In case our posts about Christmas Lights and Holiday Windows didn’t give it away, we’re pretty big fans of the holiday season. And another thing we’re pretty big fans of? Food. Christmas is fast approaching and the majority of businesses will be shuttered to observe the day’s celebration, food establishments included. But one of the many things we love about New York City is that it’s incredibly diverse. A solid quarter of it’s estimated 8.6 million population is made up of non-Christians–they include Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Atheists, and many, many others. So, on Christmas Day, where do these other New Yorkers congregate for a meal? Turns out, there’s a tradition for that!
The tradition we speak of is centered around Chinese food, particularly dim sum.
You may have heard pop culture references to the phenomenon known as “Jewish Christmas”, though the dilemma of having to fill one’s time at Christmas is not limited to Jews (they’re only about 7% of that non-Christian population). New Yorkers of all affiliations engage in this non-traditional tradition. And so, in honor of these other New Yorkers as well as visitors of all faiths, we thought we’d provide three great dim sum spots, all of which are open for business on Christmas Day.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Nom Wah started out as a tea parlor and bakery, serving dim sum on the side, all the way back in 1920. The bakery aspect of the business later faltered and the dim sum became the star of the show. Over the years, Nom Wah has had its up and downs but has remained a neighborhood institution throughout. More recently, this Chinatown staple went through major renovations back in 2010–much of it back of house in the kitchen–and emerged stronger than ever. Upon entering Nom Wah, you’ll still find their memorable eastern parlor meets western diner vibe: the antique fans, the red vinyl booths, the Art Deco tables, and the 1930’s countertop.
Although Nom Wah is considered the first dim sum parlor in Chinatown, it offers a uniquely contemporary dim sum experience. There are no traditional carts haphazardly navigating the crowded dining room. Everything is laid out simply on the glossy, photo-heavy menu and made to order fresh. Vegetarian and gluten-free items are clearly marked. Dim sum newbies don’t have to worry about using Google Translate to place their orders. The only downside? It’s tiny, and there’s usually a wait.
13 Doyers St
Thursday – Saturday 10:30 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday – Wednesday 10:30 am – 10:00 pm
Jing Fong Restaurant
Nom Wah Tea Parlor may the oldest dim sum parlor, but Jing Fong is the largest. If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, with constantly rotating carts and myriad dim sum options to choose from, you’ll find them in spades at Jing Fong. From the moment you ascend the grand escalators until you are seated in the overwhelmingly expansive, 20,000 square foot, 800 seat, auspiciously red-hued banquet hall, you know you’re in for an authentic dim sum experience.
Jing Fong has only been around since the 70’s, but don’t let its relative youth fool you: it’s very highly regarded as a community fixture. You might have to share the large dining tables with other patrons and it can get fairly loud, so don’t plan on having any intimate conversations. As is customary, servers will roll their carts up to your table. Select the items you want, and they will mark it off on your ticket under 3 different price categories: small, medium or large. At the end of your meal, take your ticket to the cashier to settle up. If you’re not familiar with the fare, ask the friendly servers. Because the place is so large, carts may take a while to circle back around. If you know what you’re looking for and don’t want to wait, seek the assistance of the attendants stationed around the dining room.
20 Elizabeth St
Monday – Friday 10:00 am – 9:30 pm
Saturday – Sunday 9:30 am – 9:30 pm
If the motley crew you’re dining with on Christmas Day happens to include a friend who’s vegetarian as well as a friend who keeps Kosher, fear not. All hope is not lost. Buddha Bodai has you covered.
There are some people who insist a veggie burger is simply not a burger, and those people will likely insist that vegetarian dim sum is simply not dim sum. But many vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike enjoy dining at Buddha Bodai. (Case in point: check out our blogger buddy Rendezvous en New York’s experience here.) We found the straight vegetable-based dishes to be preferable to those imitating meat. But as far as mock meat goes, the variety is quite sophisticated and doesn’t resemble the chewy meat alternatives peddled in most supermarkets. There are plenty of vegan and gluten-free options available as well. Oh, and that friend who keeps Kosher? No worries. Buddha Bodai is Kashrut Certified.
5 Mott St
Monday – Friday 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
Saturday – Sunday 10:00 am – 9:30 pm
We wish all of our readers a safe and festive holiday season. And remember, if you don’t have a tradition this time of year, go the route of a true New Yorker–make one of your own!
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