Chinatown presents unique challenges for NYC Food Crawl. While geographically it is desirable because of its density and its low price point, the language barrier made it difficult to inform proprietors in advance. Most hung up rudely before NYC Food Crawl could even begin explaining about the crawl, saying loudly "No English, no English."
For a record-breaking NYC Food Crawl attendance of more than 160 participants, this meant some of the smaller locations on the crawl had difficulty keeping up with demand and ran out of pork buns before the crawl had finished. Most of the negative feedback related to this crawl [see bottom of this post] had to do with overcrowding and with locations running out of pork buns.
It is very interesting to see how popular NYC Food Crawl has grown over the past 5 months. While part of me is thrilled to see so many people enjoying the effort that goes into preparing for the crawl each month, at the same time the steep increase in participants makes it harder and harder to pick locations and food themes that can handle crowds of 150+ people in a 2-hour period. Maybe there is such thing as being too popular?
At the end of the day, you can't please everyone. Some people want more locations, others want less. Some want places closer together, others farther apart. Some people want meat themes, others want vegetarian themes. All we can do is take the positive and negative feedback and try each month to make the crawls a little bit better for the larger constituency of crawlers.
NYC Food Crawl hopes most participants had a good time eating pork buns as well as exploring *other* delicacies or going rogue to locations off of the map. At the very least, I hope you enjoyed the opportunity to meet some new people and bond over shared food. Remember Rules #2 and #4 of NYC Food Crawl: "Fast Food Takes Patience" and "There's more to life than pork buns."
And now on to the voting results...
The winner of the February Pork Bun Crawl with 37% of the vote for best-tasting pork bun is:
Mei Li Wah Bakery
The default winners of the best tasting NON-pork bun with a tie of 16% each are:
Fay Da Bakery
Interestingly, the actual winner of the NON-pork bun taste test with 24% of the vote is "Other," meaning there is plenty of competition across Chinatown for other buns and baked goods on a future crawl!
Other locations included in the crawl:
Lung Moon Bakery
Vegetarian Dim Sum House
[No picture available - they ran out of pork buns at beginning of crawl]
Golden Fung Wah Bakery
Here is the detailed break-out among the 6 locations included on the crawl:
Here is an example of one of the 4 routes respondents followed:
Different routes varied in popularity and attendance, but surprisingly more than 80% of respondents visited 5 or all 6 of the locations on the route! I think this can be attributed to convenience (proximity between all locations was 4 blocks total) and price (generally less than $1/bun)
About the respondents:
160+ people attended the February Pork Bun Crawl; 83 people submitted responses (approximately half of attendees) after the crawl
The gender split of respondents was 61% female and 31% male, nearly identical to last month's gender split.
40% of respondents live in Manhattan, with another 40% living in either Brooklyn or Queens. Queens had an especially strong showing this month!
83% of respondents rated their satisfaction with their February Pork Bun Crawl experience a "4" or "5" on a scale of 1-5; For the first time, we had a single respondent indicate a negative experience with a "1" response, likely due to overcrowding resulting in one of the locations running out of pork buns.
Only 11% of respondents had attended a previous NYC Food Crawl. The turnover between crawls is surprising, indicating most people attend due to the food theme rather than an interest in the concept of the monthly crawl.
Other sources than the NYC Food Crawl Facebook Group were popular this month. Only 55% of respondents are members of the FB group, while 31% heard of the crawl from other sources such as Tasting Table, The Skint, word of mouth/friends, and Twitter.
Requested foods for future crawls from respondents include: bacon, guacamole, arepas, spring rolls, egg rolls, cookies, frozen yogurt, tacos, bubble tea, fish 'n chips, pierogis, ice cream, fried chicken, sliders, burgers, matcha, empanadas, ramen, takoyaki, pie, gelato, pizza, truffles, french fries, donuts, crepes, hot wings, sausages, and more...
Positive & Negative Feedback from the February Pork Bun Crawl respondents:
"Was a lot of fun. Met some interesting people. Several of the places ran out of pork buns."
"Vegetarian Dim Sum House "pork" bun was basically inedible. Golden Fung Wong Bakery didn't have any left. And Tai Pan Bakery's was the best - on your list. But we stopped at Nam Wah on Doyers and their pork bun was really the tops - very homemade flavor, great onions inside with the pork - yum! The baked ones are best for eating on the run while the steamed ones work well with soppy dinners. And our group had an extra treat - a tour guide!"
"It wasn't any fun. I was really uncomfortable with the whole thing. People were crazy unaware of the businesses we were mobbing. Holding doors open in the cold, crowding in together instead of sending one scout. It was embarrassing. Saying "well, if anyone spoke english when I called" doesn't make it okay. There definitely needed to be advanced notice so shops weren't scrambling to figure out what on earth was up with all these people ordering the same (tiny) thing."
"Nothing bad at all. I had a blast. This is the best idea EVAR!!"
"This was an awesome idea with great people. Turned out to be a great way to meet people. Now I know where to go to get really good pork buns." "The best baked bun was at Lung Moon Bakery. Thin, crispy, very different. The worst baked bun was at Fay Da Bakery. Very dry! The steamed bun at Mei Li Wah was the best, but Tai Pan Bakery was a close second."
"This wasn't your fault since you don't speak Chinese and couldn't call ahead properly (TOTALLY understandable), but there was a lot of disappointment when we got to some of the places and they ran out of pork buns (and were rather frustrated at us). But, we did try sponge cakes and moon cakes, etc. so it made up for it! (We know you warned us about that situation too!) This was a lot of fun, and I look forward to attending future ones, when the weather is warmer and we'll be visiting English speaking establishments (I do LOVE pork buns though, great pick)."
"The idea of grouping up and getting to know people worked fabulously. The food was good but the people were better. Thanks for arranging this. Genius!"
"this is a great idea and it's being executed so well! case and point: today my friend and i arrived a few minutes too late for the start of the crawl and missed the handout of the maps. BUT thankfully i was able to follow the route via twitter until later linking up with another group (who was nice enough to take us in). this is a really great way to bring chill people together over good food and just enjoy a sunday afternoon. keep up the good work, and i can't wait to bring all my friends to the next crawl!"
"Our team quickly realized that the pork bun joints were all slammed and we got tired of pork buns anyway, so we went rogue. Two of us knew that Sun Say Kai had good buns and we liked that better than Tai Pan. Then we went to Shanghai Cafe for soup dumplings. It was all great! Spatch, thanks for organizing!"
"Fun, nice to meet other people as well as visit old haunts. Three of places (Lung Moon, Vegetarian Dim Sum House, and Golden Fung Wong) told me that they had not been notified to expect crowds of people (I had these conversations in Chinese). In particular, Golden Fung Wong was especially upset, because they sold out of pork buns shortly after noon, and would have made more if they had known (so I didn't count them in my ratings). I am happy to speak with the places beforehand if you put out a call for Chinese speakers in the future."
"Too many people and not enough locations."
"Appreciate the upfront explanatories on the corner lamp-post. a lot of extra work on your part, but went a long way w/ us!"
"I enjoyed your intro at the beginning. It would've been nice to have a little more history as to why you selected those certain places or random facts about them. You should work with Foursquare and make a badge out of the crawls."
"I think these events need to be a little more organized. I felt that the locations weren't prepared for the number of people attending the crawl."
"I would definitely bring friends next time. You were well organized the the maps and dividing up the groups."
"Too bad some places were out, but we definitely found more than enough food! Mei Li Wah had amazing coconut rolls. New favorite place in Chinatown."
"The person in charge was great. She was funny, interesting, concise. Everyone was motivated with very little, if any, confusion."
"Great crawl! captains were a great idea. holding money and only sending one person inside was a much better system than clogging up each place and slowing everyone down. thanks so much!"
"Followed too limited of a path. There were likely better places farther away."
"My group went rogue and had a blast we ate some on and some off list."