It might not be the first thing you think about when it comes to New York City, but the there are some wonderful Asian brands, shops, and food you can't find most everywhere else in the country. Let me take you to six of my favorite stops from my recent trip over the holidays.
1. Besfren on East 32nd Street and 5th Avenue
Innisfree Blackhead Out Balm, MEDIHEAL X BTS face mask box, 3CE velvet lip tint from Besfren Beauty
This adorable, spacious shop stocks Korean brands like 3CE and Innisfree (which has its own shop on Broadway), along with other Asian beauty favorites like Shiseido. They boast having more than 60 k-beauty brands and over 2,000 Korean skincare and makeup items, including a wall of face masks. I got a box of MEDIHEAL X BTS face masks and a 3CE velvet lip tint to try. If you are into collecting toys, they stock blind boxes, including Tokdoki figures. It gets even better with their cafe next door filled with not only coffee and cakes, but specialty drinks like Iced Taro Teapuccino and chiffon doughnuts.
2. Wo Hop on Mott Street
Roast Duck Chow Fon and Beef Congee from Wo Hop
There was a long line out the door even on Christmas day, so you know it must be good! After we made it down narrow stairs into a basement area, a room decorated with dollar bills, photos, and long mirrors on the walls greeted us. Wo Hop boasts authenticity and their huge menu and quick, flavorful food didn't let my family and me down. Curious to see what they thought, I sent photos of the food to two friends in China and they assured me everything looked amazing.
3. Koryo Bookstore on West 32nd Street
WayV Season's Greetings 2020, WayV Take Over the Moon album, NCT, Seventeen, and Stray Kids collector's cards, a pack of Seventeen posters, and Stray Kids 1st Photobook Stay in London from Koryo Bookstore
Any fan of Korean music and books could spend way too much time (and money) in this pop culture haven. They stock recent CD releases and sold-out-online merchandise. They felt a little pricey, but it evened out for me since I could pick out favorites in person and snag a few wish list items I could no longer order online. A brightly lit cosmetic shop was attached, along with a small selection of clothing upstairs.
4. Let's Meat on 5th Avenue
Chicken, beef, and vegetables cooking on the cap-style Korean grill on a table at Let's Meat
If it wasn't for the huge "Korean BBQ" sign hung out front, we wouldn't have stopped inside. But once we set foot through the doors, we knew we had to stay from the tables of families cooking heaps of meat and vegetables on the grills in the middle of the tables to the unique metallic interior design. According to their website, they use a specialized cap-style grill imported from Korean and are the first all you can eat Korean BBQ stop in New York City. To make the experience even better, while we filled up on sake, beef, and kimchi, they played popular Korean pop songs from a variety of Kpop groups over the past decade.
5. Kinokuniya New York bookstore on 6th Avenue
Idolish7 manga volumes 1-7 from Kinokuniya New York
Whether you prefer to read books in English or Japanese, this store has multiple stories of choices for you! Kinokuniya New York is bustling with Japanese books on almost every topic, including a floor of manga in both languages. I also saw quite a few older magazines, like a Gothic & Lolita Bible from 2013. Despite the large space, the staff was attentive and spoke to each customer in Japanese or English depending on the customer's preference. Along with sections for stationery, cards, DVDs, and home goods, they also offer Japanese magazine subscriptions. I happily left with a set of Idolish7 manga I was planning to try and locate second-hand.
6. MUJI Time Square Store on West 40th Street or MUJI Fifth Avenue on 5th Avenue
A section of organizational tools at MUJI
Stationery fans can't deny Japan's reputation for aesthetic, quality creations. MUJI is my go-to for ink and gel pens and their simplistic notebooks come in sizes for all needs. I confess I haven't paid attention to their home goods and clothes before, but after experiencing the beautiful wooden interior with the soft glow of diffusers and simplistic white accents, I'm completely sold and will definitely be peeking around their other departments.
I felt like I traveled the world after all these great experiences, yet everything was only an easy walk or a single subway ride away from the Time's Square area where we and many vacationers like to stay. Next time you're in the Big Apple, be sure to hit up some culture stops before that Broadway musical or walk through Central Park!