Chow Down in Chinatown

By Jenni Rebecca Stephenson

I wouldn't call myself a Foodie (with a capital F), but my waistline may tell a different story, and I certainly do my fair share of exploring the diverse and interesting cuisines of Houston. So when I first came upon the Chow Down in Chinatown Facebook group, I was thrilled to find so many informed recommendations for our city's Asian restaurants. Looking for the freshest local siu mai? No problem! Want 150 different recommendations for the best banh mi in town? They got you!

Along with over 13K other Houstonians, I've been the beneficiary of this great network for several months now. But it wasn't until I dove a little deeper into the group description a few weeks ago that I fully appreciated the effort. From their page:

Chowdown in Chinatown Houston was created to support Houston's Asian-American community and the independently owned restaurant businesses that were significantly impacted from misinformed rumors and fears regarding COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic year. Our group is dedicated to providing informative and insightful details of available Asian-cuisine and restaurants in Houston, as well as to highlight modified business hours, availability for dine-in/delivery options or precautions taken regarding safety and social distancing. 

While the Facebook Group Page's namesake was initially created and intended to raise awareness for businesses struggling in Houston's Chinatown/International District area, that has since been expanded to highlight all Asian-owned restaurants in the Greater Houston area. Together with positive reinforcement and loving support for the Asian-American community, we can continue in helping to raise each other up and make a difference, one meal at a time.

I don’t know about you, but that positive message of community support certainly resonates with me… and coincidentally, their motivation is one of the primary reasons we at Asia Society felt it was important to launch a virtual version of our annual Night Market event.    

The group's leadership team—Stevie Vu, Terry Wong, Lonny Yu, Natasha Emmanuelle, Mzelle Nguyen, and Gilbert Landras—includes a mix of hospitality, restaurant, and PR/marketing professionals, as well as entrepreneurs. As their time and capacity has allowed, they have provided pro bono help to small mom and pop businesses who have faced tech, language, and marketing challenges during this particularly difficult time.

To take their assistance one step further, the team has collected and shared resources for restaurant worker assistance and even organized virtual events and promotions to call attention to local Asian restaurants. Most notably, they launched the Pay-It-Forward Initiative to help increase foot traffic and to-go orders for local independent restaurant businesses. (You can visit the group’s Linktree or read more about this effort here.)

So, this is my official shout-out to the fine folks who started the Chow Down group. Not only have they created one of my go-to resources for local AAPI restaurant recommendations, they’ve gone above and beyond for their community, and I—for one—am grateful. I hope the rest of you will hop on over to Facebook and join us in the group. Who knows, maybe you can add your delicious recommendations and send me on my next food adventure!