This past year, a debate arguing whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich appeared to reach a fever pitch. Radicals on each side were out for blood and entirely unwilling to budge. The dumpling — in its continued perfection — seems instead to be a symbol of unity, with its international variance and many titles appearing to cause more celebration than nitpicking. And while this list focuses primarily on the quintessential Asian varieties, it should be clear that these morsels have always striven to epitomize delight, regardless of the specific local ingredients. David Chang once said, “Deliciousness is a meme. Its appeal is universal and it will spread without consideration of borders or prejudice.” And while cuisine in general fortunately follows this more harmonious trope, no one does it better than the dumpling.
Lao Wang Noodle House
Location: Lao Wang Noodle House is located at 945 South Federal Blvd, Denver.
Hours: It is open for pickup Tuesday – Saturday from 12 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., then again from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., it is open Sunday from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
The Lowdown: Lao Wang Noodle House needs little introduction. The south Federal institution — nestled in a strip mall and following a loosely-recognized set of limited hours — has the kind of xiao long bao that makes any inconvenience worth the trip. While a gleeful arrival may easily be crushed by a note reading that the place is closed for any old reason the elderly couple who run the place have come up with that day, Lao Wang is the type of place one keeps coming back to. Lao Wang plays by its own rules and like anyone at the top of their game, it occasionally flexes its own unabashed idiosyncracies — even if that means shutting the doors whenever the hell they please. The soup dumplings here are particularly important to have fresh, so while dining continues to be take-out only, we’d highly recommend enjoying them in the car at the very second that the steam slows to a still-visible whisper.
Location: Ace Eat Serve is located at 501 East 17th Ave., Denver.
Hours: It is open for patio dining Wednesday – Friday from 4 – 7:45 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 3 – 7:45 p.m.
Takeout and delivery are available Wednesday – Friday from 4 – 9 p.m., Saturday from 3 – 9:45 p.m., and Sunday from 3 – 9 p.m.
The Lowdown: It took a few years for chef Thach Tran — who took the reins in late 2017 — to add xiao long bao to Ace Eat Serve’s menu. Since the addition, the soup dumpling has become one of the most popular items, routinely selling out well before the end of service. Tran’s Vietnamese chicken pho-style broth is augmented by charred onions, basil and cilantro for the kind of cultural union dumplings were built for. With the dough providing all the steamed chewiness traditionalists yearn for, the broth pops as good as any on South Federal. Dumplings as a genre have always encouraged fusion of some kind, and Tran’s general commitment towards integrating global flavors sees its most succinct expression here.
Location: Mason’s Dumplings is located at 9655 East Montview Blvd., Aurora.
Hours: It is open for pickup Wednesday – Monday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., then again from 4 – 7:30 p.m.
The Lowdown: When we wrote about Mason’s Dumpling Shop in May of this year, we introduced the piece by saying that Denver has never been known as a dumpling destination. And while this may have been historically true, this year alone we’ve watched the city transform, with chefs and eaters alike beginning to take appropriate interest in what may be humanity’s most noble food tradition. Mason’s arrival certainly helped — with owner and operator Shan Zi bringing the already popular Los Angeles outpost to Aurora. Working entirely under take-out conditions, Zi has still managed to live up to the hype, quickly transforming throngs of casual orderers into rabid, unceasing regulars. With boiled, steamed and pan-fried dumplings being joined by noodle and rice bowls, buns and appetizers — including the unmissable wood ear mushrooms — Mason’s feels like an old-school LA joint, where some of the world’s very best food could easily be missed as people cruise past the unassuming strip mall veneer.
Location: Info on where to find Yuan Wonton can best be found on its Instagram.
Hours: Variable. But be sure to log on and order early, as each section is known to sell out within minutes.
The Lowdown: As much as Mason’s has helped to inspire the average Denver diner, Penelope Wong’s Yuan Wonton may be responsible for introducing the real dumpling fever. Opened in the fall of 2019, the truck has been popular since day one, with block-long lines being replaced by an online ordering system that inevitably sells out almost immediately after it goes on sale. The main offender at the center of this well-earned hysteria is the famous chili wonton — a dish Wong developed while running the kitchen at the Glenmoore Country Club. The wontons — a hand-crafted pork dumpling drenched in house-made chili oil and sprinkled with crispy garlic — were so good that Wong quit her otherwise stable career in volume fine-dining to pursue the nomadic life. While hype can often be propelled only for hype’s sake, Yuan has demonstrated that not even a pandemic could slow the swell of what might be one of the best single bites the city has to offer. Wong keeps on updating the menu with whimsical and seasonal supplements, all of which continue to prove that Yuan never could simply have been a trend.
Hours: It is available for pickup Wednesday – Saturday from 4 – 10 p.m.
The Lowdown: Dill and Dough is a collaboration between Misfit Snackbar’s Bo Porytko and frequent collaborator Michael Stone. Developed as a pandemic-friendly supplement to the duo’s already off-kilter and downright mischievous culinary style, the project provides a clear and palatable window into the permeance of dumplings’ internationalism. Porytko handles the Eastern European varieties — classics like the potato and gruyere and green chili-braised pork pierogi are joined by pepperoni pizza pelmeni — with Stone covering Asian staples — including crab rangoons, egg rolls and spicy beef dumplings. The Bo Bao — a dish that transmogrifies Porytko’s unbeatable burger recipe into two massive steamed buns — continues to beg the question, what is a dumpling really?
Location: Hop Alley is located at 3500 Larimer St., Denver.
Hours: Outdoor dining is available Monday – Saturday from 5 – 9 p.m., weather permitting. Takeout is available Monday – Saturday from 4 – 10 p.m.
The Lowdown: It should come as no surprise that Tommy Lee’s Hong You Chao Shou ($15) — boiled pork and pickled cabbage dumplings dressed with chili oil, smoked soy and peanuts — are an exquisite rendition. Favoring spice, the dumplings are tamed only by a delicate draping of radish and microgreens. And while everything on Hop Alley’s menu is downright breathtaking, the dumplings should be included in any feast whenever they are available.
Location: Uncle Zoe’s is located at 12203 East Iliff Ave. Unit D, Aurora.
Hours: It is open for pickup Wednesday – Monday from 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
The Lowdown: Uncle Zoe’s is another Aurora outpost with some of the best Chinese fare the city has to offer. Not exclusively a dumpling joint, Zoe’s offers a range of dishes that can be rare in Denver’s generally sparse Chinese-dining scene. The jellyfish with cucumber spice garlic sauce is great here, as is the mapo tofu. The pork wontons in red chili sauce ($8.99) come eight to an order and are stylistically similar to those found at Yuan and Bao Brewhouse. Though be warned, the Szechuan chilis here are abundant, with the dish capable of causing tap outs amongst even more heat-oriented diners. The menu’s best dishes though are the “fragrant meatloaf pies” — which tend more towards the intersection of dumpling and sandwich than the name might imply. While they technically come three to an order, each is cut in half to provide abundant snacking.
Location: Info on where to find Oh Golly can best be found on its Instagram.
The Lowdown: Sara Timmer and Ryan Van Splinter started Oh Golly Dumpling as one of the many pandemic pivots that forced a previous pipedream to become a reality. “We’d dream about what-if scenarios. We say it pretty much every day of our lives,” said Van Splinter. “Then COVID happened and the barter system came into play.” The collaborative pop-up has been serving dumpling on-location, working with bars to create custom cocktails to pair with the day’s selections. “I think what Oh Golly is doing is really great. Everyone is adapting to these crazy times and we were so happy to see Ryan and Sara use that as a catalyst to turn their passion into a new business,” said Run for the Roses owner Steven Waters. While each menu is different, the OG Dumplings ($12) — with wagyu beef, cabbage and carrot — remain the consistent backbone, and are worth seeking out with each new event.
Location: Cholon Central Park is located at 10195 East 29th Dr. #140, Denver.
Hours: It is open for pickup and delivery Wednesday – Sunday from 4 – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: While Lon Symensma has sadly had to temporarily close his downtown location, Cholon Central Park is still open, serving its exquisite dim sum for take-out. Well before Denver had developed any kind of dumpling obsession, Symensma was turning heads with his French-infused soup dumplings. Coming four to an order ($10) the steamed morsels are filled with sweet onion and gruyere and neatly display the chef’s penchant for applying his classic Michelin kitchen training to what would traditionally be considered street fare. These are not to be missed.
Location: Bao Brewhouse is located at 1317 14th St., Denver.
Hours: It is open for pickup and limited outdoor dining Wednesday – Friday from 5 – 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The Lowdown: The recently opened Bao Brewhouse is the city’s prettiest unavailable interior. Refurbishing the former Euclid Hall with murals by Mike Graves and Tuke One, the place has been built out for luxury, with an even chicer upstairs designed to facilitate sumptuous, intimate and unhurried tea ceremonies. As the beautiful space remains hidden from the public eye, the current menu proves lavish enough to hold up on its own. The big on the pig — a pork dumpling drenched in chili oil and punctuated with crispy garlic and shallots — and the Euclid Hall — a bratwurst and kraut fried gyoza set atop a bed of blood orange mustard — can both compete with the city’s more established producers, with the roujiamos — a traditional Chinese street sandwich — being an even more take-out-friendly snack complete with house-made shrimp chips.
Location: Lucky Dumpling is located at 26 South Wahsatch Ave., Colorado Springs.
Hours: It is open for pickup and limited outdoor dining Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
The Lowdown: Chef Brother Luck’s Colorado Springs dumpling outpost Lucky Dumpling is another one of our more fiercely-missed interiors. Pan-Asian iconography is joined by classic hip-hop and a general edginess uncommon in much of the rest of the city. Fortunately, even in the absence of the iconic space, the food is still an excellent example of just why Luck has had such success both on television and locally. The Thai Chicken Peanut ($9) — with cilantro relish, peanut butter crema and pickled pepper — and the lemongrass shrimp ($9) — with coconut curry broth, habanero jam and basil — both are exquisite and manage to travel better than many of their cohorts. When visiting, the crab fried rice ($18) is also essential — generously utilizing an uncommon amount of lump crab for the sharable dish.