A Walk to Chinatown (Lunch at Sheng Wang)


I recently read an interview with my favorite food writer, Calvin Trillin, in which he said that when guests come to town, he walks them from Greenwich Village (where he lives) to Chinatown. Since I live in Greenwich Village, and since Saturday was beautiful and Craig was busy editing, I decided to follow Trillin’s lead and to walk to Chinatown myself. Granted, I had a leg up on the Trillin walk to Chinatown because once, as part of The New Yorker Festival, I attended Calvin Trillin’s “Come Hungry” tour (an event that sells out faster than you can blink) in which he leads hungry New Yorker readers on a walk from–you guessed it–Greenwich Village to Chinatown. So this was a walk I felt confident taking.

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Excellent Pork Chop House


When going to lunch with a James Beard award winner, it’s best to let them choose the venue.

Such was the case when I had lunch with Rachel Wharton last week. I first met Rachel years ago when she profiled me for The Daily News and we ate lunch at S’Agapo in Queens. I thought Rachel was one of the quirkiest and most spirited food writers I’d ever met and also one of the hardest working. Now her hard work has paid off: she won the 2010 James Beard award for her “Back of the House” columns that appear in Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan, beating out luminaries like Colman Andrews and Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl in the food-related column category.

Which is all to say that Rachel really was the one to choose where we’d eat lunch when the lunch date we’d planned arrived last week. I pitched Chinatown and sure enough Rachel came back with a James Beard Award-worthy response: “Excellent Pork Chop House.”

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Saravanaa Bhavan & Joe’s Shanghai


I have the good fortune to be friends with a guy named Dan Fortune, a DJ with an incredible knack for hunting down obscure tracks–mostly show tune oriented–performed by unexpected artists (Stevie Wonder singing “Hello Young Lovers” from “The King & I,” Nina Simone singing a medley of songs from “Hair,” James Brown singing “September Song.”) Dan’s talent for weaving these songs together into a cogent stream of music has won him a large New York following; and because of that following, Dan often gets asked to DJ celebrity events. And, being his friend, he’s now invited me to two: one was Chris March’s book party (remember Chris March from “Project Runway”?) and the other, more recent event was Michael Musto’s party celebrating 25 years at The Village Voice.

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Eating While Standing Up (Banh Mi Saigon Bakery & The Bagel Hole)


In the current food issue of The New Yorker, Calvin Trillin wonders–in another one of his hilarious food essays–if “through some rare genetic oddity, my sense of taste is at full strength only when I’m standing up.” He wonders this because of his deep love for street food. As a participant of the Calvin Trillin walking tour last year, I was lucky enough to eat street food standing up with the man himself. And the best bite of the tour was, by far, the bite you see above.

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Feeling Grand on Grand Street at Pho Grand

Pho Grand

I finally did it.

I’ve lived in Park Slope for 10 months now and every time I take the D train into the city I promise myself that one day, when it stops on Grand Street, I will get out and eat lunch. You’d thing that a food obsessed person like me would’ve done that all the time: Grand Street runs right through Chinatown and most of my favorite food personages–especially Calvin Trillin–feel about Chinatown the way that Joan Rivers feels about plastic surgery. It’s what makes life livable.

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Friday Night Dim Sum

Now that I’ve been bitten by the Chinatown bug, I make an effort to go there as much as possible. So on Friday night, when making plans with Diana, I said: “Let’s go to Chinatown!” and she agreed. We called a few more peeps from our posse and planned to meet on the corner of Canal and Broadway. In the meantime, I began my ritualistic pre-dinner research: I went on Chowhound and searched “Chinatown” and somehow, through the maze of threads, wound up on a long discussion about dim sum. I knew very little about dim sum except that many people love dim sum and that I’d had a bad dim sum experience last year when shooting our Chinatown video which you can watch in the videos section. But because there were four of us, I figured dim sum would be a great option—so I wrote down the clear Chowhound favorite, Jing Fong, memorized the address and led our group there when I greeted them downtown. Here’s what it looks like from the outside:


A man stood out there and beckoned us inside. “Very good dinner,” he said and we nodded and entered and rode a giant escalator upstairs. “I’ve walked by this place before with a friend,” said James Felder, “and he said this is his favorite dim sum place. I’ve always meant to try it.”

When we reached the top, we had a sudden realization. The realization is revealed after the jump, to build suspense:

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