Dining Out

Sum Bar

Greenville's Premiere Dim Sum Spot

The bar at Sum Bar
Written by Ariel Turner, Images courtesy of Will Crooks

Sum Bar owner Khailing Neoh, a first-generation Chinese American, didn’t merely open a restaurant when her dim sum pop-up grew into a full brick-and-mortar establishment in early 2023. The Sum Bar company motto, “Everyone deserves to be seen, heard, and celebrated,” is evident from the host stand greeting to their involvement in the community.

The first dim sum restaurant with a baijiu bar celebrating the Chinese grain alcohol in Greenville, South Carolina, Sum Bar fills a niche in the city’s growing culinary scene in far more ways than the menu offerings. Accessible but not too predictable, the menu nods to Neoh’s family favorites—crab rangoons using a family recipe for the filling, crunchy green beans lauded across social media as a “must order” from her grandma’s recipe, and shrimp toast she calls “retro Chinese.” Siu mai, dumplings, and the barely-sweet sesame balls are rolled and pinched together daily in the dining room before service as Neoh and her chosen family prepare dinner for their guests.

Dim Sum at Sum Bar

Neoh’s commitment to hiring members of minority groups signals to guests that dining at Sum Bar will be a safe and positive experience no matter their orientation or heritage. From the curated merch wall with pride and other multicultural messaging by the host stand to the use of inclusive personal pronouns by the service staff when addressing diners, seemingly small details fill a larger social void.

All of this occurs within a model of service that treats guests with a gentle respect. Notably, first-time diners and those unfamiliar with dim sum are given a thorough explanation of the menu and ordering process with the same warmth Neoh extends as she greets every table, regardless of their status as regulars or newcomers.

Not only that: In her first year of business Neoh colaunched a nonprofit and planned and hosted three major festivals for the community: Lunar New Year Festival; Love Fest, featuring queer-affirming businesses; and the area’s first APA Fest for the AAIP community. “It is a privilege to focus our efforts on things that don’t necessarily bring in dollars,” she says. “I’ve come to learn that support comes in many forms; however, at the end of the day if we don’t have consistent customers, we wouldn’t be able to support the community the way we’d like to.”

What she’s begun is a movement toward a fully sustainable restaurant from front of house to back. Sum Bar has a no-disposable-takeout-container policy; they pay additional fees to recycle and compost; and support for staff is built in, from TK to requesting guests treat her service staff with respect in those moments the customer isn’t always right.

“We’ve created a strong base to stand on as a team and as a business,” Neoh says. “It feels like our identity is slowly solidifying, and we’re improving because of it.”

Can’t Miss at Sum Bar

Pork dish at Sum Bar

Crab Rangoon

This Neoh family recipe is turned inside out. The filling is served as a dip while the wontons become the chips.

Siu Mai

Open-topped dumplings shouldn’t be messed with, and these are traditional with chewy wrappers and a delightful pork-and-shrimp filling. The optional roe topping is recommended.

Sesame Balls

Deep fried and served hot, these crispy rice balls, rolled in sesame seeds, have a mochi-like texture from the house red bean paste made from adzuki beans. A satisfyingly crunchy and savory outside gives way to a chewy and mildly sweet interior.

The Last Character

A riff on a Last Word, this unique cocktail balances the potentially unfamiliar bite of Ming River baijiu with the more familiar and herbaceous green chartreuse, sweetness of maraschino liqueur, and freshness of lime.

about this restaurant

  • Chef

    Khailing Neoh

  • Address

    307 E Washington Street
    Greenville, South Carolina

    • Dim Sum

The Wine Lover Issue


1 year for only $24.99

1 year
for only $24.99

Subscribe and Save 72%!

Suscribe Now
The Travel Issue