There used to be a place on Allen near Delancey that was simply called Fried Dumpling. It was a great place where you could get five pretty tasty dumplings for one meager dollar. (Note to West Coast folk visiting NYC: “chinese dumpling” is East Coast for the food you are familiar with as “potstickers”) Then one day, it was closed. Thinking it was closed for a holiday I didn’t know about, I repeatedly walked by on subsequent occasions, only to realize that this champion of cheap was gone. On about my fourth attempt, despondent over the demise of this friend to the foodless, I began to wander Chinatown, ready to settle for some other hole in the wall that might sate my dumpling needs. I didn’t have to walk far until I stumbled upon what is now my number one destination for the destitute: Vanessa’s Dumplings.
Vanessa’s is a magical little place where nothing is over $3. The menu is far more extensive and the dumplings infinitely tastier than the extinct Fried Dumpling. You can choose between various types of dumplings, get them fried or boiled, get them in soup, and they’re all delicious! And they’re four for $1! As if that wasn’t enough, you can invest in tastiness and get 50 of them frozen for $9! Holy crap, why are you not there right now? They also have tasty pork buns and sesame pancakes. A sesame pancake is like a slice of fried pizza dough covered in sesame seeds that costs 75 cents and tastes like sparkly rainbows (a good thing, trust me). But they’ll also cut them open and put stuff in them, turning them into triangular sandwiches for $1.50. I recommend the pork and chinese vegetables.
I was reluctant to write about this place because every time I go there it is packed, and the more people that go there the longer the wait will be, but far be it from me to keep secrets from the people. I recommend planning to take out. The seating area is almost always full and sometimes has people standing around waiting for a seat to open up. So if you do get a seat, eat and go in a rapid business-like manner. Don’t bust out the crossword and a toothpick and ruminate on the value of the deliciousness you just inhaled. Let someone else have a seat so they can eat what is possibly the best bang for its buck in Manhattan.
By the way: there is a Vanessa’s Dumplings on 14th St. near 3rd Ave. run by the same folks, but that one is more expensive and the food is inferior. Eschew it for the real deal on Eldridge St.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House
118A Eldridge St. (betw. Broome and Grand) [CHINATOWN/LES]
subway: F, J, M, Z to Essex-Delancey or B, D to Grand St.