In New York City (and really any other touristy city), it’s easy to be trapped by trends and prices and Instagram-worthiness. In my last post, I talk about hype trends and the lack of authenticity it has created between people and consumption. As I wrote I thought: with all that’s buzzing around us in the digital world (because, frankly, that’s where most of us live these days), how do we (society, consumers) know what’s real, and what’s just hype?
I decided to put it to the test a few weeks ago with what we’ll call: The Chinatown Battle of The Dumplings.
Round 1: Nom Wah Tea Parlor
The Hype: The oldest dim sum establishment in Chinatown (est. 1922), interesting history, reinvented by the former owner’s nephew into a hip dim sum spot, paying homage to old school Chinatown with nostalgic interior design trends.
Yelp Hype: 1,370 reviews, 3.5 stars, $$
The Clientele: A trendy, hip, young professional crowd who appreciate authenticity–may or may not be gentrifiers. They’re okay with slightly shabby interiors and a less glamorous crowd (although at times, I notice that the anti-It Girl crowd seek these type of “authentic-feeling” places for the same reasons the glam-crowd seek their type of places: Instagram, blog reviews, simply the act of checking it off a list. Which, personally, inherently make it less-authentic.)
Order: 1 pork bao, 4 soup (shanghai) dumplings, 4 pork fried dumplings
Experience: There was no wait for a table at that time (6pm), but it was busy with both locals and tourists. We got a cozy table by the window and enjoyed the hustle and bustle. The food is made to order (unlike most dim sum places, which keep them warm in baskets) and the quality was top for the prices. The service was quick and to the point and the staff friendly. Nothing overly over-the-top about it; but not totally a whole in the wall, which made it great.
Price: Cheap for NYC
Total: $14-cash only
Overall: Cool and trendy with it’s nostalgic vibe. The food was classic and good and prices were decent (however, cheaper can be found). This place is best for a fun, authentic-feeling, historical experience. The food is good, but in the end, you’re paying for the experience.
Round 2: Tasty Dumplings
The Hype: Known for being SUPER cheap and SUPER local.
Yelp Hype: 380 reviews, 3.5 stars, $
The Clientele: Busy with all walks of local life: young broke students to the dishwasher from a nearby pizzeria, to friends/family. No tourists. The people eating here are not looking to be seen or Instagram their food. They’re literally just popping in to share a table with some rando, eat the cheapest dumplings in Chinatown and bounce.
Order: 5 fried pork dumplings, 10 steamed pork dumplings, 1 drink. ((no Shanghai dumplings 🙁 only Beijing–and yes I know the difference).
Experience: This place is the definition of a whole in the wall. There is NOTHING fancy or impressive about it, in fact you might even think it’s not the right place and walk away. There’s no decor, the lights glare and the plastic tables and chairs are sticky with the last customer’s spilled sauces. You order at the counter (10 steamed dumplings for $1.50!!!?) and sit and wait for your food… Four minutes later when it’s ready, it comes in a styrofoam box and plastic fork, which you’re encouraged to squirt with vinegar and soy sauce from large bottles of re-used Sirracha. Like I said, nothing fancy about this place. But it’s GOOD. Like really good.
Price: Literally the cheapest thing, other than a $1 slice in NYC.
Overall: The place has little to no presentation but the quality of the food is excellent. If you’re looking for straight up, honestly good (and authentic!!) fast food with no fuss or glamour–this is the place. You literally pay for what you get: $5 gets you 15 very tasty dumplings, and nothing more. There’s essentially no service or experience, but it doesn’t matter because with 2 bucks you can get in and get out in less than 20 mins.
MY WINNER: Tasty Dumpling!!! I just want to eat a lot of good food for super cheap!! Yummmmmm.
What do you you guys think? Worth the hype?? Where do you explore in your neighborhoods?