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Born of a desire for affordable Western fare that the wider Hong Kong society could enjoy, cha chaan tengs (茶餐廳) trickled into mainstream ubiquity in the mid-twentieth century, serving up a broad range of Western-inspired dishes with a distinctly Cantonese twist.
Known for their brusque service and bustling atmosphere, these local “teahouse” restaurants may be somewhat intimidating to the inexperienced diner, but there is a good reason why they are a beloved part of Hong Kong’s culinary canon. The cuisine is purposely evolved to suit local palates to a tee, an international mishmash of our favourite flavours! Be it breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea—when a hearty, fuss-free affair is in order, these are the best cha chaan tengs in the city to answer your calling!
Cheung Heung Tea Restaurant is practically an institution in the laid-back neighbourhood of Sai Wan. For over 50 years, this modest local eatery has kept regulars and newcomers alike coming back for their legendary milk tea with condensed milk (茶走; cha4 zau5), cocktail bun ($5), and buttery shortcrust egg tart ($4), which is near-impossible to resist at just a few dollars a pop! On the menu, you’ll also find all your favourite Hong Kong-style sandwiches, instant noodles, and rice dishes, punctuated by a number of newfangled creations like the Hong Kong-style french toast with tuna and hash brown ($21), a savoury take on the beloved cha chaan teng classic!
Cheung Heung Yuen Restaurant, 107 Belcher's Street, Kennedy Town, Western District | (+852) 2855 7911
Clad with old black-and-white photos and time-worn advertisement posters from the 70s, Lo Fung Restaurant (also known as Leung Kee Restaurant 良記餐廳) feels a bit like an intimate time capsule—a charming, homespun aesthetic that makes sitting elbow-to-elbow at tightly packed tables only a minor quibble.
Patrons often come for their outstanding iced milk tea ($24)—which keeps its rich flavour and ice-cold temperature with ice cubes made of the drink it’s put in—but they stay for the equally destination-worthy and innovative food offerings, such as black truffle scrambled egg on toast ($38), dry noodles with porkchop and cheese sauce ($48), and baked seafood rice with cheese sauce in bread bowl ($68)!
Standing out amid the ever-changing and highly saturated dining scene in Sheung Wan is hard enough, but to do so without a flashy storefront or a lot of upkeep is twice the challenge. And yet, even with its scruffy, barebones appearance, For Kee Restaurant manages to draw huge lunchtime crowds that regularly spill out into the street.
This tiny corner eatery has made quite the impression on local food aficionados thanks to its juicy, thick-cut pork chops, which are woven into various rice, sandwich, and toast dishes across the menu. For first-timers, go for the signature pork chop rice ($49) served with homemade sauce. If you’re after a lighter lunch, the pork chop bun ($41) is an equally crowd-pleasing option!
For Kee Restaurant (科記咖啡餐室), Shop J–K, 200 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan | (+852) 2546 8947
Fans of the Hong Kong New Wave will recognise the vintage interiors of Mido Café as the backdrop of countless classic Hong Kong movies, such as Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild and Andrew Lau’s Goodbye Mr Cool. Replete with patterned floor tiles, wooden booths, and iron-framed windows, the old-school eatery appears as if it has stayed frozen in time since the 1950s when it first announced itself in Hong Kong’s dining scene.
Revel in the retro atmosphere as you tuck into a comfort-driven feast of baked pork chop rice with tomato sauce ($78), lo mein with oyster sauce ($55), and corned beef sandwiches ($20)—and be sure to wash it all down with a refreshing red bean ice beverage($28)!
Mido Café, G/F, 63 Temple Street, Yau Ma Tei | (+852) 2384 640
In spite of its misleading name, Australia Dairy Company is not an international dairy corporation, nor does it have anything to do with the land Down Under—apart from the fact that the founder worked on an Australian farm in the 1940s. Perennially buzzing with diners from all walks of life, this no-frills, lightening-speed service cha chaan teng has made a city-wide name for itself thanks to its superb scrambled egg toast ($24) and steamed milk pudding ($30), though other breakfast favourites like the char siu macaroni ($32) and iced milk tea ($24) are also in high demand.
No hemming and hawing over your food decisions here—expect to order within minutes of being seated and don‘t even think about lingering around, as you’ll be ushered out the door as soon as you’re finished eating!
Australia Dairy Company, 47 Parkes Street, Jordan | (+852) 2730 1356
Hong Kong’s cha chaan teng scene has hardly seen portions as big and bold as those in Gala Café. That’s why you’ll almost always find regulars lining up at this Tsuen Wan neighbourhood stalwart for their five-inch-thick corned beef egg sandwich ($29), the unequivocal crowning glory of the restaurant. You heard right—the mega-sized sandwich is made with six or seven eggs scrambled to peak creamy perfection, and is barely held together by two slices of toasted white bread.
Even the most ravenous appetites are guaranteed to leave feeling full to the neck. If sandwiches are not your thing, their deep-fried shrimp wontons ($20) and swiss chicken wings ($26) are also pilgrimage-worthy!
Gala Café, 40B San Chuen Street, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 2493 7308
The freshly-made, butter-laden pastries at Kam Wah Café have enjoyed wildfire popularity for over four decades, their far-reaching aroma enough to make you drool even before stepping foot into the bustling premise. Among them, the pineapple bun is the star of the show, boasting a generous crust that unfurls with a satisfying crunch and a soft, pillowy interior that still holds well to fillings. That means you can easily turn this popular breakfast bun into lunch by having it stuffed with a hefty slice of pork chop ($23) or grilled chicken ($23)! Apart from their baked goods, they also fire up a mean plate of beef fried noodles ($46) and Yangzhou fried rice ($46).
Kam Wah Café, 47 Bute Street, Prince Edward | (+852) 2392 6830
If you’re on the hunt for the perfect cup of Hong Kong-style stocking milk tea or yuenyeung (鴛鴦; a milk tea and coffee concoction) to get your caffeine fix, you could well end your search at Lan Fong Yuen. The charming shack-like restaurant along Gage Street is allegedly the birthplace of the two iconic local drinks—but whether or not the claims are true has no bearing on their rich flavour and silky-smooth mouthfeel. Beverages aside, locals also flock to Lan Fong Yuen bright and early for their crispy piggy bun ($19), grilled chicken & scallion dry-stirred noodles ($57), and pork chop sandwich ($24).
First opened in 2010, Chrisly Café may have arrived later to the game than many of the other restaurants on the list, but it has already amassed a fervent fanbase and settled nicely into eight different locations across the city.
Aptly reflecting its youth, Chrisly Café knows how to keep up with the times, peddling the usual suspects of satay beef noodles ($39), macaroni soup with ham ($40), and Swiss sauce chicken wings ($32), alongside some less common options like black truffle scrambled egg toast ($50) and French toast with kaya jam ($30). There’s even a dedicated plant-based menu featuring the likes of vegetarian pork chop rice vermicelli ($45) and vegetarian chicken nuggets ($40)!
Tuen Wan is a mecca of budget dining spots. Despite more gentrified restaurants popping up in the neighbourhood by the week, locals always turn back to the history-rich Hong Lok Cha Bing Teng for a promising cha chaan teng feast with a touch of hospitality rarely found in its more tourist-driven brethren.
Like the atmosphere, the food here is unpretentious and without frills, but all your essentials are covered, from traditional pastries and breakfast buns to rice and noodles dishes. Chow down on the satay beef noodles or char siu macaroni, which, if you order in a lunch set ($39), comes with a ham & egg omelette and a buttered bread roll—a simple yet classic combo!
Hong Lok Cha Bing Teng (康樂茶冰廳), Block D, Tsuen Fat Building, 21 Tuen Hing Path, Tsuen Wan | (+852) 2490 1722
For all the raucous charms and thrills of the classic cha chaan teng experience, sometimes you just yearn for a comfier, swankier affair, and that’s when Sei Bo Sik Tong comes into the picture. Decked out in Tiffany blue and pink colours and floral décor, this decidedly hip, new-age spot provides a modern take on cha chaan teng fare, with amped-up renditions of your favourite comfort foods.
Think thick-cut buttered Danish toast instead of the usual sandwich bread, and baked ox-tongue rice ($88) served in a box-like vessel made of toast! If you’re a traditionalist, the BBQ pork omelette with rice ($58) and scallion oil-seared pork chop rice with fried eggs ($60) won’t disappoint, either.