There are moments in life when how hungry you are surpasses how much money you have, or how willing you are to look for food that won’t leave your head hovering over toilet or fill you with an almost immediate sense of regret so tremendous that you begin to think it may have actually been better to stay hungry. For moments like these, it’s good to know about places that are both cheap, but incidentally, fantastic. For moments like these, there is Vanessa’s Dumplings on Eldridge street right off the Bowery. With 4 dumplings for a dollar, you can afford to try vegetable, steamed, pork and chive, pork and some other mystery vegetable, and be both impressed by the quality of the food and their soy/hot sauce mix, and by how much cash you have left over in your wallet afterwards. Too many times have I gone into the shop, ordered 4 steamed dumplings, 4 fried dumplings, a pancake, a red-bean paste bun, and a steamed vegetable bun, and been asked to hand over a ridiculously modest sum of $4.75. Vanessa’s succeeds where most other Chinese-fast-food places fail; others leave you with an overwhelming sense of unnerve and curiosity because it is never entirely clear where the food is made or coming from, while Vanessa’s prepares the food right before you so that even if their procedures and cooking techniques are actually unsafe and medically repulsive, you somehow feel otherwise. There are few things as satisfying as the hot-sauce filled, vegetable-sesame pancake, of their fried pork buns. So if you’re ever downtown, starving, and happen to have only two or three dollars and ten minutes to wait on line, Vanessa will give you a warm meal, and your stomach a proverbial hug. And no need to hang tight, you stomach is not in for a bumpy ride.
Vanessa’s Dumpling House, 118 Eldridge St. between Grand St. and Broome St.