16 Essential AAPI-Owned Businesses in NYC
From restaurants and supermarkets to bookstores and barbershops, spots to support during AAPI Heritage Month and all year round.
Nestled throughout the five boroughs, some of the most lauded and trailblazing Asian-owned businesses in the nation proudly call NYC home.
Currently, 1.3 million AAPI New Yorkers make up 15% of the city’s population—with many tracing their ancestry to countries like China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Polynesia—and their impact on communities here is both vast and indelible.
Now, as we continue to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month for May, it’s our favorite time of year to honor the multitude of historical and cultural contributions of this diverse group. However, this honorary month coincides with turbulent times and the painful truth that—since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—AAPI communities and their small businesses across the country have experienced an uprise in discrimination, harrassment, financial difficulties, and violence due to ongoing xenophobia.
NYC is no exception. According to the NYPD, in 2021, incidents targeting those of Asian descent rose by 361 percent, and for AAPI women in particular, 74 percent have reported racism or discrimination since last spring’s Atlanta shootings.
In spite of everything, the local AAPI community continues to persevere and thrive with beautiful moments like the return of Chinatown’s lauded dim-sum institution Jing Fong, to notable new openings including Nolita’s new Phuket-style eatery Wan Wan, all the while, staying true to our much-loved favorite spots for ramen, dumplings, omakase, and more.
So, now’s the time to put your money where your mouth is. Supporting our AAPI community starts with you, and here’s the best part: it’s truly an easily accessible feat. From tropical fruit-flavored hard seltzers to IG-worthy haircuts and custom furniture, here’s our roundup of some of the most essential Asian-owned businesses in NYC to check out.
Along the blocks of 36th Avenue in Astoria, since 1993, there lies an oasis for cuisine hailing from Bangladesh. Specifically, at the core of the menu lies an array of traditional dishes ranging from Chicken Tandoori, a variety of Biryani, Roasted Pulao, and Vegetable Singara. For the more adventurous souls, ask the staff behind the counter to fix up a plate of whatever’s running as a special then get to scooping up mouthfuls with several orders of Rooti.
Chop Suey Club
Sitting right on the neighborhood lines between Chinatown and the Lower East Side sits a hub for young Asian and Asian-American creatives who hail from across the globe. Started by owner Ruoyi Jiang, within the online and physical shop there’s a seasonal selection of handmade and carefully curated design products (like clothing, accessories, trinkets, and home goods) for a range of diverse lifestyles. Among current available goods there’s Mahjong Rubiks Cubes; Hako Leaf Incense Black; and Jade Rings. Currently the brick-and-mortar store is undergoing construction, but purchases via the website and pickups at 41 Orchard Street are still available.
Cơm Tấm Ninh Kiều
Fuss-free Vietnamese fare is the forte for the team at Com Tam Ninh Kieu. Opened 13 years ago, the spot’s name is inspired by two Vietnamese words, com tam which means “broken rice” and Ninh Kieu which is a waterfront district in the Can Tho city of southern Vietnam, where owner and chef Sinh Lee grew up. The house favorite, and namesake dish, is the CTNK Rice Special which is heaped full of flame-grilled pork chops, baked egg, crispy shrimp dumplings, shredded pork skin, two sunny side up eggs, and topped with scallion oil. Other specialities include a range of phở, bánh mì, and shareable plates like House Garlic Noodles.
Grace Street Cafe
Located in the heart of Manhattan’s K-Town on W 32nd Street, fans across the city have grown accustomed to a strong wave of sweet and sugar-laden scents that can be smelled a block away. Courtesy of specialty treats ranging from Shaved Snow, Dough Confections, and Boba Milk Teas, and New Yorkers with a sweet tooth have been left in awe. Can’t-miss desserts include the signature Basque Burnt Cheesecake (which is characteristically charred on the outside while light and creamy on the inside); Ho-Dduk (a Korean take on doughnuts, which are filled with brown sugar syrup and resemble fluffy hand-held pancakes); and The O.G. Shaved Snow (a feathery light bowl piled high with black sesame snow, strawberry, red bean, and misugaru).
Lhasa Tibetan Restaurant & Bar
Cravings for momos come to a full stop at this Jackson Heights institution. In case you aren’t privy to this culinary masterpiece, a momo is a Tibetan rounded dumpling filled with protein and/or vegetables and served with a sauce made of tomato and mustard. Highlights on the menu include Chive, Chicken, and Mushroom Momos, in addition to larger plates like a cold vermicelli dish called Drangthuk and a hearty soup of brown broth, beef, and hand-ripped noodles named Thenthuk.
Founded by the two-person team of Ed Be and Jared Blake, this design store is dedicated to curating eclectic and NYC apartment-friendly furniture. With a showroom and production center located in East Williamsburg, the team displays a swath of vintage finds, in addition to the works of up-and-coming designers, creatives, and builders. From secondhand standing lamps to custom crafted coffee tables, Be and Blake make an effort to maintain a lack of elitism in order to keep their brand accessible and economically-inclusive.
Lunar Hard Seltzer
One night over a meal at their local Korean fried chicken spot, co-owners Kevin and Sean came to the realization that amid all the Asian food offerings spread across NYC, the beverage pairings often came down to generic and uninspired beer offerings. From here, an idea blossomed to create a hard seltzer that would serve as an equally authentic beverage pairing to Asian fare, as well as an embodiment of the flavors which represent their experiences as Asian Americans. Since their first seltzer launch in 2020, the company has flourished with nationwide and international shipping of flavors like Korean Plum; Yuzu; and Lychee, as well as a notable group of collaborations with local businesses like the renowned Taiwanese hotspot 886 and popular go-to for Vietnamese-American fare Đi ăn Đi. Most recently, helping to amplify the voices of AAPI artists, chefs, and small business owners, the company has teamed up with Chelsea Market and Pearl River Market for a Sunset Celebration (on Saturday, May 14, from 5 pm–8 pm), which will feature bites from buzzy spots including Bonnie’s, Win Son, and Kitsby, as well as a limited-edition drink release featuring flavors like Salted Kumquat and Jeju Mint Omija.
Initially born out of a successful 2019 run as a vendor at the Queens Night Market and owned by Amy Pryke, Singaporean cuisine shines here. After some pandemic-fueled delays, Native Noodles now has their own brick-and-mortar restaurant in Washington Heights and we easily consider it one of the best new restaurants in NYC. In partnership with executive chef Joseph Medina (co-owner of Hawaiian restaurant, Makana), signature dishes include Laksa Noodles (slow-cooked coconut and shrimp curry, thick rice noodles, bean sprouts, crispy onions); Pork & Shrimp Wontons; and the creamy Satay Peanut Noodles. One of the best sellers is a not-so-easily-found-in-NYC item called the Roti John Sandwich, which is egg, ground beef, caramelized onions, and spicy ketchup on a toasted hero. On the dessert program there’s Fluffy Pandan Waffles, Mango Pudding, and Milo (a chocolate malt drink served over ice).
For Asian fare on Staten Island it’s impossible to overlook this hub for Sri Lankan dishes. Run by the Wijesinghe family (their daughter Julia also founded the nearby Sri Lankan Art & Cultural Museum), the eatery first laid down its roots in 1995 near Times Square, but after a fire, relocated outside Manhattan in 2010. Joining a vibrant Sri Lankan community in Staten Island, the food program features several signature highlights but namely there’s the Lamprais, which is a centuries old recipes consisting of a protein, basmati rice, banana curry, seeni sambal eggplant moju, cashew nut curry, and an egg cooked then served in a banana leaf.
Starting in the 1850s, Hawaii experienced a large influx of Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants due to the state’s booming pineapple and sugarcane productions. In turn, modern Hawaiian cuisine is intermingled closely with that of China, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. At the Hawaiian restaurant, noreetuh (which translates to “playground” in Korean), chef Chung Chow features these wide cultural influences with his extensive Asian- and Pacific-influenced menu. The tapas menu is the star of the show, with table-filling dishes like Musubi (popular options include the Spam, Spicy Tuna, and Sea Urchin); Tuna Poke with macadamia nuts and pickled jalapeños; or Tuna Belly Katsu. For solo bites, there’s Kimchi Fried Rice and a whole Mochiko Fried Chicken served with rice, fried egg, macaroni salad, and gravy.
Phil-Am Food Mart
Operating since 1976 in the neighborhood of Woodside, Queens, where a flourishing Filipino community (and plenty of restaurants) reside, New Yorkers have long held Phil-Am Food Mart to the highest esteem. Here, customers can potentially find anything and everything that rings authentic to Filipino cuisine including—but definitely not limited to—bagoóng, powdered salabat, calamansi extract, and lumpia wrappers. Also, we should let it be known, this shop is going to be a hard place to get into on the weekends, so placing an order online for pick-up might be the smartest bet.
Sake Bar Decibel
Combining tipsy revelry and a passion for specialty crafted sake is a standout stalwart that’s called the East Village home since 1993. Founded by owner Bon Yagi, here, the concept centers around a hidden speakeasy vibe (although the spot’s popularity has resulted in a far from low-key persona, seeing that weekend lines often wrap outside down the block), which is anointed by a neon “On Air” radio studio sign. Inside, the bar and Japanese izakaya features graffiti-covered walls, punk music blasting from the speakers, and the reigning glory of more than 40 sake labels.
When chef Richard Chan’s renowned Singaporean spot Yummy Tummy in the Queens neighborhood of Murray Hill was forced to close in 2020 due to the pandemic, the culinary community was at a loss. But, in response to the unavoidable hurdle, Chan relocated to Flushing and created a new concept focused on classic Singaporean hawker delicacies. Pulling inspiration from the markets in Singapore, signature menu items include Hainanese Chicken (slow-poached chicken served with chili and cilantro-ginger sauces); Teochew Braised Duck (braised for several hours in dark soy sauce, hua diao wine, sake, ginger served with taro rice); and Taiwanese Braised Pork Rice Platter (tender minced pork belly served with jasmine rice, braised egg, and sautéed mustard greens).
Yu & Me Books
In stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood right outside their front door, here, walls covered in dark wooden bookshelves and twinkling fairy lights create a welcoming oasis for book lovers. Owned by Lucy Yu—a chemical engineer by trade—this shop serves as a haven for Asian storytelling and immigrant narratives. Thought to be one of the first (if not the first) Asian-American, woman-owned bookstore in NYC’s Chinatown, “the bookstore is designed with the goals of building a center for the community and creating a space for conversation,” says Yu. While perusing the swaths of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels, and works sourced from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, there’s also a rotating selection of local art for sale.
When the pandemic first hit, many small businesses in Chinatown were forced to close their doors. For the 16-person team at 12 Pell, it was an opportunity to thrive and welcome new customers via social media through Instagram and TikTok. Providing top-notch fades and grooming services, the team also aims to keep the heartbeat of Chinatown pulsing by bridging the generational gap between newers spots like theirs with other businesses in the community. This is especially true for local eateries nearby, whether it’s through offering up local dining recommendations to clients, teaming up with nearby restaurants with joint deals, or helping shops build their online presence.
Named after the East Asian fox spirit—which is believed to be a benevolent creature that signals good fortune and long life, across China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea—this is a relatively new addition to Central Harlem. Opened by Korean-American owner John Cho in 2020, here staff whips up expert beverages ranging from straightforward cold brew to seasonal specialties like Calpico Frescas and Yuzu Citron Iced Tea. For those not chasing a supercharged caffeine kick there’s a wide variety of teas and baked goods available like Truffle Hashbrowns and Salted Double Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies.