1. Chatham Square
Also, Kimlau Square’ Bowery at East Broadway
This traditional Chinatown gate was dedicated in 1962 “in memory of the Americans of Chinese descent who lost their lives in defense of freedom and democracy.” The stout, Leninesque statue is Lin Ze Xu, a nineteenth-century anti-narcotics crusader and hero of the Opium Wars.
2. Everest Diner
22 Chatham Sq., nr. Oliver St. 212-406-3653
The menu has a true Lower East Side mix, ranging from Belgian waffles to “Roumanian pastrami.” Stick to the quintessential New York deli staples: egg creams for $1.65, meat loaf for $6.95.
3. Sam Wai Liquor Store
17–23 E. Broadway, nr. Catherine St.; 212-962-2088
There’s a nod to mainstream wines here, but go for the 1.5 liter flagons of unfiltered Nigori sake for $12.50.
4. Lay On Co.
19 E. Broadway, nr. Catherine St.; 212-349-8035
This postage stamp of a shop has everything from boxes of ginseng royal jello and essence of chicken with Cordyceps to bins filled with gnarled gingers of infinite variations.
5. A Ji Ichiban
23 E. Broadway, nr. Catherine St.; 212-571-3755
Munchies paradise. Go to satisfy your wasabi pea or mochi cravings, and leave with a taste for dried fish and squid ($2.50 to $15 for a quarter pound).
6. Oriental Books & Stationery Co. Inc.
29 E. Broadway, nr. Catherine St.; 212-608-7848
The ultimate newsstand for Cantonese and Mandarin periodicals. There are serious broadsheets (Taiwan World Journal and Sing Tao), but the best sellers are tabloid-style entertainment magazines like Express Weekly and AST Week, the Hong Kong equivalents of Star and InTouch.
7. Chatham Square Branch of the New York Public Library
33 E. Broadway, nr. Catherine St.; 212-964-6598
The busiest branch in Manhattan, with the highest circulation, a bilingual staff, and a behemoth Chinese Heritage reference section.
8. Great World Inc.
32 E. Broadway, nr. Market St.; 917-337-7522
This basement video store offers thousands of kung fu titles, plus everything from rom-com Mandarin schlock to the requisite backroom porn.
9. QQ Bakery
50 E. Broadway, nr. Market St.; 212-226-2282
The baked goods, especially the wedding cakes, are fantastically elaborate. Stop in here for afternoon tea and a slice of sponge cake.
10. “Chinese Restaurant”
60 E. Broadway, nr. Market St.; 212-219-2748
You’d never stumble across this tucked-away subterranean spot, and only the final two pages of the menu include English translations. Get the spareribs with bitter melon ($3.95) and oxtail soup ($5.95).
11. East Broadway Mall Inc.
88 E. Broadway, nr. Forsyth St.
The swankier of the two Manhattan Bridge malls, replete with chrome-and-mirror decor. A sprawling red-and-gold dim sum joint, 88 Palace, occupies the second floor; the basement and ground level are of clothing, jewelry, and noodle shops. The sublime and quirky Jumbo Philatelic Company—everything from mint-condition stamps to Hello Kitty paraphernalia—is reason enough to venture below ground.
12. Chinatown Bus Junction
88 E. Broadway, at Forsyth St.
The fire that broke out on one of these buses last summer might put you off, but it doesn’t come much cheaper: $35 round-trip to Washington, D.C., and $30 to Boston.
13. May’s Bakery
90 E. Broadway, at Forsyth St.; 212-219-0899
Order the watermelon with tapioca bubble tea (it’s the best seller). Surprisingly fresh-tasting and not overly sweet, it’s dessert through a straw, and a lot cheaper than another strawberries-and-crème frap from Starbucks. Prices range from $2.50 to $3.
14. Real Estate Renting
126 E. Broadway, nr. Pike St.; 212-964-9000
If you’re determined to live in the neighborhood, stop in here. A sign in the window promises “LES Apartments under $1,400.”
15. Chinatown Lumber
140 E. Broadway, nr. Pike St.; 212-608-2055
The local supplier of tools, plywood, and two-by-fours, whether you’re into DIY or sunk in the luxury-condos space race.
16. Mesivtha Tisereth Jerusalem
147 E. Broadway, nr. Rutgers St.; 212-964-2830
A hold-out from the old Jewish Lower East side–the curious yellow brick building is yeshiva in the Orthodox tradition, with 150 students from preschoolers to married rabbinical students.
17. Weilgus & Sons Inc.
158 E. Broadway, nr. Rutgers St.; 212-267-1512
Since 1932, this family-run business has been cutting keys and selling locks. Most of their business is wholesale, so the prices are outrageously low (two standard keys copied for $1.75).