Dumpling Darling in downtown Iowa City is closing

Dumpling Darling opened Monday, March 20, 2017. — photo by Frankie Schneckloth

Dumpling Darling, a farmers-market favorite turned downtown Iowa City eatery, is closing.

“As many of you know, it has been a rough couple of years for the restaurant industry,” Dumpling Darling management wrote in a post on the business’s Instagram page Monday. “Between the product shortages, labor shortages, the overall rising costs of doing business in the era of Covid, and general uncertainty of the economy, we have faced a great deal of challenges. Our workers have faced a great number of obstacles as well. Given these costs and challenges, we are afraid we cannot afford to serve you the same quality of food and service that we used to.”

Owner Lesley Rish developed her passion for the Korean approach to dumplings during the year she spent in South Korea teaching English, after her graduation from the University of Iowa.

“I enjoyed the culture of eating there,” she told Little Village in 2016. “There were all these sauces and sides that you could mix and match. There were no rules. Dumplings especially were sort of a comfort food and very versatile.”

She started selling dumplings at the farmers market “as no more than a hobby,” but when she started receiving catering requests, began working on dumplings full time. The business went through several incarnations, from a spot in NewBo City Market to sharing space with Pop’s BBQ on N Dubuque Street, before Rish and her then-husband Brian Triplett opened its Iowa Avenue location in 2017.

In its new home, the restaurant expanded its menu of steamed and fried dumplings, adding Polish pierogi and other items (including a mac-and-cheese dumpling) to its assortment of Asian-inspired fare.

In 2018, the Tripletts opened a second Dumpling Darling in Des Moines’ East Village, but that location closed in November 2019.

Dumplings steam at the Dumpling Darling booth as owner Lesley Rish works in the background. Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

According to Monday’s Instagram post, Dumpling Darling will be closing the doors of its Iowa Avenue location on Sunday, Dec. 19.

“This decision wasn’t an easy one but we know deep down it is the right thing,” the post said. “Operating under these current circumstances isn’t serving our staff, our customers, or ourselves.”

Although the brick-and-mortar restaurant is closing, that is not necessarily the end for Dumpling Darling, according to the post.

“It’s not goodbye forever, but it’s goodbye for now. Maybe we will be seeing you again one day in a different format.”

Lunch guests at Dumpling Darling, March 24, 2017. — Frankie Schneckloth/Little Village
Dumpling Darling’s red curry steak dumplings won first place with the judges and second place in the people’s choice category. Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

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