by Maude Couturier, Globetrotter & Blogger

Here we go, let’s go! Today is THE day, the day that I am leaving New York, where I lived for the past two years, going towardsnew adventures. I’m in the taxi with all my suitcases, driving along the Hudson River while contemplating New York’s incredible skyline, head full of memories. This incredible city, so dynamic while also so exhausting definitely has a unique character. Whether it is for its history, its diversity or simply because of the impressive quantity of restaurants and bars, the city that never sleeps certainly has something to suit every taste!

When I first moved to New York, I wanted to live where the magic happens and leave my metro-boulot-dodo routine behind. I can clearly say I got served! I found a colocation on the limit of Chinatown and Lower East Side and made it my new home.

Chinatown

The Chinatown of New York really has a unique character, it’s really different than the other neighborhoods mostly because of its authenticity. If you stroll in Chinatown’s streets, you’ll soon realize the population there is mostly Chinese, they never really intermingle with the rest of New York’s population. Most of the shops and restaurants are only displayed in Chinese and you don’t really hear anybody speak English in the streets.

The movie “Casse-Tête Chinois” really gives an authentic overview of the life in Chinatown, I highly recommend that you watch it!

The change in environment I was looking for could not have been more extreme: whether it was because of the crazy wake up calls at 6am for Chinese New Year (which last two weeks…), the weird smells or substances in the streets, or simply when I think of the countless nights I spent bar hoping around my apartment, I can say I made the most out of my neighborhood.

It’s also by living in this apartment, on the border of two neighborhoods that I realized how different New York’s neighborhoods are one from another, the vibe in Chinatown being completely different than in the Lower East Side. There is too much to say about New York, but here is a little bit about what I’ve learned, thought, lived. I hope they can be helpful to guide you through your trip in New York, enjoy!

My Address Book:

Best dumplings in town! Forget about Vanessa’s dumplings and Dim Sum Go Go, packed with tourists, this little authentic restaurant located at 144 East Broadway St. is usually frequented by New Yorkers looking for an affordable meal ($3 for 10 dumplings, it’s rare while unrivaled in New York!). Here, you’ll have to forget about the ambiance, it is totally inexistent. I recommend you eat quickly if you can have a seat or take out and eat along the East River. Ha, and don’t forget to note the address, the restaurant is only displayed in Chinese!

Here again, forget about the fancy ambiance. In a traditional Chinese restaurant, you can share a Chinese meal with friends. Prices are reasonable and portions are huge!

Open 24/24 hours, this delicious small Chinese restaurant made me happy so many times after a night out. Again, huge and cheap plates!

My favorite bar in New York, by far! It’s hidden in a small street of Chinatown. When you get in, you’ll discover a fancy, old, chic ambiance where you can order AMAZING cocktails all made with quality products, organic and locally produced. There is entertainment bands coming every day of the week, the bands changes every day of the week, you can look the schedule online. I love High & Mighty Grass band that is there every Tuesday! I also highly recommend you try the Sitting Buddha cocktail or the Matador, if you want something uncommon.

Lower East Side

Even if the Lower East Side has a common border with Chinatown, the vibe of the neighborhood is totally different! The population in the Lower East Side is a lot younger and diversified and there is a lot of trendy spots to discover. Also, because its development is fairly recent, the rent prices are still affordable and the streets as crowded as they are elsewhere on Manhattan.

There is a lot of history in the Lower East Side and the neighborhoods still bears the traces of its history. The Lower East Side has long been home to immigrants and to working classes and there are still a lot of old businesses on Orchard St.. There are also still many Synagogues that were built at the beginning of the 20th century, when approximately 540,000 Jewish from Eastern Europe immigrated in this neighborhood. The Tenement Museum on Orchard St. is an apartment where 7,000 immigrants lived. It has now been converted into a museum that you can visit.

To me, the Lower East Side offers a perfect balance between history, art, and restaurants/bars.

A gem of the Lower East Side. Located on Rivington St., it is perfect to have a drink or eat a bite with friends after work. Make yourself comfortable in the big sofa at the back of the bar and enjoy the $5 wine glasses during Happy Hour (Yes, you haven’t misread! It’s really $5 during Happy Hour, from 5 to 7pm. Hard to beat in New York!)

Another wine bar that I love ! They offer a wide variety of wines and tapas that are all delicious! There is also an interesting Happy Hour formula, $15 for the wine carafe and $1 oysters.

Located on the main street of the Lower East Side, Orchard St., you can come enjoy some traditional Vietnamiese meals (Pho, Bun, Banh Mi, etc.) and delicious cocktails at a reasonable price. Prices are also very reasonable.
Kiki’s is a Greek restaurant located on Division St. There is no display outside but you will find it when you see the waiting line that usually continues outside. You can enjoy Greek specialties made with fresh products in a casual ambiance there. It’s one of my favorite spots for a group dinner.

Even though you will find these recommandations in many travel books, I still recommend you try two institutions of the Lower East Side for the quality of their products. Be patient, they are almost always packed!

  • Katz’s Delicatessen: The famous pastrami place that opened its door near the end of the 18th Century, Katz’s Delicatessen offers good quality meat and pastrami. The family restaurant has a beautiful history. When their sons were serving their country during WWII they started a tradition to send them salamis and this became their new slogan: “Send a Salami to your boy in the army”
  • Russ & Daughter: this fish shop specializes in smoked salmon and caviar. The shop is located on East Houston St. and the restaurant is on Orchard St.

Red Hook

I never lived in Red Hook, but I just LOVE this neighbourhood because it allowed me to escape Manhattan lots of time! That’s why I decided to talk about it a little bit. Red Hook is located in South Brooklyn that offers a magnificent view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Not all New Yorkers know about Red Hook and that makes the neighbourhood even more charming to me. The streets are not packed and there is not so much noise so it’s perfect to escape the city and enjoy cute restaurants.

Red Hook was one of the first neighbourhood in Brooklyn and around the middle of the 19th century, its harbour was one of the most important in the US. Unfortunately, even though the harbour was stimulating the economy, the neighbourhood remained poor and there was a lot of drug trafficking so it wasn’t the safest place to be… The famous Al Capone also made weapons there.

In recent years, big companies came to Red Hook and the character of the neighbourhood is progressively changing. There is not a lot of shops and restaurants, but some of them are really worth trying! If you go during the weekend, there is a taxi boat that is leaving from Pier 11, near Wall St. to go to Red Hook. The boat trip itself is worth doing, the view from the water is amazing!

Going to Brooklyn Crab is a unique experience! There are a lot of different spaces in the restaurant.

A chilling space: you can have a drink at the bar downstairs, play games in the games area in front of the restaurant, chill during an entire afternoon to enjoy the sun, etc. The restaurant is on the second and third floor and from there, you can enjoy the view on the Hudson and Statue of Liberty, and eat seafood in a crab shack setting.

Their Key Lime pie is well-known in Red Hook and it’s 5 minute walk from Brooklyn Crab!