Downtown Dim Sum: Six Spots to Indulge in Chinatown's Delicacies

Directly translated, “Dim Sum” means “touch the heart,” and for those of Cantonese descent, as well as the slew of New Yorkers who indulge in Chinatown’s abundant offerings as a weekend past time, Dim Sum has proven to satisfy cravings for both dumplings and good company.

From the push-cart wielding servers squeezing in between tables to the conversation and laughter that emanate from multi-generational families passing around dishes and stories, there’s a certain warmth that comes with sitting down for a Dim Sum meal, that of which is only amplified by the melting pot of innovation that is New York City.

So whether you’re a traditionalist or a modernist, a group type of diner or simply needing a quick bite, a vegan or a carnivore, here are the six best downtown Dim Sum spots in NYC.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street, Chinatown, NYC

Perhaps the most popular establishment on the list, this Chinatown fixture is known for its Instagrammable atmosphere and historic legacy—the original restaurant opened as a tea parlor and bakery in 1920. Although the restaurant now only serves Dim Sum à la carte rather than doling it out on push carts, it’s a nice move into the modern with above average food (the rice rolls with spare ribs are a must) that will leave you dreaming of dumplings in sepia tones.

Joy Luck Palace, 98 Mott St., Chinatown, NYC 

Deep in the heart of Chinatown, Joy Luck Palace will lure you in with its high ceilings, colorful hues and gigantic TV monitors, but the food will make you want to return for lunch the next day, and the day after that. A relative newcomer on the downtown scene, Palace provides a more traditional take on the Dim Sum dining experience with highlights including kid-friendly, custard-filled buns with pig faces on top and, of course, the flavorful and tomato-braised chicken feet.

Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth St., Chinatown, NYC

After undergoing major renovations in 2014, Jing Fong has cemented its place as not only a go-to for Dim Sum, but with its 20,000 square-foot grand ballroom that seats around 800, a popular and sought after event space as well. Go up the enticing escalators into the main room and relish in the grandeur of the space. It’ll feel like you’re in a movie, and taste like the real thing and then some.

Buddha Bodai, 5 Mott St., Chinatown, NYC

Since 2004, Buddha Bodai has proven that the Dim Sum experience can transcend any sort of diet restriction, and with flying colors. You’ll be so amazed at how authentic the vegan BBQ pork bao tastes and how flavorful the pan-fried dumplings are that, meat lover or vegetarian, you won’t even care to tell the difference. The casual, intimate room and nonchalant green exterior make for the perfect quick lunch date or your weekly stuff-your-face getaway.

Royal Seafood, 103 Mott St., Chinatown, NYC

Royal Seafood’s glimmering chandeliers set the mood for the masterclass meal you are about to consume. With its traditional decor, the restaurant has impeccably mixed the classic and the modern for decades, using the art of the deep-fryer as a means for mass appeal. Just make sure to come in with an empty stomach and perhaps having studied up some Cantonese words beforehand—the fast-paced environment and quick staff will undoubtedly keep up.

Golden Unicorn, 18 East Broadway, Chinatown, NYC

Out of all the restaurants on this list, Golden Unicorn is perhaps the most wedding reception-like in its atmosphere—however, don’t think that the food quality will be in any way bland or not up to par. You’ll enter through a commercial building and take the elevator up to the bustling main room, where pork shumai and spare ribs will seem more appetizing than ever. Founded in 1989, the restaurant pioneered the neighborhood’s upscale Cantonese-style dining.

Words by Ivan Guzman