Dim sum, a culinary brunch-time delight originating from the Cantonese region of China, has evolved over time into a beloved dining experience worldwide — and New York City is certainly no exception. Home to not one but several Chinatowns spread across its boroughs, the Big Apple is replete with authentic, delicious dim sum options.
Also called “yum cha,” meaning “drink tea” in Cantonese, dim sum is a traditional Chinese style of cuisine, often likened to tapas and consisting of a variety of small, flavorful dishes served in bamboo or aluminum baskets (or on small plates) and eaten with chopsticks. Dim sum is also typically a group affair, characterized by wide, round tables perfectly suited for housing steaming vessels of dumplings, buns, veggies and more, all meant for sharing. Dim sum lovers know it’s always more than just a meal, too. It can become a family ritual, a time-tested hangover cure, a much-needed catch up with friends or a chance to try any new flavors that come rolling your way on a cart.
In the various boroughs of NYC, dim sum is intricately woven into the cultural tapestry of neighborhoods like Manhattan’s Chinatown and bustling enclaves of Brooklyn (Sunset Park) and Queens (Flushing). As immigrant communities in the city grew and mingled in these neighborhoods, dim sum restaurants became social hubs, fostering a shared experience that transcends cultural boundaries.
Today, the dim sum scene in New York City is thriving, offering an array of choices for newcomers and enthusiasts alike, from iconic dim sum palaces to hole-in-the-wall spots for specific delights. Whether you’re savoring bite-sized classics like har gow (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (pork dumplings) or jellyfish, chicken feet and anything in between, New York’s dim sum establishments have what you crave. Just make sure to bring cash, as many establishments don’t take cards.
Where to Dim Sum in Manhattan
Since the early 20th century, with the opening of iconic establishments like Jing Fong and Nom Wah Tea Parlor, Manhattan has become a hub for authentic Cantonese dim sum. Today, it can be found anywhere from enormous multi-story banquet halls to street carts to trendy restaurants with modern interpretations of classics. Though there are quality dim sum spots to be found all around the city, the best are below Spring Street in Chinatown. Usually saved for afternoon dining, you can also find late night dim sum in the city that never sleeps — like at Dim Sum Palace on Division St, which stays open until 3 a.m.
In 1920, New York’s first dim sum restaurant opened its doors on Doyer Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Nom Wah Tea Parlor remains open today and has established itself as a household name for many New Yorkers. Purchased by one of its own waiters in 1974, Nom Wah is now owned by that waiter’s nephew, Wilson Tang, who has gone on to expand the brand and open several restaurants of his own.
Despite now being known as a trendy spot in the city (ironic considering its age), Nom Wah is still a solid spot for dim sum, though it doesn’t offer the classic cart experience you can find at larger establishments. Enter through the original yellow and red facade, take a booth seat if you can, and prepare your stomach for piping Shanghainese soup dumplings, pan-fried noodles and a local craft beer, if you’re in the mood. Anticipate a line if you decide to dine there on a weekend.
There are two locations of this NYC institution, on the Upper West Side and in Chinatown, with the latter closing to much local despair during the pandemic. Luckily, it was reopened on Canal, albeit in a smaller space than before (it used to be heralded as Manhattan’s largest restaurant). Come here for fried turnip cakes, creamy egg tarts and chicken feet, still being carted around the space and always tasting extremely fresh. Show up early on weekends to avoid a routinely hour-long wait.
Enter this Hong Kong-style spot on Mott Street, and the first thing you’ll notice are the massive fish tanks, oftentimes partially covered by wide-eyed children staring at the swimming tenants inside. Walk upstairs to wait for a table, and you’ll be treated with fresh, tasty dim sum in a cozy setting. As the tanks imply, they specialize in seafood, but make sure to grab some siu mai and an order (or three) of cheung fun (steamed rice rolls), including their unique Hong Kong-style take on them — swimming in a salty-sweet peanut and chocolate sauce. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
This East Village mainstay is technically the world’s most inexpensive Michelin-starred restaurant (well, its location in Hong Kong is), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to rack up a bill on Tim Ho Wan’s classic selection of dim sum. Their football-shaped deep fried dumplings are a must, as well as their baked barbecue pork buns and har gow. They don’t have the largest selection in town, but it’s always a solid go-to.
This gilded, multi-level dining hall is the perfect location for special occasions, from birthdays to anniversaries to surviving Dry January. Make sure to order their cute, pig-shaped custard buns for the photos and steamed pea shoot and shrimp dumplings because they’re delicious. You’re guaranteed to scarf down many more steaming baskets than that, as roving carts make their way over to you with braised spare ribs and steamed rice rolls to offer.
Mee Sum Cafe
If you don’t feel like having a more formal sit-down experience, Mee Sum on Pell Street is a tiny but mighty spot for old school dim sum at a great price. To be fair, the shrimp-filled har gow and classic siu mai are nothing to write home about, but it’s a no-frills establishment that still does the trick, especially when you add a comforting bowl of congee or filling “zongyi” sticky rice wrapped in leaf to your order. Also, expect some quality grandpa watching there, as it’s one of the premiere hangout spots for older adults in the area — a definite plus in our book.
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Where to Dim Sum in Brooklyn
Most of the best dim sum in Brooklyn is to be found in the neighborhood of Sunset Park, nestled in-between Industry City and Bay Ridge. There, a thriving immigrant community leads way to Brooklyn’s Chinatown, taking up a long section of 8th Avenue with restaurants, shops and more. There are plenty of smaller stop-ins for dim sum which dot the corridor, but take 8th Ave all the way down to 65th and you’ll be rewarded with the largest dim sum halls in the city — such as the iconic East Harbor, Bamboo Garden and Park Asia, to name a few.
East Harbor Seafood Palace
New York’s hottest club (on weekend afternoons) is East Harbor, which transforms into a bustling oasis for freshly prepared dim sum favorites. One of the largest restaurants in Brooklyn, you’ll still have to wait for a table, which speaks to just how good this spot is for everything from classic siu mai and soy-braised chicken feet to duck tongue and beef tendon. Make sure to get there early unless you’re ready to wait upwards of an hour for a table.
Come to Bamboo Garden, one of the most popular dim sum spots in Sunset Park, for the excellent har gow with delicate translucent skin and supple, fresh shrimp inside. The reason you’ll be coming back time and time again, though, is for their selection of roasted meats. Their tasty and affordable Peking duck, with deliciously crispy skin, is a crowd favorite, but don’t skip out on a chance to try their roast pork either. Bamboo Garden is a great choice on its own or as Plan B if the line at East Harbor is out of control (it’s right down the street).
A literal hole in the wall on 8th Ave in Sunset Park, Kai Feng Fu is a far cry from the glamorous banquet halls to its south. Inside, just a few simple tables adorned with Sriracha and takeout chopsticks beckon you to plant yourself down for one of the cheapest, most satisfying meals in New York. Nothing on the menu will set you back more than $10, from their juicy soup dumplings to their pan fried pork vegetable buns. Make sure to throw in an order of crispy scallion pancakes, and don’t forget to bring a bag of their frozen dumplings home with you for future consumption.
This fusion spot in Cobble Hill offers something atypical from your traditional dim sum joint and is a great option for newcomers to the cuisine. Its sleek dining room features an unlikely host — a rolling robot — which will sometimes bring your plates to you. More traditional dishes include a rainbow of soup dumplings and steamed roasted pork buns, while some dishes incorporate concepts and flavors from U.S. cities, like a New York-inspired chopped cheese scallion wrap and Philly cheesesteak mini buns.
Where to Dim Sum in Queens
Most Manhattan and Brooklyn residents know of the delicious Chinese food to be found in Queens — more specifically in Flushing, home to the borough’s thriving Chinatown. Technically New York’s largest Chinatown, Flushing is absolutely replete with dim sum dining options and known especially for some of the city’s best soup dumplings.
Asian Jewels is the undisputed GOAT when it comes to dim sum options in Flushing, with a large banquet-style space and an abundance of roving carts that serve up freshly steamed baskets of goodness. Don’t come here for the soup dumplings but rather for their excellent tripe in black pepper sauce, tender chicken feet and all sorts of sweets — think unique durian puffs and classic sesame balls, as well as their custard tarts.
This is where you should go for xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. Nan Xiang is a beloved, long-standing spot in Flushing for Michelin-recommended Shanghainese food. From inside its new-ish location (it closed for a few years and moved across the street), you can watch soup dumplings being folded in front of you in an open kitchen before being delivered hot and steaming to your table. Make sure to order their colorful selection of six different xiao long bao: pork, crab meat and pork, truffle, Chinese squash, chicken, and foie gras.
Step into this stylish space, named after the Yu Garden in Shanghai, to be greeted by comfortable green booth seating and gilded paneled walls, along with some of the best soup dumplings in the city. Along with the colorful xiao long bao that Flushing is coming to be known by, Shanghai You Garden is also famed for their enormous version of the classic soup dumpling whose broth you enjoy through a straw. Definitely order one of their rice cake stir fries, and if you spend more than $10 (you will), they serve you free Peking Duck buns.
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