It’s four in the afternoon on a Friday, and just off California Avenue, the spine of West Seattle, a line forms outside of what looks like—how else to describe it?—a big takeout box. The signage, with its “chop suey” font, white on red and flanked by twin dragons, recalls evenings in front of the TV plucking bites of beef and broccoli and chow mein from cardboard containers.
This is perhaps the first indication of where Dumplings of Fury—opened by the team behind nearby pub Shadowland this past July—draws its inspiration: the United States’ historically workaday relationship with Asian cuisine. Takeout is what you get, even if you’re staying.
Inside the tight space—a counter that seats eight, maybe half of that comfortably, and an elevator-size kitchen filled with hot plates—photos of Bruce Lee guard an overhead menu that contains the grand tour of folded dough: Korean mandu, Japanese gyoza, Chinese bao, and Chinese American wontons. Stick around long enough and someone might also ask for xiao long bao only to be let down gently. The popular soup dumplings were a star on the opening day menu, but it took about a month to realize a Din Tai Fung–level crew would be necessary to keep up with demand.
Orders arrive in stacks of plastic containers rather than on plates, the contents hidden under fogged lids. Maybe it’s a pair of steamed buns. One version is familiar, kalbi short rib, sprinkled with cilantro. Another—fried chicken with tangy oyster aioli and an unexpected pinch of chopped peanuts—swings more American.
This Western-style heartiness informs the dumplings themselves. Kimchi mandu comes out the size of a Hostess fruit pie, filled with an intense one-two punch of kimchi and salty pork, seemingly meant to be dipped by hand into the ginger-and-sesame-oil sauce. Even the tapioca-wrapped shrimp and chive dumpling, usually delicate and translucent on a dim sum cart, are fat as hockey pucks and panfried to a golden brown.
Nothing on the menu could be called subtle. But the end of a long day doesn’t call for subtlety—it wants cold beer and savory, unctuous comfort.
Hungry locals waiting outside of a new pan-Asian hot spot before it opens would make for a normal evening on, say, Capitol Hill. But a kitschy street food joint slinging—and selling out of—handheld dumplings looks out of place just off California Avenue, with its reliable lineup of neighborhood restaurants but relative lack of surprises.
The appearance of spots like Dumplings of Fury, spreading outward from the Junction or popping up elsewhere on that side of the bridge, like Kizuki Ramen and the high-profile Vine and Spoon, point to the inevitable: As West Seattle continues to become a viable landing spot for people who want to live in increasingly unaffordable Seattle proper, the long-sovereign collection of neighborhoods will forget its geographic borders and begin to feel like Seattle proper. And Seattle proper loves to queue up for street food.