I gotta admit that I love a gimmick. That’s why, when I heard a dumpling automat opened up, I knew I wanted to check it out. But Brooklyn Dumpling Shop isn’t just bucking with tradition when it comes to restaurant format; they’re also changing the game when it comes to the recipes. This ain’t your grandma’s dumpling shop.
Let’s get it straight: automats are nothing new. They were all the rage in the early 1900s. Go up to a wall of machines that look like stacked microwaves, pick the one with the food you want to eat, deposit some coins, and open the window to get your meal. By the ‘70s they’d fallen out of favor, though many have tried [and failed] to revive them in recent years. Brooklyn Dumpling Shop may just be the one to do it, thanks to the single product concept, the portability of dumplings, and food quality. Think about it: the best drunk food spots (pizza joints, street meat, Pommes Frites) are all grab and go places that essentially serve one item. From an overhead perspective, automats make sense because you mostly just need people in the kitchen + one person manning the main restaurant (wiping tables, explaining how the machines work). From a non-business perspective, it’s fun for the customers. After a screen informed us our order was ready, I loved watching my beau scan his receipt to make one of the windows open like a portal to a magical dumpling world.
The dumplings themselves are a gimmick in that they’re not traditional. Instead of standard flavors like pork & chive, you’ll find philly cheesesteak, chicken parm, and bacon, egg, & cheese on the menu. And don’t think that just because it’s self serve you can’t get your drink on. They sell pouches of frosé, pre-packaged single serving wine, beers, and White Claws.
This place has gotten some nice buzz in the two weeks they’ve been open and clearly it’s inspired New Yorkers to test it out because almost every single flavor was sold out when we went. I’d love to go back and work my way through more of the menu, but the reuben and bacon cheeseburger (served with Russian dip and spicy chilly ketchup, respectively) were both quite tasty and packed with filling. Each order comes with 3 dumplings for about $6. That makes it cheap enough for a quick snack but a good bit pricier than, say, Dumpling Man across the street.
They’re banking on the fact that dumplings are a longtime favorite food across cultures and have set themselves up for expansion success. As we waited in line (yes, there was a line at 3:30 pm) the owner told us that before this store even opened, they already had 126 franchised locations in the works. Though this is the only location that will be company run, it seems like an easy enough concept to replicate. They also sell frozen packaged dumplings if you’d rather buy now and serve later. I’m into the concept; I’m into the dumplings; I’m just not into calling it Brooklyn Dumpling Shop when it’s located in the East Village.