Exiting the Grand Street stop on the B or D train will put you in the heart of Chinatown’s light industrial NE district – indoor lumber yards and metal shops up Chrystie, lighting shops on Bowery, as well as signage and printing shops further Northeast. Bustle is everywhere on the sidewalks with old men fixing shoes for waiting customers, vendors selling food from shopping carts and makeshift booths, and shoppers scurrying from one market storefront to the next buying provisions to cook meals at home.
Our first stop is Tan My My (249-253 Grand St., 212-966-7837) on the SW corner of Grand and Chrystie. It possesses three qualities that set it apart from other Fish stores in Chinatown - turnover, wide selection and signs translated into English. Many downtown chefs also patronize Kenny’s place because he carries, or can source, a wide variety of specialty items like Kumamoto Oysters, Live King Crab and Scallops still flexing their shells.
To visit a more serene, hidden gem, see the ladies of Bo Bo Poultry (287 Broome St., 212-274-0130.) Their upstate farms produce exceptional Chicken, Duck, Squab, and Rabbit for prices comparable to those found in supermarkets. A few words of warning, they close early, are not open Sunday and sell mostly whole birds with feet and heads attached, although sometimes they have Chicken parts.
A more rounded shopping experience can be found at the Dynasty Supermarket (68 Elizabeth St, 212-966-4943), a medium sized market with a clear Asian bent. Dynasty consistently stocks excellent Oyster and Shitake Mushrooms ($5.98 & $6.98 lb respectively), offers a selection of well-maintained Asian produce, and carries staples like Milk, Eggs and Pasta. Right across the street, Deluxe Food Market (79 Elizabeth St., 212-925-5766) carries some additional oddities, like Live Frogs, and has mini-food court of prepared foods.
Talk of food courts makes us hungry, and for a bite of food while visiting the shopping spots listed above, we suggest one (or more) of the following:
+ Dumpling House (118 Eldridge St., 212-625-8008) – Their best of breed 5 for a $1 Chinese Pork Dumplings are sold alongside good Sesame Pancake Beef Sandwiches ($1.75) and Kim Chee.
+ Pho Grand (277 Grand St., 212-965-5366) – Vietnamese, delicious and value priced. We liked the Pork Chop ($1.75 each), #1 Pho with six meats ($5.25), and the fun tableside dishes of Beef or Shrimp, which your waiter will cook for you to roll up with vegetables in lettuce and rice paper.
+ Quickly (237B Grand St., 212-431-0998) – More participatory eating is available at this pan-Asian Shabu Shabu parlor. Diners cook their own food in Japanese, Korean or Chinese flavored broth simmering on top of sunken induction tabletop burners. While we’re no Shabu experts, the enjoyability factor here is high and the process fun, took us back to our youth and ski resort restaurants that had you cook your own steak.
+ Saigon Banh Mi (138 Mott St., 212-941-1541) – Manhattan’s best Banh Mi shop offers a narrow selection, Pork ($3.25) or Chicken ($3.75), but delivers with powerful and balanced flavors. Others prefer the nearby Viet-Nam Banh Mi So 1 (369 Broome St., 212-219-8341), which with its larger selection of sandwiches and side dishes is always a nice change of pace.
Although all the spots above are Asian in origin or influence, no detailed food shopping expedition on this stretch of Grand Street would be complete without a visit to DiPalo Dairy (200 Grand Street, 212-226-1033) for hand selected Italian Cheeses, Meats and Dry Goods. Brothers Louis and Sal will happily walk you through your purchases making sure you do plenty of sampling along the way to get your choices right. They have fair prices for top quality products, including their own housemade Mozzarella and Ricotta.
Speaking of Italian, we could not make it to Grotto on Forsyth just north of Grand, has anyone tried it lately ?