Signs of Life Emerge in Chinatown as Mom-and-Pop Spots Reopen for Takeout [GUEST]

Posted on: May 15th, 2020 at 5:04 am by

Photo: Sara Graham

The following guest post was penned by Sara Graham.

In March, many of Chinatown’s affordable family-owned eateries shuttered temporarily. Not all New York City gems can be found on Seamless or Caviar, so it’s been hard to know how to support these businesses in the interim.

With the advent of warmer weather and no definitive date on when bans will lift for dining in, Chinatown is slowly adjusting to a new normal. Below is a short list of places to visit as you stay mindful of social distancing – and your budget.

May Wah Fast Food, 190 Hester Street

Beloved May Wah is open again, but with a glass partition and safety in mind. This spot is famous for its plentiful pork chop over rice for $6.50. Don’t eat meat? Order the “Healthy Vegetarian” option and feed yourself for days. Piled high with steamed veggies in a delicate sweet and savory sauce, it’s a very generous portion for $6.75. Note the temporary store hours are 9 am-7 pm Monday through Saturday. Closed on Sunday.

Photo: Sara Graham

Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian, 77 Mulberry Street

You might not think veg-friendly when you think dim sum, but Bodhi Kosher has made this vegan dream a reality by reinterpreting Chinese favorites with mock meats. With a menu that offers everything from veg General Tso’s chicken to veg shark fin congee, as well as gluten-free options (try the fried taro dumpling), there’s something for everyone. A standout snack is the vegan bao bun for $4.50 – choose from veg steak, chicken or bbq beef. The steak, which sits in a squishy bun offset by cucumber and lettuce crunch is heavenly.

Photo: Sara Graham

Mee Sum Cafe, 26 Pell Street

Step into Mee Sum and it’s like time traveling, not only to March 2020 before everything got nuts, but also to 1960. Located just beyond the golden pegasus on Pell Street, they’ve set up service at the door (and it’s quick)! Get a pillowy-soft bean paste bun (because they’re only .50) and an order of shrimp shumai – $3.75 gets you an order of six. Each is filled with juicy shrimp and full of flavor. No shrimp skimping here.

Photo: Sara Graham

Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodles, 85 Bayard Street

Tonii’s reopened and cleared the dining room of chairs to enforce social distancing for those queueing to eat. It is serving an (almost) full menu. Known for their customizable Cantonese rice noodles (pork, chicken and more), they also offer ultra-affordable egg sandwiches and congee, all under $3.00 a pop. Satisfy a not-too-sweet tooth with sponge cakes (for $1.25) from neighboring Kam Hing bakery. Senior citizens get a discount.

Photo: Sara Graham

388 Cafe & Deli, 3 Eldridge Street

Like May Wah, 388 Cafe Deli is a no-frills spot perfect for a quick lunch at a steal. Juicy chicken cutlets over rice go for $5.50, while the popular spam and cheese sandwich is $3.00. Breakfast is served until 11 am, where you can get a ham & cheese omelette with toast for $4.50 and a selection of hot and iced tea drinks, Hong Kong style.

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