Fridays Under $40: Send Chinatown Love’s Food Crawl

Posted on: September 4th, 2020 at 5:08 am by

Photo: Sara Graham

In our Friday column, “Fridays Under $40,” Boogie writer Sara Graham again hits the streets to find cheap eats and affordable things to do during these weird times.

It’s been awhile since we chatted with the folks at Send Chinatown Love, the unofficial ambassadors of Chinatown’s mom-and-pop shops. Since the pandemic, they’ve been working hard to support immigrant-owned eateries through crowd-funding and building online platforms for low-tech eateries. Their latest effort to get foot traffic to Manhattan’s Chinatown is through a self-guided food crawl for the month of September.

How does it work? Pop by any of the 13 participating merchants and spend at least $5 with them—in return you get a ticket with a QR code to scan. Scan three codes, from three different merchants, to unlock your “Passport to Chinatown,” which offers discounts from other Chinatown businesses (salons, jewelers, tea shops and more). I got the full details on their website. After getting the scoop, only one question remained: how much could I do in Chinatown for under $40? Turns out, a lot.

Photo: Sara Graham

I start my day at Golden Fung Wong Bakery. It’s quiet on Mott Street at 8:00 am and this old-school bakery is one of the last of its kind. I notice that the cool bulk candy store a few doors down (Aji Ichiban) seems to have closed permanently, its wooden shelves bare. At Fung Wong, I order a hot green tea with milk ($1.25) and a pineapple mooncake ($5.50). I also get a melon hopia to bring to a friend ($3.75)—there are 5 little winter melon paste cakes per package. I go back to my apartment to start working at the computer and already my day is amazing because I begin it by eating dessert (the mooncake).

Golden Fung Wong Bakery
Total: $10.50
41 Mott Street
7 AM-7 PM

Photo: Sara Graham

For lunch, I meet Chris, my fiancé, at Wok Wok, a favorite for Malaysian and Thai dishes. We split the spicy sambal stone rice bowl with veggies and tofu. It’s got just a hint of shrimp paste and enough spice to knock your socks off. We devour the entire thing while we enjoy their outdoor seating, complete with plexiglass barriers and disposable cutlery and plates. Pro tip: they take cards but prefer cash. They also serve beer.

Wok Wok
Total: $14.10
11 Mott Street

After lunch, we get a Japanese cheese tart, obviously. If you’ve never had one, here’s the deal: a twice-baked crust with loads of butter gets filled with a whipped concoction of cream and white cheese until it’s so pillowy, it’s like eating a flaky cloud. I leave with two (strawberry-filled chocolate and original cheese) and overhear someone else at the register asking for a food crawl ticket to scan, which makes me smile to myself. It’s like we all want to give Chinatown a hug.

Pinklady Cheese Tart
Total: $5.99
11 Mott Street
12PM-7PM (Closed Wednesdays)

Photo: Sara Graham

I live one block north of Chinatown proper and head home for more work and a nap, because I’m full of delicious food. I wake up hungry and stroll back down to Mott Street. The sun starts to set and I duck into 46 Mott, a Cantonese-style bakery that’s been donating free meals to people in need since the March shutdown. Outside the store, there are inspirational quotes and messages about kindness and how New York is strong, which lifts my spirits each time I walk by. I slip in and grab a zongzi (bamboo sticky rice) for $2.50.

I chat with general manager Patrick Mock about the food crawl and eagerly ask if it’s been busy, though it’s only day one. Another customer comes in, so I leave to be mindful of social distancing in the small shop, but not without grabbing a container of peanut cookies for Chris, who loves anything peanutty. Four cookies for $2.75 is an absolute steal, so I know where I’ll return if they’re a hit (they are).

46 Mott Street
Total: $5.25
46 Mott Street

Photo: Sara Graham

By the end of my day, I’d scanned my tickets, unlocking my “passport.” For a moment, I think about my actual passport, collecting dust in my drawer. It’s not a popular opinion, but honestly, I don’t miss traveling. When walking a radius of 15 blocks in downtown New York can uncover new places you’ve never been, why go anywhere else?

Total cost of walkabout: $35.84

Costs recorded do not include tip, so tip generously. Wear a mask.

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