Think Chinatown is only good for dim sum deals and buffet dinners? Think (or drink) again. The historic neighborhood is home to some of the city’s top tea houses, coffee rooms, and dessert cafés. From tastes of traditional Asia to, shall we say, purr-fectly perplexing parlors, here are the best cafés in New York City’s Chinatown.
At the aptly named Sweet Moment, super-sized shareable sweets make for enjoyable dining experiences. Instagram-ready bingsoo, or Asian shaved ice desserts, steal the show here with decadent toppings such as cheesecake, condensed milk, and ladyfingers. In addition to classic coffee beverages, there are more creative concoctions too, such as strawberry-rose lattes and red velvet cold brew, all featuring latte art almost too pretty to eat.
Great for groups, Silk Road Cafe’s specialty is shareable pots of freshly brewed artisan herbal teas. Rose green, dried passion fruit, and Japanese brown rice varieties pair perfectly with Asian café staples such as waffles with green tea ice cream and sandwiches with cold cuts. Also offering free wifi, warm service, and plenty of seating, this freelance-friendly place is a perfect base for students and creatives.
From its minimalist décor to its coffee-centric menu, Prologue Coffee Room stands out amongst the neighborhood’s many “eclectic”-looking tea houses. Here, knowledgeable baristas serve up classic coffee beverages, including single-origin pours from Guatemala, Burundi, and beyond. For those who say “no” to syrups, add-ons such as almond milk and sugar cane are as complicated as it gets at this North American café.
Inspired by a trend which began in Asia in the 1990s, the kitten-and-caffeine lover’s paradise Meow Parlour is “New York City’s first cat café.” Spend an afternoon enjoying cat-shaped macarons and cookies while bonding with adoptable furry friends, who play, explore, and (most often) nap throughout the café. Also serving a small selection of coffee and tea beverages, Meow Parlour provides an utterly unique café experience—no small feat (or paw!) in New York City.
Savory snackers will love Yaya Tea, a compact café serving an expansive menu of Asian drinks, foods, and imported treats. Here, you can wash down curry fish, fried octopus dough balls, and wasabi-flavored Pringles with house-crafted creations such as mango-lychee white and kiwi green teas. As it sits a stone’s throw from a pedestrian-friendly park, this café makes a great caterer for impromptu picnics.
One of the area’s more upscale cafés, visitors can still snag most treats at Audrey Bakery & Cafe for $4 or less. Here, tourists and locals alike can enjoy elevated Asian offerings such as green tea chiffon cake rolls, red bean yolk cakes, and matcha puffs. The café’s custom cakes in creative flavors such as green tea-mango and taro-yellow cake are perfect picks for parties (and that includes parties of one!).
After sampling the signature sponge cakes at Kam Hing Coffee Shop, you’ll be ready to forgive the café’s kitschy décor. The cakes’ crunchy exteriors give way to fluffy, velvety centers in fan-favorite flavors such as green tea, strawberry, and pumpkin spice. Enjoy a cake (or two—they cost just $1.25!) with one of the café’s Asian beverages, including strong Vietnamese coffee, sweet Thai iced tea, and Hong Kong-style milk teas.
Enjoy café fare like you’ve never experienced it before at Teado Tea Shop. Osmanthus-oolong tea, drinkable grapefruit yogurt, and herb juice with jelly are just a sampling of the uncommon offerings at this Chinatown establishment. Tip: Onigiri, or hand-rolled rice balls with fillings such as crispy dried meat, Japanese sausage, and seaweed, are a locally beloved specialty here.
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