I love China Town!
I expect some of you will raise your eyebrows now and think: ‘Seriously? China Town? Isn’t that one of the most clichéd, most touristy areas ever, the go-to photo backdrop of visitors in sandals and white socks?’ Well, yeah, a little bit. Many metropolis’ in the anglo-saxon world have China Towns (NYC, London, Sydney), and each of them looks like a lame postcard version of China. You know the deal, big gates with pagoda-style decorations, colorful lanterns and roasted goose dangling behind restaurant windows. But there’s more to it than that.
For all the clichés and stereotypes, it is easy to forget that at some point these quarters were actually founded by immigrants from the far east, people who came to these places in search of a better future for themselves and their families. Over time they learned to monetize their far-eastern charme, that much is certainly true. But the past still resonates in these areas, and you feel echoes of how it must have been many decades and centuries ago. China Town locals still speak Chinese, the langauge still dominates the streets, and the stores stock mainly Chinese goods. Even the general sense of business seems to be a reflection of bygone days and hopes of a fortune that seemed promised to everyone who was ready to work for it. Some families have found it and are expanding on it, others are still striving in their pursuit of this old dream. Isn’t all this quintessential for New York on the whole? The city is a melting pot of so many cultures, each of which is alive and can be experienced. If this is a cliché, well then count me in.
BUT: While China Town may be located right on the beaten touristic track, there are a good few insider tips that are not marked out on any map, and there are places that are not inundated with tourists in T-shirts. I have compiled 5 spots 5 spots, in China Town for you, and these 5 gems alone would make a trip to New York worth your while.
Yep, this is in fact the actual name of the store, exactly as above. Apotheke is German for pharmacy, and the shop looks the part, too. I visited the store several times, and could never get enough of the cool vintage interior with worn out stools and couches, medicine bottles on the top shelf of the bar, and grimy wallpapers. And the drinks the bartenders serve are a something to behold as well. My recommendation: try the ‘Huntsman’. An explosion of taste! And if that’s still not enough: there’s awesome live music every night from a jazz band made up of young New York artists. Right there, in the middle of the bar!
If you’re still on your feet after the drinks and dancing, you should definitely check out the Slipper Room. It’s another small and intimate venue – at times quite literally so. I saw a burlesque show there, a wild mix of barefooted dance in best 50s fashion, comedy and political satire. Remember the name: Hazel Honeysuckle. That woman is out of this world talented!
A Chinese Supermarket
Sure, a cliché. But how awesome, nonetheless. Large supermarkets stock the most outlandish products. Sometimes you need guts, especially if deceased animals in shop windows make you squirm. But if there#s one thing everyone should try at least once in their lives its the White Peach Drink. Sure, definitely very sweet. But also quite definitely and amazingly tasty.
Two Hands Café
China Town is a place of culinary wonders. There are endless restaurants, bars and cafés, catering to every desire from delicacies to fast food. I have particularly fond memories of the Two Hands Café, a genuinely charming little café with a real New York flair. You feel comfy the moment you set foot in it. I suggest you try the avocado toast on homemade whole-grain bread with a glass of fresh juice as the perfect snack while planning your trip through China Town.
Photos: Theresa Kaindl
Museum of Chinese America
If you’re interested in the history of the Chinese in the USA, the Museum of Chinese in America is the place to go. Looking at the many exhibits, photographs and texts I understood a good bit more how varied and interlinked the relation of the two cultures really was and is.