Flushing (the OG location):
136-21 37th Avenue
Flushing, New York 11354
Open daily for lunch and dinner (closes at 11:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday, and 12:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays)
24 W 56 Street
New York, New York 10019
(between 5 and 6 Avenue)
Open daily for lunch and dinner (closes at 3:00 p.m. for lunch and 10:30 p.m. for dinner on Monday through Fridays; opens as 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m., and closes at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays, respectively)
9 Pell Street
New York, New York 10013
Open daily for lunch and dinner (closes at 11:00 p.m.)
We made our annual pilgrimage to the soup dumpling Mecca… Joe’s Shanghai. Joe’s Shanghai was our first eats when we arrived in NYC. It has been on our minds since our last trip to NYC, which was two years ago. When we learned that Delta had cancelled our original departure time, I was completely devastated by the fact that we were not going to eat xiao long baos (Shanghai dumplings) that day; that we were going to have to wait until the following day to enjoy the dumplings. Why couldn’t we enjoy them when we arrived immediately to NYC you ask? Well, we didn’t get out of JFK airport until 12:00 a.m. Boo. But we did get a sweet deal from Delta for agreeing to postpone our trip a few hours later… $400 vouchers for each person, and fly first class to NYC. First class was really sweet. I could probably write a whole blog post about it. It was so great such that I was a little sad when we landed in NYC because I didn’t want to leave my seat or first class. But I’ll save this for another post. Let’s get back to the original point of this post…
We arrived to Joe’s Shanghai with a wait time as there were many patrons ahead of us. There was one day when we arrived a few minutes before 12 noon to find no lines, and very little people inside the restaurant. Yes. We ate here a few times during our trip to NYC this time around. In fact, we actually planned to eat xiao long baos everyday of our trip, but realized it would have been just a little too excess. But I digress. So tip #1… make sure you go into the restaurant to put your name and the number within your party down on their list. I would also suggest that you go in expecting a wait time especially depending on the size of your group. The wait time on our first day at Joe’s was less than 10 minutes. I think it’s quicker to get in if your party consists of two people.
So let’s get down to the nitty gritty… You don’t get your own individual tables. You share tables with other patrons, which I find extremely uncomfortable. Weird stares, people eavesdropping on your conversations, or vice versa. I try not to make eye contact, and feel uncompelled to hold a conversation. So I uncomfortably sit in silence. Oh well. Moving along… the place is a touristy trap. So be prepared. The service sucks. The waiters are rude and very inpatient. The first question the wait staff asks you is not what you would like to drink, but if you want to order Shanghai soup dumplings. The reason why they do this is because each basket of soup dumplings is made to order to guarantee freshness, which is awesomeness. But it’s a little hurried and overwhelming, especially if you come here blindly not knowing what to order. Tip #2… know exactly how many and what kinds of soup dumplings you plan on ordering. There are two kinds, the pork soup dumplings and the combo pork and crab soup dumplings. Both are fantastic! You can’t go wrong with either types you decide on.
So now you have had some time to peruse the menu. Items such as fried rice, fried noodles, flat noodles, string bean szechuan style, moo shu pork, crispy pepper skin duckling, noodle soups, and then some, seem like a really good idea to order, right? Wrong. Don’t waste your time. If you really want tasty items such as the aforementioned dishes, go to a Chinese restaurant around Chinatown that can dish them up real good. Just go here for what their specialty is… xiao long baos. However, here’s tip #3… if you are going to order other dishes, make sure you know exactly what you want. On our second time at Joe’s, we were between a few dishes and couldn’t make up our minds and our waiter was pissed at us, or so it seemed. He became very short, inpatient, and rude with us. So we decided to cancel all the above orders and just stuck with the dumplings. Oh well. We were pretty full from our two orders of soup dumplings, and we were planning on doing a food crawl through Chinatown and Brooklyn. So no loss.
Your piping hot soup dumplings arrive in bamboo steamer baskets at the dining table, stacked two or three high depending on how much you ordered. For those who are unfamiliar with xiao long baos, or “little dumplings,” each plump dumpling contains a little meatball surrounded by a meaty hot broth, wrapped with a delicate dumpling skin. Use the tongs provided to pick up and place a dumpling onto your soup spoon. To enjoy these little delicacies, be sure to use your chopsticks AND soup spoon; otherwise, you’ll find the best part of the dumpling, the broth, all over your plate, which is such a waste when that happens. The broth is super hot, so DO NOT eat the dumpling with one bite. You WILL burn the insides of your oral cavity. So the proper way of consuming the dumpling is to bite a little piece of the doughy wrapper, suck the broth with a slurp, and then eat the rest. In between the slurping and the eating, spoon a little of the soy sauce-red vinegar-ginger dip into the dumpling, and enjoy. It makes the dumpling taste even better.
As you come to your last xiao long bao to eat, your happy belly immediately becomes a little sad. No more dumplings. So sad. In one swoop, your waiter scoops up your plates, bamboo steamers, and quickly put your check in front of you. A sign for you to pay and leave to free up the space for the next set of patrons. We were excited to leave lunch with a $14 tab. Not bad, right? We were doubly excited by this when we went there for the second time in four days. Well, not until AFTER our second time there, my brother soon schooled us on the fact that they ADDED the tip to the already $14 dollar tab that we didn’t even notice. I felt bamboozled. Swindled. Cheated. They ended up with a 30% tip twice. Oh well. I guess it could have been worse. So tip #300, make sure to scan over the tab before you pay in NYC, or anywhere for that matter.
Despite some of the negatives about Joe’s Shanghai, we are definitely looking forward to our next trip to NYC to visit my brother and sister-in-law, but also to eat xiao long baos at our favorite place.