Dumpling Darling to open brick and mortar location in Iowa City

Dumpling Darling will get its own restaurant space. -- photo courtesy of Dumpling Darling
Dumpling Darling will get its own restaurant space. — photo courtesy of Dumpling Darling

Dumpling Darling, the popular purveyor of Korean-style dumplings sold at retail locations and farmers markets in the area, will shack up with Pop’s Old ‘N’ New Bar-B-Que (130 N Dubuque St.) to open its first brick and mortar location the first week of February.

“I met the guys at Pop’s while vending at [the] same festivals as them over the summer,” Dumpling Darling proprietor Lesley Triplett wrote in an email. “A friendship was formed over exchanges of brisket and dumplings and we have continued to keep in touch since then.”

Pop’s opened in April 2015 in the space formerly occupied by The Pit Smokehouse. Triplett first brought her dumplings to Iowa City in summer 2014, selling them at the Iowa City Farmers Market. Last February, she opened a commercial kitchen space above John’s Grocery (401 E. Market St.) and started selling at Cedar Rapids’ NewBo Market last spring. But, said Triplett, who lives just two blocks from Pop’s, “Having a storefront in Iowa City has always been my ultimate goal… but the high cost of rent downtown has stopped me, so when Pop’s proposed that we share a space, I jumped at the opportunity. It will essentially be two separate food businesses with different concepts and menus under one roof.”

Triplett, a UI alum, spent a year in South Korea after college, teaching and exploring Asia’s culinary traditions. Before returning to the United States, she picked up some dumpling making skills to bring back wth her. She started selling dumplings at the farmers market “as no more than a hobby,” but when the community responded with catering and retail requests, she quit teaching to work on dumplings full time.

“Dumpling Darling’s menu will include a variety of Korean-style dumplings (steamed or fried), steamed buns and rotating soups,” said Triplett. “People can expect crowd favorites such as lamb dumplings with peanut sauce and bulgogi buns as well as a lot of vegetarian options.”

She said that the menu of new cohabitant Pop’s will not change, “offering classic BBQ favorites such as burnt ends, pulled pork and ribs with some unique twists such as their amazing sides and homemade sauces.”

Triplett is excited by the possibilities of two distinct restaurants sharing a space. “The beauty of the set up is that people can come in and get the best of both worlds by ordering from both places. We also plan on collaborating on some menu items such as the Korean BBQ dumplings that will feature Pop’s’ smoked brisket, spicy kimchi and a homemade Korean BBQ sauce.”

A ribbon-cutting for the new joint space will be held this Thursday, Jan. 21 at 4 p.m.

“I know it is a pretty unconventional move,” Tripplett said, “But I think it will be a great dynamic.”

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