When Ed and May Choy opened a tea parlor and bakery in 1920, Manhattan’s Chinatown was a different world. Back then, the surrounding nook of Doyers Street still had a reputation for street battles breaking out between the local tongs that earned it the nickname “the Bloody Angle.” As the violence subsided, Nom Wah Tea Parlor began doing a brisk business. In 1974, Choy retired and sold his business to Wally Tang, an immigrant from mainland China who worked his way up in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Decades later, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is very much emblematic of the history of the neighborhood, as well as the ways in which it has evolved. Wilson Tang, Wally’s nephew, left a career in finance to take over the business in 2010.
By then, the restaurant had lost much of its original luster. A number of New York critics dismissed it as a bygone relic. But Wilson, sensing untapped potential, vowed to inject new life into the space without sacrificing its distinctly retro charm. The Art Deco touches and red vinyl booths look much the same as they did a century ago, but the dim sum parlor’s branding has the decidedly more modern sensibilities of a new generation.
The restaurant and its owners have remained pillars of the local Chinatown community, working to advocate for other small business-owners in the area.Nowadays, Nom Wah Tea Parlor boasts several locations, as well as a national delivery business. Nevertheless, it’s well-worth visiting this atmospheric timewarp for steamer baskets of siu mai, char siu bao, and cheung fun.
Know Before You Go
Bring cash and be prepared to wait in line.