Nestled in Chinatown is Vanessa’s Dumplings, a New York staple for those on a budget. The bustling, no-frills spot on Eldridge Street has a variety of options, from soups and sides to noodles and, of course, dumplings. Prices at Vanessa’s range from $1.50 for four dumplings to as cheap as $12 for 50 pieces.

The first Vanessa opened in 1999 in Chinatown. A second lower Manhattan location has since been added near Union Square, with a third outpost in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. All of them feed locals with traditional and fusion dishes alike.

Dumplings are a traditional cheap eats for Asian Americans, who have the highest poverty rates in New York City, and make up 12 percent of its population. But there’s more to Vanessa’s than just dumplings.

And though open seats are hard to find at the six tables or three window spots at the narrow location in Chinatown, you can always order to go.

Here are the seven dishes to try:

1) Chicken and basil dumplings
This is the most popular dumpling option for first-timers at Vanessa’s, and for good reason. They come out steaming and smelling of basil, an herb heavily used in Southeast Asian cuisine. The basil is balanced with the saltiness of the chicken, and wrapped up in crispy dumpling. Four dumplings are $2.

2) Pork buns

Pork buns are another option. Three buns, each weighing like a tennis ball, only cost $1.50. Though a bit chewy on the outside, the pork on the inside melts in your mouth. There’s a slight crunch from the vegetables and just a hint of sweetness.

3) Honey green tea bubble tea
To wash down the savory food, go with bubble tea. Honey green is but one of the 16 options they provide, which come with either lychee or tapioca pearls at the bottom. At $3, it beats other bubble tea competitors around the city like Vivi, Boba Guys, and Kung Fu Tea.

4) Red bean bun
For something sweeter (in fact, the only sweet item on the menu), order a red bean bun, the most popular Chinese dessert, for $1.50. A steamed bun encases the red bean paste, for a soft, plump pastry. The textures work for a spectacular bite.

5) Kimchi
If sweetness isn’t your thing, try spicy! As the only traditional Korean dish on the menu, it’s made with fermented vegetables, primarily cabbage. A side of kimchi at Vanessa’s is cooked with hot chili oil, and for $2.50, is a tangy and mouthwatering option that will have you reaching for your water.

6) Sesame pancake
Balance your spicy kimchi with a sesame pancake for $1. While Vanessa’s is known for their sesame pancake sandwiches, versions like the one with Peking duck and cucumber fall a bit flat in terms of flavor. The sesame pancake is delicious just on its own, crisp and light.

7) Pork and chive dumplings
Lastly, the second-most popular dumplings are a must-have, four for $1.50. The pork is tender and juicy, and the meat pairs well with the fresh, delicate flavor of the chives. They’re best when soaked in the salty-sweet soy sauce, tasting of greasy heaven. Come with an empty stomach and prepare to eat your fill.


Vanessa’s Dumpling House

118A Eldridge St.


$15 Credit card minimum

Delivery from Seamless, Grubhub, and Delivery at all locations


Other Manhattan locations:

220 E. 14th St. (Union Square)



Brooklyn Location:

310 Bedford Ave.

(718) 218-8809