23 years ago by Bryan Miller: “Chin Chin’s food is scintillating but never startling. (If you have a hankering for braised cod tongue or crunchy duck feet, hop the downtown IRT.)” This leads me to inquire if you've encountered such exotic fare in your travels around Chinatown. Have you? Hope all is well. Paul B.

  3. Dear Paul the criminal defense lawyer (that refers to his clients, not his conduct),

    Many menus contain such exotic dishes, although not usually among the lunch specials which stick to the tried and true. The newer arrivals, such as the Fuzhouese, are more likely to offer the items that I never encountered on Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn. Such restaurants are apparently offering a home-away-from-home to their fellow immigrants rather than a treat to our kind. Admittedly, I have not jumped into pools of pig's blood or lengths of sheep's intestines at lunchtime. Maybe it requires some liquor to help shed my inhibitions at the table.

  4. Every time I see this title on my blog list I start singing Harry Chapin in my head.

    "I missed my bus connection, my train got in too late so I'm forced into reflection by thtis half hour wait...."