Archive for the ‘Chinatown’ category

Tea Time at Ten Ren Tea Time

October 20, 2007

Of all the neighborhoods I go into, the one I’m least likely to eat in is Chinatown.  I love Chinese food and Chinatown boasts some great Chinese eating, but I’m generally put off by the smell from the grocery stores.  I’ve mentioned this issue in an earlier post.

But there’s one place in Chinatown that I love to go to and partake of the comestibles: Ten Ren Tea Time.

Ten Ren Tea Time

It’s a tiny place, but kept impeccably clean.  It’s on Mott Street, just to the south of Canal Street (it’s on the west side of Mott).  Tiny in width, but about 50 feet deep, there’s enough seating for maybe 15 people.

And all they serve is tea.  Lots of different teas, but for me there’s only one:  bubble tea.

Passion Fruit Bubble Tea

That’s the “passion fruit bubble tea”.  I’m mostly fond of the mango.

Okay, maybe bubble tea is old hat to you, but most of the people I’ve taken there, or tried to take there, have been blissfully unaware of what it is.  Okay, it’s tea….with bubbles.  A lie!  Actually, if you look at the picture, the dark stuff at the bottom is the “bubble” part of the tea.  Every cup gets the same set of bubbles.  And the bubbles are large pearls of tapioca.  If you can’t tell, the straw in the cup is huge.  It’s specially sized to pull in the tapioca bubbles just right (or, more likely, the bubbles are sized the the oversized straw).  Whatever.  It’s a wonderful, wonderful combination.


Wandering Chinatown

September 1, 2007

This isn’t a real easy post.  In my LES post, I confessed that I find nothing “cool” about Chinatown.  I don’t.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t get a frisson of anticipation when I go there.

What I get is a stench.  This is coming from a man with a minimal sense of smell.  Chinatown stinks…odorwise.  In other ways, perfectly enjoyable.  It all depends on how much of a connection there is between your sense of smell and your sense of adventure.  Because you can explore Chinatown for a long, long time.

Okay, where’s Chinatown?  Uhh…..southern Manhattan.  It’s kinda all spread out and amorphous.  It is growing at a pretty good clip from what I see.  It isn’t all of southern Manhattan, of course.  The Financial District and the government district are still alive and healthy.  

Amongst Manhattan neighborhoods, Chinatown makes the least allowance for the rest of America.  There’s at least one McDonalds on the periphery and I know there’s a Subway Sandwich Shop somewhere right in the middle of the place, but they are just sort of add-ons if you know what I mean.  A lot of the street signs are actually in Chinese script (alongside the western alphabet name of the street).

And what stinks?  The grocery stores.  Mostly the meat places.

Chinatown open air fish

They’re all over the place.  The locals like their food fresh.  Lots of the stuff is still alive.  I’ve seen buckets of moving crabs and swimming frogs (with the occasional dead frog floating on the surface).  There’s lots of relatively large fish swimming in aquariums, ready for the net and dispatching.  Already dead fish are generally kept on ice, but that doesn’t stop the smell.  I’m hopeful that I’m just smelling the stuff that dripped yesterday or so.

The grocery stores are of several sorts.  There are indoor ones, which I really don’t want to go into, and there are the outdoor stalls.  They’re interesting.

Chinatown - Lychees and Loganberries

Okay, on the right are some plums, the center are Lychees, and the right….my notes say “Logan Berries” but the sign says “Sweet Apples”.  I don’t think either fits.

And, veggies…

Chinatown - odd veggies

And, something called “Durian”.  Apparently it’s a fruit.  I’ve seen it many times but I just saw some “foodie” show that described it as a horrible-tasting/smelling food.  I think the commentator (Andrew Zimmern) said it smelled like feet and tasted similar.  That’s it in the yellowish mesh bag.


It looks like a mutant pineapple.  At present, I’m not feeling adventurous enough to test the description.

And no post on Chinatown would be complete without a shot of dead poultry in the window.

Chinatown ducks and chickens

Okay, that’s a baldfaced lie.  Future posts may not have one at all.  But you would have complained if I didn’t include at least one duck picture somewhere.


Wandering the Lower East Side (LES)

August 28, 2007

The Lower East Side is an old staple of mine.  I started visiting it well over a year ago and, until I started ankling my way around Harlem, I considered it the coolest part of Manhattan.

Despite Harlem’s cool status (and my somewhat dampened love of that place), LES is still cool.  It is also so all-over-the-place that it merits many posts over the future.  This post is just a quick jaunt to some old favorites that I’ve written about in my e-mails to friends and family.  Now, I get to add pictures.

Okay, LES (I don’t pronounce it as anything other than “Lower East Side”, but I don’t like to type that much) is known really for its historical position as the first stopping point for immigrants.  It still is, but not really.  Well, yeah; but not even close.  You see, it’s coolness makes it really expensive, but the edges are being filled in by Chinatown which has….no really evident coolness….but lots and lots of new immigrants.

Position wise, it’s on the east side of Manhattan and goes from Houston Street down to…Chinatown….which is eating it from below and from the west.  “Little Italy” (the subject of another post), is technically to the west of LES, but has now reached near invisibility status due to the Chinatown surge, but LES still seems to be hanging in there, at least mostly. Oh, on the east, LES is bordered by the East River. (Hey, that’s three “easts” in one sentence. Not bad.  Of course, I used variants of “cool” about five times so far in this post.  That’s bad, but not in a cool way.  Six.)

The whole point of the original LES was density.  It boasted the highest population density in the world during the great immigrations of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  And that’s with a relatively low-rise buildings.  They seem to usually reach maybe 3 to 8 stories.  Graffiti, noise, noisomeness, and still people are storming the ramparts to get a place in LES.  You see, LES is gritty and interesting and maybe a little bit wild; and each of those attributes is like catnip to the hipsters.  Well, LES may be “gritty” if you define gritty as dirty and graffiti-covered.  But, it is very interesting and has a strong connection with the arts.  I’m not really sure about “wild”, though.  I only bring it up because of a character I ran into some time ago who pointed out a place that I’ll save for another post in the future.  In any case, I really like LES and I think anyone who visits will leave with affection.  It’s just one of those kinds of places.

Anyway, I took the bus down to Houston Street and wandered over into LES.  I always think of three streets when I’m in LES:  Rivington, Orchard, and Ludlow.  Rivington goes east-west and the other two are north-south.

All of them are considered “cool”.  When I first started to visit LES, I spoke with a co-worker about Ludlow being “cool” and that I hadn’t known its reputation.  He laughed and replied:  “if you had a 15-year-old daughter, you’d have known.”  Here’s Ludlow Street on a Saturday morning.

LES 1 Ludlow St

LES 2 Ludlow St

And the architecture can be wonderful.

LES 3 Ludlow St

But, the gritty, artistic side still shines out.  There are places all over Manhattan that do stuff like this, but I find it more “natural” in LES.

LES 4 Ludlow St

Of course, they absolutely, positively must be ragged and torn and (most importantly) duplicated.

But, then, there’s Rivington.  Rivington has two places of note, at least for Famous Ankles:  Economy Candy and TeaNY.

Economy Candy is simply a big candy store.  In truth, a WalMart might physically have more candy, but Economy Candy knows that displaying candy from floor to ceiling is an absolute must.

LES Candy Factory 1

LES Economy Candy 2

In terms of “art”, Economy Candy is art.

TeaNY is a wonderful, but very small tea restaurant partially owned by musician Moby.  Usually, it’s jammed and I can’t get in.  However, there are lots and lots of different teas and I can attest to how good it is from experience.  Not cheap, but not outrageous.


I was astonished when I went by and saw that it was mostly empty.  TeaNY is never like that.  I wanted to go in and get some tea, but I had places to go (future posts!) and really no thirst.  I remember many times walking by and seeing the place jammed with people and really having a hankering for tea.  Ah, well…

I’m saving Orchard Street for another post.