Nestled between 5th and 6th Ave on West 20th street in New York City is Baodega. Take a step inside and immediately be greeted by the cozy ambience and fresh smell of dumplings. This Shanghainese restaurant, owned by Kenny Yie, has gone through ups and downs since 2019, and it hasn’t fully recovered since the pandemic. Just before Yie was thinking of selling his restaurant, he received something short of a miracle. 

Yie, still wearing his apron and with hands lightly sprinkled with flour, had come out and kindly sat down with EnVi. There in his restaurant, he was delighted to talk about his life and everything that has happened leading up to the viral TikTok posted about Baodega. 

Baodega is a Little Slice of Shanghai and Childhood

Owner of Baodega, Kenny Yie. Photo courtesy of Eileen Chang.

Born in Shanghai, starting from the age of eight years old, Yie was raised by his grandma. Growing up, she taught him how to cook her recipes. He spent all his after-school days helping his grandma at her dumpling restaurant in Shanghai until he was fifteen, when his grandma passed away. The manager who took over the restaurant asked him to continue to work for them because he already knew the ins and outs. He spent a few more years helping them prepare food before he flew to New York City.

Since the beginning of his business endeavors, it was always Yie’s plan to preserve his grandma’s cooking. He hopes to share a mood and feeling of nostalgia using her traditional Shanghainese recipes he learned 40 years ago. The love he received from his grandma when he was a child has translated into his cooking today. 

Grandma Pork Soup Dumplings. Photo Courtesy of Cris Aguasvivas.

“Grandma’s Soup Pork Dumplings” are quite the popular item on Yie’s menu — exactly how his grandma made them. Some of Yie’s personal favorite dishes from her recipes are “Grandma Lionhead Meatballs” and “Grandma Braised Pork.” 

“I love my grandma very much. I think that’s why I love these two dishes,” Yie said with a warm grin. 

Before Baodega

When Yie landed in New York City, he began working in Chinese restaurants, washing dishes, and eventually learned how to cook. Around 2008 he returned to Shanghai and opened his first restaurant there. Unfortunately, his time there was short-lived due to health reasons. Though his time in Shanghai was short, he learned a lot about cooking. This time around, he wanted to bring Shanghainese food to America. Shanghainese cuisine is less oily and a little sweeter than other types of Chinese food.

In 2011, he opened a little restaurant in a food court in Brooklyn. He recalls the big lines he’d had on his first day. One of his big hits were his frozen dumplings. A lot of other Chinese restaurant owners would buy these dumplings to make and sell in their own restaurants in Manhattan. 

After a while, Yie started to wonder, “Why am I not opening a dumpling house or restaurant in Manhattan?” 

Thus, his actions towards opening Baodega were put into motion, and he successfully opened his doors for business in 2019.

Baodega’s Uphill Battle 

Baodega entrance, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Eileen Chang.

“Busy, it was busy!” Yie emphasized.

When Baodega first opened, business was always bustling. His dream of finally having a restaurant in Manhattan finally happened — until March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Yie had to close for a few months before he reopened again. For a while he was only doing take-out and delivery. Once the city started opening up, business began to slowly pick up, but it was certainly not the same.

“I work very very hard. No off-days,” Yie said, then paused and slightly nodded. “Almost 4 years, not one day off.”

To keep up with the financial losses from the pandemic and the increasing rent prices in New York City, Yie had to take out loans to stay open. Despite his challenges over the years, he has remained hopeful. 

“I’m happy,” he said, laughing and smiling. “I’m really happy.”

Conversations with Daughter Bring a Silver Lining

Olive Yie, Kenny Yie’s daughter, had remembered the times her father would experiment and perfect dishes at home before opening his restaurant. It was a bonding moment for her and her father, to be able to try his food he worked hard on. Olive Yie would often check in with her dad about how he’s doing. Through her perspective, she had seen and felt how optimistic her father had been from the very beginning. 

Though Kenny Yie’s hope still remains, business has been slow. His drive and passion for his business has been keeping it alive, but he recently shared with her that he had been thinking about selling his restaurant. He was getting too tired to keep up.

“I think at that moment I was a little sad because he’s gone through so much to keep his restaurant open,” Olive Yie said over a video call with EnVi. “It felt like maybe he was giving up.”

She was not ready to see her dad give up on his dream. “That was when I thought, ‘Okay, I want to do what I can to try and help him.’” 

The Power of TikTok 

Olive Yie knew for a while she was going to post a video about Baodega. Seeing other people make videos about supporting small businesses encouraged her to take that final step. She wanted to use her small platform in hopes to let people know and potentially pique the interest of some to go visit. What she didn’t expect was her TikTok to go viral overnight.


can we possibly get this onto ny tiktok? any engagement is greatly appreciated to help spread the news and save my dads restaurant 🥰 also if you go definitely, try the pan fried soup dumplings!!!

♬ Storytelling – Adriel

“I was never gonna tell my dad, because I was a little embarrassed,” Olive Yie expressed lightly to EnVi.

She gave in right away, because the TikTok was still gaining a lot of traction during the week, and she was worried her dad would be overwhelmed by the sudden influx of customers. Ever since, people have been showing up and few even posting their own videos of their time at Baodega. One being a popular TikTok page known for highlighting restaurants, Righteous Eats


Replying to @Righteous Eats y’all asked us to pull up and support Baodega. Thank you for making us aware of this gem in Flatiron. Much love to @olive and Kenny ❤️ 📍 Baodega 7 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011

♬ original sound – Righteous Eats

“Now, I feel like I’m in heaven,” Kenny Yie said, with a wide grin. “My daughter is so powerful!”

He reflected back to the time Baodega first opened and compared it to now. His business has shifted like a switch, now busier than ever. The weekend after the TikTok was posted, he was shocked to see lines of people waiting outside just to eat at his restaurant. 

Infamous Pan Fried Soup Dumplings

Olive Yie and her dad recommend customers to try their pan fried dumplings. These dumplings are difficult to make, as they are fried upside down. Kenny Yie emphasized that these, too, are traditional, using his grandma’s techniques and recipe.

Olive Yie favors this menu item because of how much work she has seen her dad put into it to make sure it’s perfect.

She shared, “I know that specifically he put so much love and thought into it and so maybe that’s why to me it tastes so much better.” 

After many years of practice and perfecting, Kenny Yie’s efforts of keeping his grandma’s traditions alive has truly paid off. He aims to continue honoring his grandma through cooking with love and passion. As for Olive Yie, this bond over cooking has extended into her social media, where she likes to try new food.

Photo Courtesy of Baodega

Blessings and Immense Gratitude

Watching from across the country, everything still feels surreal to Olive Yie. She’s been reading all the comments and reviews online and watching the TikTok reviews about Baodega. Overall, she feels grateful to have such a blessing happen for her family.

Kenny Yie conveyed immense appreciation, during our interview, for everyone who had come to Baodega in the past couple of weeks to show their support.

“Most people have really good hearts inside,” said Yie. “Now I can see that, now I believe that.”

Things may have settled down a bit now, but the impact of his customers’ support has forever left a positive mark on Kenny and Olive Yie. 

Traveling to Singapore next? Check out cafe Lou Shang, and read about it here!