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Wing Shoon: Decent Dim Sum, Great Air Conditioning

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Wing Shoon Seafood Restaurant, on the site of the former Garden Cafeteria, East Broadway, New York
From Eating in Translation's Flickr photostream.

Once a legendary kosher cafeteria, 165 East Broadway, has been home to the Chinese restaurant Wing Shoon since the mid-1980’s. While not exactly legendary, it’s a fairly popular place and a go-to spot for dim sum East of Allen. Our food guy, Mitch Weinstein, and his culinary companion, “Significant Eater,” recently gave Wing Shoon the once-over:

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m really cranky in the heat…oh yeah, I have… but I am. And I cook much less in the summer, because…well, you know why. Anyway, we decided to take a walk for some lunch, and as soon as we hit the street, I said that I was mostly interested in the coolest, best air-conditioned place we could find…food secondary to cool and a not-too-long walk to get there either. That’s when Significant Eater, most likely tired of listening to me complain about how friggin’ hot it was, mustering up all of her insouciance, said: “How About Wing Shoon?”

Wing Shoon Seafood Restaurant is the “Chinese place” on the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers St. At one time in its glorious past, it was a famous kosher restaurant called The Garden Cafeteria, and many of the movers and shakers of the lower east side orthodox community used to dine there. It had a built-in clientele of writers and various other newspaper people; in addition to being a block from our front door, it’s right up the street from the Forward Building, the former home of the once-daily (now weekly) Yiddish language newspaper called, strangely enough, The Daily Forward.

So here’s a great pic of the Garden taken back in 1973 by the photographer Bruce Davidson, who often chronicled life on the lower east side with his wonderful photos. Now it’s Wing Shoon – a place where I sometimes grab roast pork or roast duck over rice and bring it home for lunch. For about $5. On a “normal” day, we’d much rather walk over to Great NY Noodletown for a steaming bowl of shrimp won-tons, or maybe to Cong Ly on Hester Street, for a bowl of pho. But on this soupy day, Wing Shoon it was.

And you know what? In addition to the various $5 lunch specials of roasted things over rice, or stir-fries over rice (SE’s favorite is the spicy ma-po tofu, fyi), Wing Shoon also does a traditional dim sum lunch, and as far as Manhattan Chinatown dim sum goes, it’s not all that bad. Carts and all, but without the craziness of some of the vast dim sum parlors in Chinatown, where you have to act like you’re an NY Jets linebacker just to get a dumpling.

So, in addition to our special lunch plates, we ordered a couple of old faves when a cart wheeled by – har gow and pai gwat. The shrimp dumplings were just fine, with a nice delicate wrapper (which was probably even better when it was fresh out of the kitchen) and the pai gwat (basically, spareribs braised with black beans) was delicious too…

The roast pig over rice comes in a huge portion (share it), the skin all crisp and crackling, just like it should be; you all know it’s served at room temperature or at least served at hanging in the window temperature, after it’s taken off the hook and chopped up by the guy in the picture at the top. Here’s the plate…

While Isaac Bashevis Singer, one of the aforementioned Daily Forward’s most famous writers (he even won the Nobel Prize in 1978), might be rolling over in his grave knowing that a good Jewish couple like SE and me were eating pork and shrimp instead of blintzes and sour cream (and really, are there two cultures who harden your arteries any more than the Chinese and the Jews?), it turns out that Wing Shoon may, after all, be a pretty good neighborhood find. For dim sum and the lunch specials, certainly. Or when they have the lobster special: two lobsters for $25 – how can you beat that?

Oh, and the air conditioning? Easily some of the best around.

Mitch Weinstein has his own blog, Tasty Travails.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great feature!

    My partner and I spoke a lot about the former Garden Cafeteria and it’s great to see a little bit of history from the Wing Shoon restaurant that took over it.

    Trotsky and Fidel Castro have also dined at this place once before–amongst many others.

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