Strategy: Where To Eat Your Jewish Christmas Dinner In NYC
Here's your best shot at scoring a December 25 table at New York's Chinese restaurants
New Yorkers of all religions know that Christmas traditions aren’t just for Christians. While gentiles are known to spend the holiday eating ham with their families after the gift-giving hysteria is over, Jews in the U.S. observe a well-documented and Google trends-verified unofficial ritual of “celebrating” by going out to eat at Chinese restaurants, which typically remain open on December 24 and 25 while most eateries close their doors.
As the phenomenon has picked up popularity, crowded Chinese restaurants have become increasingly commonplace on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—especially in New York City, home to the highest density of Jewish residents in the U.S. at eight percent. So, what’s a New York Jew to do? In order to find out where you have the best chances at getting a table, Vocativ used census data to analyze the number of Jewish residents per borough compared to the number of Chinese restaurants per region, according to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Vocativ’s analysis found that while nearly a third of all registered Chinese restaurants are situated in Brooklyn, the significant Jewish population there makes it more likely you’ll be crowded out of your favorite haunt. Instead, your best bet is to head up to the Bronx. Despite having the second lowest number of Chinese restaurants of all five boroughs, census data revealed that only three percent of the population is Jewish.
While it’s hard to determine the exact history of the annual observance, the Jewish Week claims that the close relationship American Jews have with Chinese food began in the late 1800s in the Lower East Side of New York, where Jewish and Chinese immigrants lived in close proximity. The fact that Asian food traditionally neglects cheese added to the appeal for those just beginning to push the boundaries of kosher eating. As a result, Jewish Week writes that Jewish immigrants in New York “were more familiar with sushi than with gefilte fish” by the end of the 20th century.
The general manager of one high-end Chinese restaurant in Manhattan told First We Feast he typically books 1,300 reservations on Christmas day. In “A Kosher Christmas: ‘Tis the Season to Be Jewish,” author Joshua Eli Palut retells one New Yorker’s not-so-joyous experience posted in the comments section of a Serious Eats article:
“Last night [Chinatown] was pretty packed. The quote for the wait at Grand Szechuan (by the Manhattan Bridge) was ‘very long time.’ Lines out the door at Joe’s Shanghai and it’s sister restaurant Joe’s Ginger. Same at Ping’s. NY Noodletown was pretty packed too but at least the line was not out the door. I never knew it would be so packed on Christmas day, but it is [a] madhouse.”
Mazel tov, New Yorkers. Chow down.