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$20 Dinner

Excellent Malaysian Fare on Historic Doyers Street 

Doyers Old Town promises "a taste of home" with a menu of Malaysian coffee house classics.

12:00 PM EST on January 11, 2024

Golden kaya butter toast, $6 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Who doesn't love Doyers Street? It's got a killer nickname, the Bloody Angle, because of all the murder that took place in the early 1900s when old-timey tongs or secret society members jumped out to attack their foes from around the sharp corner that defines the street. It's got a lot of good places to eat, including Chinatown's oldest restaurant, Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Most of the time there are no cars allowed here anymore, so tables and chairs can be set out every morning for your dining and relaxing pleasure.

Tourists and locals flock to the spot—and that's great! But the crowds also make it hard to just pull up and grab a meal at mainstays like Nom Wah, Taiwanese Pork Chop House, Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, or the Hong Kong Mabu Cafe without waiting on some sort of line. Enter the new Doyers Old Town, a nifty little Malaysian coffee shop that opened last November in the former China Beauty hair salon space and is currently serving some first-rate food suitable for breakfast, lunch, snack time, and dinner.  

A Malaysian coffee shop lurks behind the Nom Wah line. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate) 

When I went—during prime Saturday brunch time—last weekend there was no wait, and plenty of empty tables inside. An underrated quality in a restaurant! 

Nasi lemak, $12 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The Doyers Old Town menu seems to be a bit unfixed, depending whether you look at it online or in person, but there are some constants. The nasi lemak, for example, is set in stone, which is unsurprising since it's the national dish of Malaysia. The kitchen cranks out a stellar version here, starring plenty of ikan bilis (those peanuts and tiny fried anchovies), a big glob of funky sambal sauce, a hard-boiled egg, crisp cucumbers, and an generous amount of sweet, snappy shrimp, all piled atop a mound of sticky coconut rice, with the bonus of some decent chicken curry on the side.

Hakka pan mee, $12.95 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Also delicious is the hakka pan mee, a big bowl of clear, anchovy-infused broth thick with wide flour noodles, various fungi, ground pork, and lots more of those chewy little fried anchovies. Definitely dump in the crock of chili oil that comes with it, and maybe even ask for a second shot. This is an invigorating meal.     

There are other hefty dishes you can eat here, several of which involve the chicken curry, and a bunch of snackier things like chicken satay, skewered shu mai, and tofu with sambal. But what you're going to want to get, to split with a buddy for dessert or to wolf down yourself with a cup of hot, sweet Malaysian pulled tea, is the kaya toast, a slab of soft shokupan bread toasted until golden and slathered with coconut jam and butter. 

Golden kaya butter toast, $6, with a cup of sweet teh tarok, $4.50. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The space itself is weirdly dramatic, with a ceiling that evokes a kind of underground grotto and a water feature by the front door that burbles away throughout your meal. Still, the counter person is warm and friendly, not at all like a cave dweller, and your food comes out in a hurry. You can even bring it all outside to one of the tables on Doyers if the weather's pleasant and the lines for its neighboring eateries haven't completely taken over the street. 

Huh! (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
There's a water feature here for your enjoyment. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The owners of Doyers Old Town weren't available for an interview, but know that they have been busy. In addition to this cafe, the team also just opened Happy Malaysian Canteen over at 76 Mott Street, which is more basic looking (though the sky ceiling is cute) and features more vegetarian dishes. 

Doyers Old Town is located at 15 Doyers Street, on the Pell Street-adjacent stretch of the Bloody Angle, and is currently open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily. 

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