The 5 Best Chinese Food Restaurants Open On Christmas
It's almost time for the best holiday of the year: Chinese Food and a Movie Day! That's right, December 25 is that magical day when everything in the city is closed and quiet expect for Chinese restaurants (always their busiest of the year) and movie theaters (order your tickets before you show up; literally everything sells out). And though it may have started as a Jewish tradition here in NYC–when I was kid my Hanukkah-celebrating friends would brag how they had everything all to themselves–nowadays it is 100% an ecumenical celebration. Virtually every Chinese restaurant in the city is open, so your choices are legion, but here are five suggestions for first-rate food in casual, even quick-bite settings, always a relief after all of the bustle and entertaining of Christmas.
Kings County Imperial: Williamsburg
One of my favorite neighborhood spots of the year was over near the Lorimer stop on the L, Kings County Imperial. A labor of love by owners Tracy Jane Young and Josh Grinker, this charming, slightly ramshackle restaurant features dishes (and interpretations of dishes) from all over China, particularly the central region, where the couple traveled extensively and became obsessed with cuisine. And what the food my lack in "authenticity", it more than makes up for with Grinker's skill and care in the kitchen, and Young's warm and affable front-of-the-house vibe. Plus: they have soy sauce on tap! Eat here, then walk about a half mile to the still-new-feeling Williamsburg Cinema on Grand and Driggs.
Han Dynasty: East Village and Upper West Side
Oftentimes cult favorites in other cities don't transition well to New York. Thankfully, Han Dynasty is an exception, a beloved Philadelphia Sichuan chain that has settled in nicely here in the big town. Chef Han Chiang's menu is filled with fiery crowd-pleasers like Dan Dan Noodles, Dry Pepper Chicken Wings, and Pickled Chili Pork (there are tamer dishes as well), but everything's first-rate here, at both locations, and my favorite dish might be the no-joke spicy Beef and Tripe in Chili Oil. The UWS venue is strangely grand; the East Village spot more cozy and casual.
Red Farm: West Village and Upper West Side
Red Farm owner Ed Schoenfeld and chef Joe Ng have been exciting Chinese food fans for years now in their two always-hopping locations, and no wonder: not only are these dishes fun and creative–Pac-Man Shrimp Dumplings! Katz's Pastrami Egg Roll! Nueske's Bacon and Egg Fried Rice!–they are exceptionally delicious as well. The less gimmicky items are just as good, too, from the Three Chili Chicken to the Udon Noodles with Grilled Short Ribs to the Jumbo Shrimp with Cashews. Red Farm accepts reservations for parties of eight and up, so if you have a big crew, I'd get on that now.
Spicy Village: Chinatown
Although it's been a couple of years since it's has been anything close to a secret Chinatown spot–Mark Bittman blew it up in 2013 in the Times, much to the dismay of regulars who enjoyed NOT waiting 45 minutes for a table–Spicy Village has kept both its hole-in-the-wall charm as well its crave-worthy signature dish, Spicy Big Tray Chicken, intact. If you're not doing take-out, don't show up at prime dinner time and expect to get a seat at one of the rickety tables under fluorescent lights with views of faded calendars and oddball knickknacks. Late afternoon is usually good, though on Christmas who knows? Bring your own beer and wine, get that chicken with the shop's excellent noodles, plus a few of pancakes dishes, maybe a vegetable, and you are feasting for about $10 a person.
Xi'an Famous Foods: East Village, Midtown, Upper West and East Sides, Chinatown
Rarely has a restaurant expansion gone as well as at Xi'ian Famous Foods, which started in Flushing in the basement of the Golden Shopping Mall in 2005 and, in the past few years, has popped up all over Manhattan. I think I've eaten in every one of six Manhattan outlets, and everything has always been exactly what I was craving. Resisting enormous profits, the family-owned Xi'an Famous refuses to deliver–the beautiful hand-pulled noodles, present in most dishes, should be slurped down immediately–but eating here is quick-bite perfection. And Xi'an Famous hasn't tamped down the heat or the flavors even in the most family-friendly neighborhoods. Powerful stuff, expertly made.