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Owner of Yu & Me Books, Lucy Yu | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Owner of Yu & Me Books, Lucy Yu | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Nestled throughout the five boroughs is a lauded and trailblazing crew of AAPI-owned businesses that help shape the vibrant culture of New York City. With more than 1.3 million Asian American and Pacific Islander New Yorkers making up 15% of the city’s population, the impact on local culture is evident in every neighborhood from porcelain shops and bookstores to bakeries and pottery studios.

Whether you’re exploring areas like Chinatown and Koreatown or Flushing and Central Harlem, supporting our local AAPI communities is as important as ever. In addition to all the best spots to snag dumplings, omakase, Indian delicacies, and ramen, here are a few of the most essential AAPI-owned businesses in NYC you can’t miss.

Yu & Me Books
Yu & Me Books | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Chinatown
Sitting right on the neighborhood line 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, the physical shop offers 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. The brick-and-mortar store is currently under construction, but purchases via the website and pickups at 41 Orchard Street are still available.

East Williamsburg
This lowkey design store is dedicated to curating eclectic and NYC apartment-friendly furniture. With a showroom and production center located in East Williamsburg, the team rounds up 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, the owners Ed Be and Jared Blake make an effort to maintain a lack of elitism in order to keep their brand accessible and economically-inclusive.

Woodside
In the neighborhood of Woodside, Queens, where a flourishing Filipino community (and plenty of Filipino restaurants) reside, Phil-Am Food Mart has been operating since 1976. Customers head here for authentic Filipino ingredients including—but definitely not limited to—bagoóng, powdered salabat, calamansi extract, and lumpia wrappers. New Yorkers hold Phil-Am Food Mart in such high esteem that it’s actually hard to get into on the weekends; place an order online for pick-up instead.

Chinatown
Holding the title for the oldest continuously operating store in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Wing on Wo & Co. is an undisputed New York City institution. With a five-generation-long legacy, some version of the family-run shop has lived on Mott Street since the 1890s. In its current state, Wing on Wo & Co. is run by Mei Lum and functions as an in-store and online seller of porcelain antiques, jade accessories, Asian American cultural goods, artwork, and decorative trinkets. Some of our personal favorites can be found online under Po’s Picks, which are selected by the previous longtime proprietor and Lum’s grandmother, Nancy Seid.

Chinatown
In stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of its neighborhood, Yu & Me Books’ dark wooden bookshelves and twinkling fairy lights create a calm oasis for book lovers. Opened by Lucy Yu, a chemical engineer by trade, in December 2021, 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 bookstores 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. There are swaths of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels, and works sourced from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, as well as a rotating selection of local art for sale.

12 Pell
12 Pell | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Brooklyn Heights
Created by yoga teacher Anna Haddad, ONEYOGAHOUSE is an ethereal beacon of zen in Brooklyn. Characterized by creative sequencing, curated playlists, and a bright open interior, ONEYOGAHOUSE’s calendar offers Iyengar-, Ashtanga-, or Katonah-inspired Vinyasa flows; foundational classes for learning the fundamentals of yoga; breathwork plus meditation courses; and much more.

Stapleton Heights
At just 18 years old, Julia Wijesinghe founded the world’s first Sri Lankan museum outside of Sri Lanka. Head to Staten Island to learn more about Sri Lankan culture through gallery rooms filled with sculptures, paintings, instruments, gemstones, and more. If you’re feeling peckish afterwards, drop by the nearby Wijesinghe family restaurant called New Lakruwana.

NoMad
Known for its distinctive Japanese throwing and handbuilding instruction, the Togei Kyoshitsu ceramic studio has been a fixture in the NoMad neighborhood since 1994. Currently run by ceramicist Risa Nishimori, the business was first started by her father as a way to combine Japanese cuisine and art. Now, students of the studio can create cups, bowls, knick knacks, and more through a variety of handbuilding and wheel throwing classes, which are taught in both English and Japanese.

Chinatown
For the team at 12 Pell barbershop, social media was a helpful resource for gathering young clientele and building a sought-after reputation in Manhattan’s historical Chinatown. Providing top-notch fades and grooming services, 12 Pell’s staff also helps to bridge the generational gap between newer spots like theirs with other businesses in the community through special partnerships and programming. Stay tuned on IG and TikTok for hairstyling tips, upcoming events, and more.

Black Tea Cheesecake at GongGan
Black Tea Cheesecake at GongGan | Photo courtesy of GongGan

Astoria
On 36th Avenue in Astoria is Aladdin Sweets, an oasis for Bangladeshi cuisine since 1993. 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.

Fordham Manor
Fuss-free Vietnamese fare is the forte 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.

Jackson Heights
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.

Flushing
Fantastical and brightly colored creations shine at Flushing’s newest dessert hotspot, Gong Gan. Run by friends Anna Kim (Per Se) and BJ Kim (a fashion designer and artist), the two-story shop serves a rotating selection of baked goods like the Black Matcha Croissant, beverages including the Corn Latte, and cakes like a decorative mushroom-topped Black Tea Cheesecake and Green Cake, which is designed to look like a herb planter. In the evenings, Gong Gan’s second floor doubles as a natural wine bar.

Koreatown
Located in the heart of Manhattan’s K-Town on W 32nd Street, Grace Street emits a strong wave of sweet and sugar-laden scents that can be smelled a block away. 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).

Washington Heights
Initially born out of a successful 2019 run as a vendor at the Queens Night Market, Native Noodles serves Singaporean cuisine. Owned by Amy Pryke, with executive chef Joseph Medina (co-owner of Hawaiian restaurant, Makana) at the helm, Native Noodles’s signature dishes include Laksa Noodles (slow-cooked coconut and shrimp curry, thick rice noodles, bean sprouts, crispy onions) 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.

East Village
Starting in the 1850s, Hawaii experienced a large influx of Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants who came to the islands to labor on the pineapple and sugarcane plantations. Consequently, modern Hawaiian cuisine has a lot of influence from 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 through his extensive menu. Table-filling dishes include Musubi (popular options include the Spam, Spicy Tuna, and Sea Urchin); Tuna Poke with macadamia nuts and pickled jalapeños; and a Pork Katsu Sandwich on a sweet Hawaiian bun.

Central Harlem
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—9Tails is a relatively new addition to Central Harlem. Opened by Korean-American owner John Cho in 2020, 9Tails coffee shop 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.

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Izzy Baskette is a Staff Writer for Thrillist New York. Find her on Instagram.

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