The long-awaited, almost mythical Daddy’s Noodle Bar finally opened in September 2020 after its “opening soon” sign ironically hung in the storefront for years. After spying signs of Brooklyn Dumpling Shop in the former Farmhouse Crepes lotand spotting cryptic announcements on Instagram in the summer of 2021, the community feared the same fate for another Storrs Center opening. When the restaurant’s proclaimed October opening did not come to pass, the fear was prolonged. Besides delayed openings, many beloved businesses have bitten the dust in the downtown area since I arrived on campus in 2018: Bruegger’s Bagels, Jamba Juice, the aforementioned Farmhouse Crepes, Wingstop, Husky Pizza, Dave’s Deli and 7-Eleven. Fortunately, other establishments have recently found homes in downtown Storrs like Fresh Fork Cafe. Brooklyn Dumpling Shop continued in breaking the Storrs Center curse with its Two’s-day opening — Feb. 22, 2022. Despite the typical Tuesday torrent, students steadily streamed in from the street to order from the unique automat-style restaurant providing tasty offerings and optimal hours, but which still needs to work out some kinks. I provide some other thoughts about the chain as a whole in Hollieats today, as well. (Link to Hollieats)
Brooklyn Dumpling Shop’s most appealing attributes are its late hours and its automat-style ordering. With the closing of 7-Eleven and most restaurants around campus reducing their hours, late night food choices are slim. However, according to franchisee Matt Rusconi, who I spoke to on site, the restaurant plans to be open until midnight on weekdays, 3 a.m. on Thursday and 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. He explained the delay in opening was due to the pandemic: supply-chain delays, from the automats to the food.
Furthermore, students can order ahead or order contactless at the store, which is fairly ideal for our technologically-savvy, independent generation.
“The store was modern and well-lit, with a busy – yet cozy – atmosphere,” Neal Krishna, a sixth-semester English and physiology and neurobiology major said. “My order was seamless and relatively quick, and though the process was easy and autonomous, the staff were kind and helpful.”
Right above the store entrance is a large QR code customers can scan to order on their phone. If not, they can enter the restaurant and order at one of two kiosks — right after they pass the main wall of 23 automatic compartments (“automats”) that separate customers from the kitchen. There are over 15 dumpling flavors to choose from, all inspired by a deli or diner dish, from pastrami to mac and cheese to lamb gyro. Founder Stratis Morfogen, who I spoke to on site, claimed the latter came from his grandmother’s recipe.
Four dumplings range from $5.95 to $9.95, which is a bit pricey for college students, since you would probably need to order eight or a side of rice to be full. However, a meal clocking in to at least $10 is pretty in line with the prices of the other franchise restaurants in Storrs Center like Moe’s, Blaze and Mooyah.
The other menu offerings included five potstickers for $5 for more traditional flavors — traditional being a loose term, as nothing on the menu is traditional. The dumplings are more akin to bao, and I’m pretty sure potstickers are Japanese. But back to the menu — soup dumplings clock in from $7.95 to $9.95, dessert dumplings (chocolate or apple cinnamon) are $6.95, spring rolls are $4.95 to $5.95 and breakfast “cro’sumplings” are $5.95. Wow. If you took a look at the menu, you wouldn’t believe half of these things are real. Morfogen pitched the concept as “dumplings as two ounce sandwiches,” and I guess he’s right.
The ordering process is pretty cool and easy: Once you order at a kiosk, you scan your ticket and the kitchen staff is alerted of your order. Once they’ve made it, they place it in the compartment on their side, and your side automatically opens. No contact necessary, although it’s pretty crowded in the space, so you might make contact with other customers.
However, despite the ease of ordering for me and other patrons, I noticed one customer’s order was taking a while; once the staff took note, the receipt scanner said no order was found. Weird. The staff member said it would be alleviated, but the customer continued to wait. It had to be at least a half-hour wait before Morfogen eventually tried to work out the situation. He told the customer that their order had taken so long and because the order had been left out and discarded because it had gotten cold, so they started to make a new order fresh. Nice that they’re making a new order, but all I heard was an explanation and not necessarily an apology for the mishap and wait. They thanked the customer for waiting, but I was waiting to hear more acknowledgement of the issue, especially since it didn’t really make sense to me. Oh well.
I tried the chicken parm and philly cheesesteak dumplings, as I enjoy their original forms. I was a bit dubious trying dumplings with cheese in them, much less these flavor combinations. The dumplings were perfectly fried, in that they were still crispy even after a lid covered them and condensation would have collected. The dough layer wasn’t too thick either. Both offerings were packed with filling, which I appreciated — no one likes a stingy dumpling! The chicken parm was recognizable, but the Philly cheesesteak wasn’t as cheesy as I would have liked. The beef was juicy, though.
“They had a unique and tasteful variety of food options,” Krishna said. “I ordered the Maryland crabcake dumplings and the apple cinnamon dessert dumplings; both were lovely, and I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of food given for the dessert dumplings.”
Samantha Lamb, an eighth-semester environmental studies and political science major, and the friends she visited with agreed that the restaurant’s late hours were a plus, and that they might order late night food from the establishment. However, the group wasn’t particularly impressed with Brooklyn Dumpling Shop’s vegan and vegetarian offerings, which include plant-based ginger chicken, plant-based Thai peanut chicken, plant-based cheeseburger and Asian veggie, ranging from $6.95 to $7.95 for four dumplings.
“[We] agreed that there were better, more cost-effective options that we were more likely to go to,” Lamb said. She claimed that the vegan cheeseburger dumpling was the best of those she had tried, and that the waffle fries were pretty good.
Brooklyn Dumpling Shop is certainly unique, and Rusconi and Morforgen are correct in that the restaurant seems to fit well with the college demographic. Rusconi has rights to Brooklyn Dumpling Shop in Connecticut, and plans to open at least 10 locations, from near Yale in New Haven to Fairfield to Stamford. He opened the Mooyah’s, Moe’s and Wingstop in Storrs, although is no longer affiliated with them, so he is certainly familiar with the area, especially hailing from Lebanon. The restaurant certainly adds to the late night options in Storrs, and I think the unique flavor combinations are right up adventurous college kids’ alleys. I have my own thoughts about the unrecognizable dumpling — I appreciate the flavors and offerings for what they are, but can’t help but be disappointed we didn’t get a traditional dumpling shop in Storrs. I can’t fault Brooklyn Dumpling Shop for that, though. I think if I can get over seeing the strange flavor combinations with my beloved dumpling, I’ll enjoy what they offer. Then again, it’s the principle of the matter.
I think the real test will be to see how the restaurant is doing and how the community views it in a few months. I think it fits in with Storrs Center and will continue to do well — I’ll be interested in seeing how their customer service, speed and business looks with time.
Rating: 3.9/5 i