Living in Prospect Heights, on the edge of Crown Heights, I see on every corner the forces of "urban" culture and gentrification duking it out. There's tony cafes with $50 prix fixe meals next to storefront churches, next to cafes serving $3 cups of coffee, besides auto repair shops with scary junkyard dogs. But how do you determine how ghetto your block is?
I realized the other day that one indicator of the relative wealth and "ghetto-ness" of a neighborhood is the kind of Chinese restaurant you find there. Here's some indicators:
- If your block has a Chinese restaurant where you order from a tiny slit in a wall of bulletproof glass, that's a good sign that you are in the ghetto.
- If the most popular item is chicken wings and fried rice, you are most definitely in the 'hood.
- If the restaurant specializes in a particular kind of Chinese cuisine — szechuan, dim sum, Taiwanese — you have left the ghetto.
- If they offer brown rice as an option, you are in gentrified territory.
- If the menu is not in English, you are in Chinatown. Unless it's in Spanish, then you are in Washington Heights.
- If the employees that work there are caucasian, you are in the suburbs.
Any indicators that I missed?
I just love that in America, Chinese has become so ubiquitous that you can find so many different manifestations of it, nearly everywhere you go. Really is there anything as American as General Tso's chicken?