A Neighborhood Guide to Chinatown's Small Businesses, Street Art, and More

Immerse yourself in the stories of Chinatown's vibrant and resilient community.


A mural in Chinatown NYC by artist Jocelyn Tsaih. The colorful blue, red, pink, and yellow mural depicts three abstract figures emerging from lotus leaves and extending their hands to one another. A stop on the Chinatown audio walking tour, this Chinatown tour by artists Chromic Duo, Lucy Yao and Dorothy Chan, represents the resilience and strength of the Chinatown community. You can hear more about this mural and other neighborhood murals on the Chinatown city walking tour via the Gesso app, a mobile audio tour app for urban explorers.


Nearby the Lower East Side and Little Italy, Chinatown is a NYC neighborhood that awakens the senses with its bold murals greeting passersby and the scrumptious smell of family recipes wafting through the air. When you picture Chinatown, you might immediately think of the annual Lunar New Year festivities, but there’s so much to know and love about this neighborhood year round.



On the left standing is Dorothy Chan, and on the right sitting in front of her is Lucy Yao, together they are known professionally as Chromic Duo, and they created an audio walking tour, Listen to Chinatown, to honor the community in NYC's Chinatown neighborhood. Chromic Duo creates art as Third-Culture-Kids discovering their voice within the vast Asian American diaspora. Their work prompts listeners to feel connected to their own humanity and story, by creating spaces to celebrate, grieve and heal. They encourage people to explore with curiosity, and to see the extraordinary in the ordinary through sonic and visual art.

Walking along Chinatown’s streets, artists Dorothy Chan and Lucy Yao, known professionally as Chromic Duo, reflected on what Chinatown means to them and to the community members that cherish the neighborhood’s resilient spirit.


Below are a few highlights from the GPS-triggered audio walking tour they created to honor Chinatown’s community. You can go for a walk and experience the audio tour IRL here. All proceeds from the audio tour will be donated to Welcome to Chinatown’s Longevity Fund, a small business relief fund that fundraises for the distribution of grants to small businesses in Manhattan’s Chinatown.




Walking along Essex, Canal, and Ludlow Street…



A mural in the NYC neighborhood of Chinatown by Peach Tao, a local artist, illustrator, and co-founder of the Chinatown Mural Project. The mural features the Dragon and Lion dance in the center, surrounded by people from all walks of life, celebrating by taking selfies and setting off party-poppers. In the background of the mural, you can see iconic Chinatown establishments: Historic building PS23 and the Transfiguration Church, plus restaurants like WoHop and HopKee that have been neighborhood stables for decades. More information about Peach's artwork is available in the Gesso app's Chinatown neighborhood city guide.


One of the murals you’ll currently find in the neighborhood is called “Dragon Lion Medley” by Peach Tao, a local artist, illustrator, and co-founder of the Chinatown Mural Project. Her style is very whimsical, and her work is dedicated to reflecting the history and life of the Chinese American community in Chinatown. Another one of her current murals called “Zodiac Dim sum” is also featured on the audio tour (and you’ll also hear from Peach herself!). You can check out more of her work @peacheeblue on Instagram.



Walking along Division Street…



Exterior of a brick building that is home to the Fong On family-run tofu shop in the NYC Chinatown neighborhood. More history behind this local business is featured in the Listen to Chinatown audio walking tour.


Just a few steps away is Fong On, located on 81 Division Street, and they also happen to be the oldest family-run tofu shop in New York City. They’ve been selling handmade tofu and sweet rice cakes since 1933! If you plan on stopping by for a snack, Dorothy and Lucy’s favorites are the sweet tofu pudding with ginger syrup and the mix-and-match rice cakes.



En route to Columbus Park Pavilion…



Exterior of 83 Bayard Street with green, yellow, and red signs welcoming into the shop, home to Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodles in Chinatown NYC. 


At 83 Bayard Street, you’ll find Tonii’s Fresh Rice Noodles, which was opened by Liz Yee and her husband Brian in October 2019. The restaurant is named after Liz's eldest daughter, who is named after Liz’s uncle and chef, Tony, who passed away in 2009. In the audio tour, Dorothy and Lucy collaborated with poet JiaoYang Li to compose a poem honoring Uncle Tony and his legacy.








Not too far is Yu and Me bookstore. Lucy Yu opened the bookstore in December 2021 to give the community a place to connect and feel a sense of security. Reflecting on her store opening, she shares, “I wanted to do things for communities that look like me – immigrant communities. Something that makes them feel a little less alone, a little less scared in the world. Our immigrant communities can come together and find a lot of connection with each other.”



Exterior of a brick building that is home to Yu and Me bookstore in the NYC Chinatown neighborhood. A few people are standing in front of the store, holding bags and on their phone. 


To hear more about these community members and listen to more stories as you’re walking in Chinatown, access Chromic Duo’s audio walk here. The audio tour will only be available during the summer of 2022, so be sure to check it out during your next walk in the neighborhood.



 


Chromic Duo creates art as Third-Culture-Kids discovering their voice within the vast Asian American diaspora. Their work prompts listeners to feel connected to their own humanity and story, by creating spaces to celebrate, grieve and heal. They encourage people to explore with curiosity, and to see the extraordinary in the ordinary through sonic and visual art.


In addition to Chinatown, you can explore more neighborhoods in New York City with Gesso, an audio tour app for urban explorers - browse audio tours!


Share your favorite Chinatown moments with us @gesso.app and @chromic_duo on Instagram.