It had apparently been a while since I'd been to the Dumpling House on Eldridge, my favorite place in Chinatown for a cheap snack (an order of delicious dumplings is $1, everything else is under $5). I remembered a hole in the wall with unremarkable signage, and the nondescript name of Dumpling House, something you'd pass by if you didn't know better. Now it's twice as big, considerably more polished, with lots of seating and a huge yellow sign—biggest on the block—that says Vanessa's Dumplings. (Vanessa is the owner)
The renovation apparently happened earlier this year, and Vanessa now has a place on 14th Street. According to a sign in the window, she's now a "celebrity chef." (I don't watch the Food Network, so I wouldn't know.) Inside, there's a row of tables and chairs along the left hand wall. The ceilings are high and the space is airy. The appliances shine.
I guess I should be happy for Vanessa, but I can't help but feel that my special little hidden Dumpling House has been homogenized, sanitized and Yuppified. There were hipsters and UPS workers all around. I miss the cramped quarters, the two or three measly stools, the rude but quick help. It could be a Chipotle, the way it looks now. The help's not nearly as rude, but it is much slower. I had to wait five minutes. I know, that's not much. But I used to wait, like, 15 seconds!
And that name. Dumpling House, to me, says "Chinatown." Vanessa's Dumplings says SoHo.
As for the dumplings, they're still good. But the expansion has apparently cost them, because prices have gone up. In the past $1 bought you five piping hot pork-chive dumplings. Now it buys you four.
By contrast, let's consider Prosperity Dumplings. Since first discovering Dumpling House years ago, I have stumbled upon other Chinatown dumpling joints. Prosperity is also on Eldridge, just three blocks south. Dismayed with the new Dumpling House, I walked to Prosperity.
Now, this is what I'm looking for. It's reminds me of the old Vanessa's. Small quarters, a counter, a plain menu, lots of fast Chinese talk, unsmiling service, just business. And FIVE dumplings for $1!! Still!! And, dare I say it, the dumpling were hotter, fresher, better than Vanessa's. Yes, I do dare say it. They were. Plus I waited 15 seconds to get them.