Sights and Tastes of Chinatown

THE EDWARD MOONEY HOUSE

18 Bowery Street

Located in the middle of Chinatown, the oldest surviving row house in New York is much older than Chinatown. It was built sometime soon after the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, but before 1789, the year George Washington was inaugurated as the first American President. The land that used to belong to James Delancey, a British Loyalist, was confiscated after the Revolution and acquired by Edward Mooney – a wealthy butcher/meat merchant. Mooney built the house and stayed there until his death in 1800.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Nom Wah Tea Parlor entrance on Doyers Street

13 Doyers Street

In 1920 Nom Wah Tea Parlor opened as a bakery and tea parlor. For many years, Nom Wah served fresh Chinese pastries, steamed buns, and tea and became known for its almond cookie, lotus paste, and red bean filling.

Bending to the times, it changed from a tea parlor to a dim-sum place – a better option for attracting customers. But the place’s ambiance, with its faded sign, porcelain lucky cats in the windows, and mismatched tea cups, has stayed the same since the 1902s.

There are always lines in front of the Nom Wah Tea Parlor. The food is good, but it’s not the main attraction: the old-timey vintage feel creates a very special atmosphere that takes visitors to a different era.

Apotheke

Apotheke street sign

9 Doyers Street

AN APOTHECARY-THEMED COCKTAIL BAR INSIDE A FORMER OPIUM DEN

Apotheke bar ready for cocktail class

Unexpectedly decadent, this lounge is inspired by European apothecaries and 19th-century Parisian absinthe dens. Dim lighting, Parisian-looking furniture, a gilded ceiling, and an imposing marble bar create a truly old-world feel.

Since ancient times it was widely believed that alcohol possessed medicinal value. Physicians in Europe and in America liberally prescribed alcoholic concoctions to treat an array of ailments, ranging from a sore throat to malaria. This strongly routed belief persisted into the 20th century, as it was only in 1916 that whiskey and brandy were removed from the list of scientifically approved medicines in The Pharmacopeia of the United States of America.

To drive the point across, Apotheke mixologists wear lab coats and prescribe drinks suitable to treat various conditions. The menu lists about 250 cocktails divided into pharmaceutical categories such as Health and Beauty, Stress Relievers, Pain Killers, Stimulants, and Aphrodisiacs.

The Bloody Angle

The Bloody Angle today

Doyers Street

Apotheke is located on Doyer Street, nicknamed “The Bloody Angle.” In a city of mostly straight streets, this tiny one is unique, as it curves several times. The main sharp curve earned Doyle Street its violent nickname, as it allowed rival gangs to creep up on one another unseen, attack, and disappear through a network of tunnels. According to The New York Times in 1894, “Law-enforcement officials say more people have died violently at Bloody Angle than at any other intersection in America.”

Near Apotheke is an entrance to one of those tunnels that take you out to Chatham Square on the Bowery. The neighboring colorful Pell Street used to be the epicenter of vice with its brothels, gambling houses, and opium dens.

Golden Buddha in the Mahayana Buddhist Temple

133 Canal Street 

The largest Buddhist Temple in New York is located (not surprisingly!) in Chinatown. The unremarkable structure sits right next to the entrance to Manhattan Bridge, creating a typical New York City contrast between fast-paced traffic/people tempo and the tranquility of a Buddhist sanctuary. The functioning temple attracts worshipers as well as tourists who visit to see the 16-ft Golden Buddha, New York’s largest. 

The Mahayana Temple opened in 1996 in a space that used to be a movie theater. In the 1980s, the Rosemary Theater showed Chinese language movies and even hosted the Asian American International Film Festival as well as live opera performances. In the 90s, patronage steeply declined, and the theater tried to survive by showing porno movies. It closed down in 1996 to be resurrected as the Mahayana Buddhist temple.

A Few Tasty Places

Entrance to Pings on Mott Street

Chinatown has an abundance of mouthwatering restaurants. One has to start somewhere; here are just a couple:

  • Pings 22 Mott St offers an unforgettable experience of Hong Kong fare
  • Jing Fong 20 Elizabeth Street is one of New York’s premier dim sum and banquet halls
  • Joe’s Shanghai 46 Bowery is home to the signature Soup Dumplings. 

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