3. Nom Wah Tea Parlor has been operating since 1920, making it the oldest continuously running restaurant in Chinatown

Selection of images from Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown
Selection of images from Nom Wah Tea Parlor.

First opened in 1920, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is the oldest continuously running restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the city’s first dim sum establishment. Though its first owners are unknown, Nom Wah was operated by Ed and May Choy beginning in the 1940s as a bakery and tea parlor with dim sum served on the side. After losing his lease on the bakery portion of the restaurant at 15 Doyers Street in 1968, the restaurant moved into a brand new kitchen at 13-11 Doyers Street. In 1974, Nom Wah was purchased by Wally Tang — who had started working at the restaurant in 1950 at just 16 years old. The restaurant became famous for its lotus paste and red bean filling, which were used to make moon cakes during the Chinese autumn festival. 

Beginning in the 1980s, as bakeries began to pop up around Chinatown and the shipping of baked goods from China and Hong Kong became faster and cheaper, Nom Wah began focusing more on selling dim sum to stay afloat. However, even with this transition, the restaurant’s sales continued to decline throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Even so, the restaurant continued to serve as a social club for the network of dim sum chefs across Chinatown.

To bring life back into the restaurant, Tang sold it to his nephew Wilson in 2010. A series of integral changes were made to Nom Wah, including renovations to the kitchen, which had equipment that hadn’t been updated since the 1950s — though the dining area remained mostly untouched besides the addition of checkered tablecloths. In addition, Nom Wah transitioned from being a traditional dim sum restaurant using metal carts to having a made-to-order menu that ensured every item was made fresh and on-demand to produce less waste.