Why choose one restaurant for dinner when you could choose dozens? There’s a food hall and farmer’s market renaissance happening around the country, and if you visit any of these locations, you’ll want to make sure you start with an empty stomach.
Filet mignon and roast chicken have their place, but for more adventurous diners, it’s all about the offal.
As I have previously written, for the first century of their presence, Chinese American communities were almost exclusively populated by immigrants from rural Toishan outside of Canton and their descendants. As a result, from the mid-nineteenth century until the 1960s, Cantonese food was the only style of Chinese food found in Chinese restaurants in America, albeit a bastardized version, both being Americanized and reflecting an era of the early 20th century that had been frozen in time. During this period San Francisco Chinatown was by far the predominant Chinese American community and remained homogeneously Cantonese, even for decades after the loosening of immigration laws that had prevented Chinese from other parts of China from coming to the United States. Legion are the stories of well meaning visitors attempting to address the locals with a few words of Mandarin Chinese, completely unintelligible to the Cantonese locals. Indeed, even today San Francisco Chinatown is by far the most Cantonese, most Toishanese community in North America today with these dialects pervasive on the streets of San Francisco Chinatown. (more…)
When the topic of Chinese food in the United States comes up, only three cities really come to mind: San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. Besides a deserved reputation for excellent Chinese food, all three have center-city core Chinatowns founded by Toishanese immigrants that date back to the 19th Century, and which were revived by post-1965 change in American immigration policy. They also all have developed newer Chinese communities outside of the core Chinatown where the Chinese food is significantly better. Yet, the three cities have markedly different patterns in where to find good and authentic Chinese restaurants due to the different manner in the way the Chinese population has spread out in each metropolitan area.
In comparing the Chinese food landscape in these three metropolitan areas, there is one unmistakably striking difference. In San Francisco, good Chinese food can be found in almost every corner of the Bay Area. In contrast, in both Los Angeles and New York, the best Chinese restaurants are located in a relatively small number of geographic pockets, with large areas of these latter two communities devoid of worthwhile Chinese eating. (more…)
In perusing the various food message boards, a recurring request which makes me a little sad is the one from first time visitors to places like San Francisco, Manhattan or Toronto asking for recommendations for a great Chinese meal in Chinatown. I get sad because in most North American cities having a historic core Chinatown, the best Chinese food tends not to be in Chinatown, but in outlying areas where tourists are unlikely to visit. And indeed, in most of these Chinatowns the Chinese food pales greatly in comparison to the suburban food. As a result, Chinatown is often not the place to find that great meal. (more…)