Two years ago I was invited to go along to what my then-friends called an “off-campus dining adventure” to a restaurant they simply referred to as “Dumpling.” Being that I was a naive, campus-bound freshman, and they had cars, I decided to go along, despite the fact that all but one of them were intimidating upperclasspeople and that I do not do awkward social interactions.
While I do not really move in the same circles as those people anymore, let me tell you, I am glad I went along that fateful night, because I found my favorite off-campus, out-of-the-bubble restaurant, Palace Dumplings.
Hell, I found my favorite restaurant, period. The almost absurdly tiny restaurant next to a generic pizzeria with an identical floor plan and a Smokes 4 Less changed my life forever.
When I say the place is tiny, I mean it—there are maybe seven tables and I have had the same waitress every time I have been there since that first off-campus dining adventure.
The atmosphere works for it though; it is not the most bustling of eateries and the small venue affords the dining experience a sort of intimacy one might not get in a significantly larger restaurant.
When the menu consists of, you guessed it, dumplings and a begrudging concession to a few drinks and appetizers, I don’t feel the need for intense mood lighting and a fleet of grinning waitstaff in color-coordinated outfits. I just want my dumplings, and the understated atmosphere certainly lets the dumplings speak for themselves.
In addition to a chill ambiance that makes for a low-key dining experience, one of the big draws is simply the wide array of choices on their menu. While they might not have a great diversity in types of food, they more than make up for it with their specialty, dumplings. Under the pork section alone are almost a dozen choices, from traditional pork and cabbage to more creative options featuring mushrooms and eggs. I don’t eat pork, so I go in for their chicken and onion dumplings, steamed, or sometimes lamb and mushroom. If I’m feeling particularly indulgent I might pay up the extra dollar and extra calories to have them deep fried, because there is almost nothing better than deep fried carbs and meat.
Where else can I get a pick of seven different kinds of lamb dumplings? Certainly not at any of the restaurants near Vassar—it’s all pork or veggie, or maybe, if I’m lucky, a seasonal option for chicken. I also go for the tea. I’m a huge tea fan, and for a dollar, it’s unlimited hot jasmine tea at Palace Dumplings.
If I’m left to my own choices, I can cheerfully polish off at least two pots while I’m there, and more if my friends don’t kindly encourage me to stop before I burst, or worse, I get to full to eat dumplings.
And nothing should come between me and the three dozen dumplings I am likely to order while I’m there with my friends/co-conspirators in dumpling related adventures.
If the menu has a wide variety, then their sauces certainly do as well. When dumplings are the main draw, and not just relegated to the side menu, a variety of toppings is important, and Palace Dumplings delivers. On each table sit a variety of little pots with sauces of various colors and labels, some of which I still can’t identify. But here’s a secret: they are all delicious. You can’t go wrong.
Unfortunately, something is rotten in the state of my access to delicious pockets of dough and meat—my favorite restaurant is not conveniently located on Raymond Avenue within walking distance, and it doesn’t deliver. Honestly, if Palace Dumplings delivered, I would never leave Arlington, Vassar or my dorm.
If I could get them to bring it up the elevator, I might not even leave my suite. But as it stands, neither delivery nor never-leaving-my-suite-again are options that Palace Dumplings offers, so I have to settle for only getting my need for dumplings satiated a couple times a month.
And so while I do thoroughly enjoy breaking out of the bubble, I’m not sure if my friends appreciate my constant insinuation, begging, pleading and encouraging to use up a not insignificant amount of gas and time to get dumplings.
Trip to the mall? Better stop for dumplings on the way back. Just went out to Wappinger’s Falls for a new piercing? Definitely need some dumplings to get my blood sugar up again. Driving from one parking lot to the other on-campus? Still probably at least a bit of a justification for driving 15 minutes off-campus for dumplings.
While I might have a bit of a problem with how often I want—supposedly “need” is too strong of a word here, but I argue that I would sooner go without water than dumplings—to make the trek out to dumplings, I have no regrets and do my best to share the love for dumplings with everyone I know.
With vegetarian options as well as the more traditional meat fare, it really does serve a wide audience with its diversity in dumpling choices, and for that, I recommend Palace Dumplings with zero reservations.
Plus being a regular means I know exactly how to mix my sauces—splash of soy sauce, swirl of purple dumpling sauce, and a scoop of pepper flakes. Give it a try sometime.