It’s not that there aren’t any truly great, culturally rich Chinese restaurants in San Diego. The problem is that there’s a serious lack of visibility when it comes to these establishments, both literally and figuratively.
However, there is one Chinese food restaurant that hits on all these levels, and in those same top 10 lists, it consistently ranks as number one. My answer, and clearly most of San Diego's too, to the question of where the best Chinese food is Dumpling Inn.
Extending the footprint of Dumpling Inn on Convoy St
Dumpling Inn was always popular, but situated somewhat awkwardly in a tiny part of a strip mall on Convoy St. When owner Mark Sun (Khan's Cave and Del Mar Rendezvous) got involved in the picture, he knew a move was critical to long-term success and capitalized on an opportunity to relocate a year and a half ago. As luck would have it, a grocery store in the same strip was moving out.
When he made the move, Sun also decided to bring in a new element of intrigue to the already well-established Dumpling Inn by building and housing the newly minted Shanghai Saloon under the same roof. It was a smart move for a lot of reasons, most importantly that the only real criticism Dumpling Inn received at the old location involved the horrible wait to get a table.
“It [was] impossible to get a seat unless you [didn’t] mind waiting for an hour or two, which [wasn’t] feasible for most of us on a lunch or dinner break," wrote Barbarella Fokos for the San Diego Reader. "What had been a quintessential hole in the wall -- tiny, hectic, stressful, but worth the fight for most to get to some of the best damned Chinese food in town -- [became] a place where we could actually sit down and dine without the guilt of knowing there were 20 or 30 people wishing you would hurry it up a little.”
But a few months ago, Sun quietly decided it was time to cash out and bestow the Dumpling Inn mantle onto somebody else, to the surprise of most.