The time is ripe for a dumpling tour of the Upper West Side. The recent influx of Chinese and Chinese-inspired restaurants has introduced a roster of diverse and delicious dumplings to the neighborhood. Between 74th and 82nd Streets alone, you can now find everything from traditional dim sum and $6 plates of eight pan-fried potstickers to dumplings perfumed with black truffle or chicken-fried in a spicy breading. Locals have embraced these spots, a mixture of transplants from other parts of New York City and new ventures exclusive to the Upper West Side.
Among those outside the neighborhood, however, the Upper West Side remains better known for bagels than for dumplings. A hub of Jewish cuisine, the Upper West Side is home to spots such as Zabar’s. The current owners of the specialty foods emporium prepare lox and rugelach according to their grandparents’ recipes. Further north, Barney Greengrass has earned fame for its buttery smoked fish. The restaurant has also served as the setting for scenes from iconic shows including Seinfeld and 30 Rock. The Upper West Side also caters to a cosmopolitan crowd with French and Italian fare near Columbia University.
All of this attention to European cuisine has led many to overlook the Upper West Side’s developing dumpling culture. Often overshadowed by Manhattan Chinatown and Flushing, the Upper West Side deserves its moment in the dumpling spotlight. Here are seven of the best spots in the neighborhood for shumai, soup dumplings and more.
1. La Salle Dumpling Room
Tucked in the shadow of the 125th Street subway platform, La Salle Dumpling Room offers an unassuming start to a dumpling tour of the Upper West Side. Do not let the drab exterior fool you. Inside, plucky pop tracks play and pendant lights hang from the high ceilings. Most of your fellow patrons will likely be college students drawn to La Salle’s casual fare. Chinese-American staples such as General Tso’s chicken and fried rice make up the bulk of takeout orders. Dine-in patrons, meanwhile, often opt for the chewy dan dan noodles slicked with chili oil and laden with crispy, salty bits of ground pork. For more La Salle further south, you can visit their second location on West End Ave. just north of 61st Street.
At La Salle, soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, get top billing. Their pork and kimchi variety proves particularly noteworthy for the spicy, tangy punch they pack. A Shanghai staple, soup dumplings get their name from the savory broth trapped inside their thin skins. Chefs achieve this magical outcome by stuffing the dumplings with rich, porky gelatin that liquefies when heated, surrounding the pork or seafood filling. Start by nibbling a small hole in the dumpling and slurp up the broth that seeps into your spoon. After that, bite down on the tender dough and meaty center.
3141 Broadway Manhattan, NY 10027