Barrio Chino is very conscious of its environs—the name translates, after all, to "Chinese neighborhood"—and rather than let its position as a Mexican restaurant in an otherwise Mexican-light area, it takes the ball, dunks it, and flies through the hoop full-bodied. A list of tequilas that would floor W.C. Fields is on offer as you wait for a table or long after you've sat down to eat, and with such a low set of prices, it's almost impossible not to feel as if you've under-ordered. Luckily, the food is so fantastic that you'll be glad you didn't leave yourself an extra plate of tacos that your tongue will beg you to finish long after your stomach has thrown in the towel.
Barrio Chino is located in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. While this could apply to most neighborhoods in this guide, the Lower East Side might be the best example yet of an area that was once down-at-the-heels, full of recent immigrants striving towards the American dream and long-time residents just trying to make ends meet, and is now as expensive as anywhere else in Manhattan, filled to the gills on weekends with the bridge-and-tunnel crowd looking to eat fancy and party hard. The Lower East Side is boxed in between Alphabet City and Chinatown and between Little Italy, Nolita, and the East Rive, running roughing south from Delancey Street to FDR Drive and from the East River west to Allen Street. In the last 150 years, the Lower East Side has been populated by successive waves of lower-income German, Irish, and Jewish immigrants, and has seen extensive immigration of Chinese and Latin populations in recent decades. Although the well-known Tenement Museum on Orchard Street chronicles the historically difficult, even squalid, conditions in the neighborhood’s tenements, rents have risen to four, six, even eight times what they were just five years ago. Today, Ludlow and Orchard Streets reflect the newest wave of immigrants: the dot-com and downtown crowd. In fact, an unbelievable array of new boutiques, restaurants, stores, fabulous bars and music clubs compete with the area’s long-established tailors, fabric dealers, button wholesalers, religious artifact suppliers, pickle vendors, and Kosher wine distributors. The neighborhood’s crowded parks and outdoor recreation areas reflect the pastiche of New York’s ethnically diverse groups, especially in summer, and a dizzying array of music from around the world can be heard literally on every corner. Take a stroll around to see some of the city’s oldest synagogues, famous delicatessens, shopping streets, and hang out with the hippest crowds. Art enthusiasts will be interested to know that the mother lode of art galleries in New York's Chelsea neighborhood has seen tectonic shifts, albeit slowly, to the Lower East Side, with trendy smaller new galleries popping up here and there. Many attribute this gallery migration to the Lower East Side to the presence of the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery, the first art museum ever constructed from the ground up in this neighborhood. Nightlife on the Lower East Side, especially on the weekends, is always rocking, with almost as many people cruising its narrow streets as there are inside its numerous bars, restaurants and live music venues. Up and coming alternative rock bands play at Bowery Ballroom on Delancey Street and Mercury Lounge on East Houston Street, while lesser known acts perform at smaller venues, such as the performance space in Pianos and the Living Room on Ludlow Street, or by booking Arlene's Grocery on Stanton Street. If you're looking to grab a bite to eat before concert-hoping from venue to venue, try Apizz, which features great Southern Italian cuisine and Prune, which is renowned for its fine American dining. The Lower East Side is definitely moving upwardly in its hotel and real estate offerings. The growth of this neighborhood has brought several new luxury boutique hotels, including Hotel On Rivington and the deluxe boutique Blue Moon Hotel on Orchard Street.
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