New York's Chinatown sits snugly in lower Manhattan, convenient to public transportation -- and is chock full of places to shop, eat and drink, from giant dim sum houses to hole-in-the-wall bakeries. Since Chinese restaurants encourage family dining, the eateries in this neighborhood welcome young children and know how to accommodate their needs. Dim sum, which refers to small, individual or bite-sized portions of food served in small plates or baskets, is popular at many Chinatown restaurants -- and is particularly well-suited as a meal for kids, as the food arrives quickly and in abundance, giving your little ones a chance to try many different new tastes. Lots of children love char siu bao -- doughy steamed buns filled with barbecued pork -- to start things off.
Taking up two full stories, the enormous Golden Unicorn (goldenunicornrestaurant.com) features several separate rooms, all noisy and filled patrons enjoying the delicacies. You can choose your dim sum from passing carts -- or order a full meal. Expect brisk service and no-frills -- this is a great place for dim sum veterans to bring their children, but if you're new to the experience, you might prefer somewhere a touch less bustling.
Another massive dim sum spot full of carts laden with delicacies and families out for a bite, 88 Palace (88palacerestaurant.com) won a "Best Dim Sum" award from New York Magazine in 2003. It's squirreled away under the Manhattan Street Bridge, so it's not a spot you're likely to stumble across accidentally. Seek it out, though, as their dumplings are quite inventive.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Nom Wah (nomwah.com) claims the distinction of being New York's first dim sum restaurant, opening in 1920. It's smaller and quieter than the roaring palaces elsewhere in the neighborhood, with small tables decked out in checked tablecloths. Carts are lacking entirely. Instead, you order from the menu and the kitchen prepares your dim sum "on demand." Kids will likely enjoy "The Original" egg roll.
Dim Sum Go Go
Dim Sum Go Go (dimsumgogo.com) offers what you might term, "New Wave" dim sum: a hamburger patty in a steamed bun served with taro root French fries, dumplings dyed with beet root, as well as filled with parsley and jicama. In other words, the offerings are inventive and playful, although you'll find mainstream favorites here as well. At Dim Sum Go Go, you place your order via a slip of paper, similar to sushi restaurants, rather than request plates from a cart. This keeps things a little more sedate but also means a longer wait for your food. If you're looking for vegetarian dim sum, this is your destination. If you're new to dim sum, this is also a great pick -- order a sampler platter.
If you're looking for a Cantonese-style dinner in a family-friendly restaurant, try Amazing 66 (amazing66.com). On most evenings, the two-level space is filled with patrons because the array of offerings is, well, amazing. It's also eminently affordable. The most surprising menu ingredient might be pastrami -- try it in fried rice.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Sure, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (chinatownicecreamfactory.com) is a bit on the touristy side. But hey, it's ice cream. Ice cream with "a Chinese twist," to be exact. This shop is a neighborhood landmark, serving up cones in flavors like almond cookie, red bean, green tea, lychee and black sesame. Don't worry -- you can also get good old chocolate and vanilla, too.