The Boston vs. NYC Chinese Food Challenge

This is replacing our senior prom photo. Made by Owen.

There is a deviously clever set of College Humor posts entitled Drunk Girl/High Guy where a drunk girl in New York and a high guy in LA attempt to perform the same task while under different influences. Although they are separated by distance they are still hanging out in spirit — and DJ and I are in a similar situation so we thought that this would be a productive project to undertake.

Since DJ and I would never stoop to such a level where we would deliberately be drunk or high in public (uhhh) we decided that we would record our actions without intentionally being under the influence. Of course that failed miserably.
Below are our separate adventures in Boston and NYC Chinatown, where we attempt to order the most “interesting” food possible.

Boston

I’ve spent time in Boston and New York City’s Chinese neighborhoods for very different reasons: I often found myself stranded, lost, and/or bumming cigarettes in NYC’s Chinatown after many a ride on the dubious Fung Wah Bus, which I often rode between home (outside of Boston) and Long Island, where I regrettably spent two of my most college-y “college years.” What I learned about New York Chinatown is that it’s a bad place to ask your Roommate With The Car to pick you up from, and that the Chinese there smoke strange, blue-and-gold filtered cigarettes that taste terrible. That’s the extent of my experience with Little China NYC. I spent my final two college years in Boston, at a school who’s campus bordered Chinatown. Given the location, you’d expect that I might have some insight into the district, but I don’t. I know where to get a full plate of food from a to-go counter for $3 and I know where the expensive strip club is, and that’s pretty much all I know about New England’s alleged sole Chinese neighborhood. But here’s what every person in Boston (read: every drunk person) will tell you about Chinatown: it’s the only place where you can get a sit-down meal after 2AM. And that was the plan, to somehow end up half-drunk and eating strange foods and maybe drinking beer illegally in Chinatown late-night.

The Pregame

I spent my single-digit evening hours cooking dinner and harping to my friends about how we HAD to end up in Chinatown that night, for the sake of this very piece. They seemed ok with it, as they were busy getting White Boy/Girl Wasted for a salsa class they weren’t going to be on time for. As I contemplated my own fate at said salsa class, my friend called me. It was her birthday that evening, so we made impromptu plans to go out in Cambridge, where we would meet the dancers after their class. Flash forward to the whole crew, salsa-dancers, birthday girl, and I, at a Cambirdge dive bar around 11:30PM consuming birthday cake shots (regrettable) and Gansett tallboys at a pretty good pace. Things are getting weird; an all-too-friendly stranger buys us a round and talks about his kid who goes to MIT, friends get thrown out, and I won’t shut up about Chinatown. After shutting down the bar with the stranger bankrolling our bender, I’m in a cab with one very drunk Owen, one not drunk enough Ian, and what appeared to be an uncharacteristically high-spirited, albeit drunk, Emily, all long-time friends. Minutes into the cab ride Emily’s passed out. I wish I took a picture.

The Game

We rouse Emily as we arrive at Chow Chau City, our cabby’s recommendation for late-night eats, around 2:45AM. We are all taken aback by the overwhelming police presence at the restaurant. The place is huge–three floors huge–and there are drunk people and police everywhere. In the bathroom, I remember the “cold tea” rumor which I had been planning to put to the test that night. For years, I’ve been told that if you order a “cold tea” in Chinatown you can get a beer after last call (it’s illegal to serve alcohol in Massachusetts after 2:00AM). I promptly ask a fellow bathroom user if he’d heard the myth, and he assures me that he’d been successful several times, and that all you have to do is keep a straight face. I’m hopeful, but still doubting my illegal-beer-acquiring chances due to police presence and also the fact that nobody else appears to be drinking anything but water out of creepy brown plastic cups. Maybe they’re very sneaky about their illegal-beer-serving? Back at the table, I insist on ordering raw jellyfish, which was (obviously?) a mistake, as well as some normal-person food. At this point, I start recording everything on my iPhone, voice-memo style. I guess I thought the voice-memo would be funny and/or useful for the writing of this piece, but I couldn’t bear to listen to the sound of my own drunken voice, let alone Owen stammering “raw jellyfish” in a slurry Irish twang for more than a few minutes. From this point onward, our night consistently declines in interestingness: The cold tea is a bust, and the raw jellyfish is disgusting (think jell-o, but off-white in color, with a slightly crunchy texture, and a taste that can only be described as “burnt sea”). Emily ended up passed out in the bathroom and not responding to my singular, “where r u? we’re worried” text message. Apparently, she was woken up and removed from the restaurant some time later. Ian, Owen, and I took some pictures with wall-Pandas and called it a night after an Awkward Lingering Eye Contact Situation with some ladies who I think/hope were prostitutes. They had scary tattoos and weren’t nice-looking. The end.

Owen makes friends wherever he goes.

The Postgame

Notes for next Chinatown adventure: Be drunker. Go to a shittier restaurant. Avoid Chinese gangs. Engage purported prostitutes. Seek out happy-ending massage joints. Stay away from raw jellyfish.

NYC

When DJ and I decided to take the Chinese food challenge, I was less-than-secretly super excited. NYC Chinatown is a six minute subway ride for me, and I used to make the journey nearly every day when my friend M lived there this summer. He would come home from his finance job and I’d get back from my advertising job and we’d go up to his apartment, drop off our heavy bags and break open a bottle of whiskey before venturing to the Chinese restaurant next door. We were never very adventurous with our order because the $1.25 dumplings couldn’t be beat and we’re cheap. Before the head shaking of disapproval begins, please take note that C&L dumpling house has an A rating and we never got sick from it.

Over the next several hours we would eat, drink, plot for our future, look for free open bars and plan the night ahead. We have deemed the years until we turn 25 “the olde times” because we hope to eventually look back at our lot and fondly laugh at our post-grad years from our ivory towers/penthouses. It seems like this all happened years ago beacuse so much has occured since then (he went back to UPenn and I switched jobs) but the area’s foul smells and lingering sense of apathy and ennui wax nostalgic for me.

The Pregame

Whenever I take friends to C&L dumpling house it means that we’re close enough so they won’t judge me and/or immediately assume they’ll spend the rest of the night vomiting from a huge $3.50 platter of beef and broccoli.

In my constant and continuing quest for maturity and becoming a better person, my friend MH and I decided to attend a book store’s event where one of my favorite writers – the infamous @boobsradley (Julianne Smolinski) — would be speaking. It should also be noted that there was complimentary wine included in the deal. After work we met in the streets of SoHo to find an appropriate bar to pre-game at, and ended up at an Irish pub that advertised a Guinness bomb special. After ducking in and becoming sufficiently tipsy, we decided to end the night at a lounge where my friend was promoting that night. He said it was cool if I brought a guy, “…unless he’s wearing a T-shirt and sneakers. But noone you hang out with wears that anyway, haha.”

At this moment MH and I both glanced at his casual outfit, and realized we weren’t getting free bottle service that night. Luckily there was a Housing Works (thrift store chain) next door and he purchased a fetching tan blazer and brown loafers for the night ahead.

Unfortunately when we arrived at the bookstore it was announced that Julianne Smolinski cancelled at the last minute, so we stayed for two speakers and two glasses of wine before deciding it was time to make the subway trip to Mecca: Trader Joe’s wine shop.

After purchasing two bottles of two buck Chuck a piece, we went to a bus stop to catch a ride to ChinaTown for a dumpling feast. Thanks to my emergency wine opener, we ended up breaking open a bottle of fine Chardonnay at a bus stop in Union Square like the connosseiurs we are. Where we acquired cups, I forget and don’t really want to know.

After balancing my cup o’ wine between my ample bosoms to avoid suspicion from the bus driver, we continued to drink as our chariot took us further and further downtown. At last we reached Bowery, and descended like Cinderella anxiously awaiting the ball.

C&L has never mentioned that they are a BYOB, but apparently our collective $2.50 spent was enough to earn us a few cups of wine without harassment. To save ourselves a few hundred calories and the ever constant feeling of regret the next morning, we high tailed it out of there to kill some time on my roof deck and finish up the wine before heading out into the night.

Unfortunately my tolerance is not as iron-clad as it was in college (seriously, it was nearly super human) so after another bottle I admitted I didn’t plan on leaving my apartment. We chatted for a while, and then it was time for MH to scamper off and for me to curl into the fetal position and get a decent few hours of shut-eye before work.

The game.

DJ and I had originally planned to order the most exotic looking thing in Chinatown, but at the last moment I chickened out because I don’t have a death wish. And I really wanted dumplings. MH agreed to meet me for dumplings round 2 and we ventured over for Sunday ”brunch” at C&L for our $1.25 order of awesome. We soon parted ways, he for a “friend” and myself for a picnic in Prospect Park. Of course the picnic entailed wine and no food, because my friends are awesome.

Post-game

Although I wasn’t very adventurous in my food choice, I feel as if the times had while eating those delicious dumplings would be disservice to C&L and Chinatown as a whole if I didn’t get them. As you see, M and I are the self-proclaimed “Dumpling Queens” of Chinatown and all shall fear, loathe and envy us.

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