Blowing your mind harder than the time you found out Uncle Phil was the voice of cartoon Shredder (seriously, WTF), this guide'll school you on the fact that the Chinese aren't the only ones who make awesome dumplings. And to prove it, we're breaking down 10 doughy bundles from 10 different cuisines (so, pierogi, pelmeni, potstickers, etc.), and then offering up the best NYC option for each.
Chinese/Shanghainese: Xiao Long Bao
Shanghai Café (address and info)
Eating a soup dumpling takes skill: you don’t want to tear it and splatter its rich and salty broth everywhere, but you also don’t want to burn the roof of your mouth. Luckily, this Chinatown institution has perfected its dumplings, so that the dough is thick enough to safely make the journey from chopstick to mouth. As for the burning-your-mouth thing? You're on your own.
Talde (address and info)
There’s a reason why Chef Dale Talde’s pretzel potstickers are magic: he combines two things we love -- pretzels and pork -- to create an appetizer that’s both new and quirky, and a delicious throwback to those greasy taste-bombs we’ve grown accustomed to.
Lomzynianka (address and info)
Greenpoint has no shortage of places doling out pierogi (a Polish delicacy that can come either boiled or fried), but we like Lomyznianka for its selection, which includes a potato & cheese, a pork, a sauerkraut & mushroom, or farmer cheese. Each plate comes with onions and a dish of sour cream for dunking... like all foods should.
Russian: Pelmeni and Varenyky
Café Glechik (address and info)
Russia’s got two types of top-notch dumplings in its cuisine tool-belt, and this place does ‘em both right. The first, pelmeni, is made with a thin dough and traditionally stuffed with meat, such as pork and beef. The second, varenyky (which some say is actually Ukranian but was usurped by the Russians), can come either on the sweeter side with things like sour cherries, or savory with mozzarella and dill.
Brick Oven Bread (address and info)
Hand-stuffed with uncooked & spiced meat, khinkali (a staple in Tbilisi) are a lot like soup dumplings, in that once they're cooked, the juices from the meat form a thick broth on the inside (so there’s some technique involved when eating). Unlike with soup dumplings, though, you won’t have to contend with chopsticks. Bonus!
Café Katja (address and info)
Lower East Side
Largely regarded as a side dish, spätzle generally finds itself playing second German food fiddle. But that's not the case at this German/Austrian café. Instead, chefs toss these pint-sized, chewy dough balls with creamy Gruyère cheese, sugar snap peas, corn, and mushrooms.
Sarge’s Deli (address and info)
Mile-high sandwiches are a must-get at this 24/7 Jewish deli, but the kreplach should be on your radar as well. It come two ways -- fried with onions, or in a soup. The latter is reminiscent of a bowl of homemade matzo ball soup, but richer thanks to the chewy, brisket-stuffed kreplach bobbing in the salty, carrot-and-pasta-filled broth. Warning: you’ll need a fork, knife, and spoon to tackle this one.
The MasalaWala (address and info)
Lower East Side
The deep-fried, Mumbai samosas here come stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas, and'll remind you of all those South Asian food stands you're always eating at when you go to South... Asia.
Tawa Tandoor (address and info)
In Nepal, momos -- pastry shells stuffed with either meat or vegetables -- are a popular fast-food (think hamburgers in America, but kinda healthier). At this authentic Indian restaurant in Queens, each momo gets steamed and served with a side of chutney hot sauce.
Ristorante Il Melograno (address and info)
Finding an Italian restaurant in NYC is like trying to find hay in a haystack. And while it's not hard to find gnocchi, there’s one place doing it better than everyone else a few blocks over from Port Authority (don’t be scared off). The gnocchi funghi e tartufo is handmade and stuffed with wild mushrooms, fava beans, and ugh, black truffles.
1. Shanghai Café100 Mott St, New York
2. Cafe Katja79 Orchard St, New York
3. Talde369 7th Ave, Brooklyn
4. Lomzynianka646 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn
5. Brick Oven Bread230 Kings Highway, Brooklyn
6. The MasalaWala179 Essex St, New York
7. Tawa Tandoor37-56 74th St, Jackson Heights
8. Il Melograno501 W 51st St, New York
9. Cafe Glechik3159 Coney Island Ave, Brooklyn
10. Sarge's Deli548 3rd Ave, New York
At the cusp of Chinatown and Little Italy, this longstanding staple shines with perfect soup dumplings. Not too heavy, not too soupy, the handcrafted dumplings are made with dough that's thick enough to safely make the journey from chopstick to mouth without sagging or leaking. Shanghai Café also has a solid selection of reliable plates like scallion pancakes and spring rolls, and everything is more-than-reasonably priced.
Austrian-fare punctures the menu at this cafe. Speck, blood sausage and beef cheeks as well as liver dishes like a liverwurst with red-onion jam, are mainstays while freshly baked, soft pretzels come with a side of sweet Liptauer seasoned with onions, chives, paprika, and caraway seeds. The beer selection includes quite a bit of Austrian-imported brews as well.
Talde showcases eponymous owner and chef Dale Talde's (of Top Chef fame) BBQ prowess in dishes like BBQ platters piled with brisket, pork shoulder, smoked bacon, shrimp, and black pepper-butter toast. Desserts swing weirdly awesome, from potato chip-crusted cookies with caramel ganache to a shaved ice sundae topped with Cap'n Crunch.
Although Greenpoint is well-known for its fine array of Polish restos, Lomzynianka stands out with its outstanding takes on traditional foods pierogies, borscht, and cabbage dishes.
This Gravesend resto dishes out delicious Georgian cuisine. And if you've never had Georgian (the country, not the state) try out their khinkali, which are dumplings hand-stuffed with spiced meat that forms a broth on the inside.
Think hip and fresh Indian food that mixes tradition with modern technology -- that's MasalaWala. The must-try item on the menu? The deep-fried Mumbai samosas that are stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas.
This Jackson Heights Indian spot may have only six seats, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with big flavor derived from a rich combination of spices and cooking techniques.
Authentic, straightforward, and reasonably priced Italian food is waiting for you deep in Hell’s Kitchen. All the good stuff (olive oil, mozzarella, wine) is imported from Italy, and the bread and pasta are made in-house. The menu is split between pasta dishes like veal ravioli and sausage pappardelle and meaty mains like chicken Milanese and rib-eye steak with cherry tomatoes. Il Melograno isn’t in the Theater District per se, but it’s close enough to go before a show.
This Brighton Beach Ukranian joint serves up some well-made Russian and Ukranian dumplings (stuffed with everything from pork and beef, to sour cherries, to mozzarella and dill) alongside hearty classics like beef stroganoff.