Dumpling Darling to put down Iowa City roots on Iowa Avenue

Photo by Helaina Thompson
Photo by Helaina Thompson

Dumpling Darling will be opening its own, permanent Iowa City location come February 2017, complete with an expanded menu and late-night hours.

Owners Lesley and Brian Triplett will be revamping the location at 213 Iowa Avenue — adding more seating and an open kitchen — and preparing some new menu items featuring dumplings from around the world, like Polish pierogi and Nepali momos.

“It’s kind of the culmination of all the weird things we’ve done in our life: our love of travel and our love of food and our love of Iowa City,” Lesley Triplett said of the expanded offerings.

Staples, like the Korean-style pork and veggie dumplings that have been a Dumpling Darling standard since the beginning, will stay on the menu. Seasonal items and other dishes, including a Korean-style barbecue dish that they have been serving up at festivals over the summer, will be added. She said she also hopes to have the menu translated into Mandarin and Korean to make it more accessible to people throughout the community.

The Tripletts were first inspired while spending time in South Korea and sampling the dumplings sold there by street vendors.

“I enjoyed the culture of eating there,” she said. “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 said when she first began making dumplings as a Saturday morning hobby she never anticipated it turning into a full-time job. But after starting out selling dumplings at the Iowa City Farmers Market in 2014 and seeing the positive response from the community, “We thought that maybe we were really on to something,” she said.

For those who can’t wait until February to frequent the new location, Dumpling Darling foods are already available at the restaurant’s current Iowa City location, which is shared with Pop’s Old N New Bar-B-Que (130 N. Dubuque St.), and at the Cedar Rapids location in NewBo City Market. New Pioneer Food Co-op, John’s Grocery, Bread Garden Market and University of Iowa campus markets also carry some of Dumpling Darling’s wares.

Triplett said a permanent Iowa City home has long been a goal, and when they saw the Iowa Avenue space empty, they jumped on it.

“It’s been a crazy year,” she said.

The Tripletts opened up the restaurant’s current Iowa City location in February this year, then the busy summer festival season kicked in and, just over a month ago, the restaurant’s NewBo Market location was threatened by rising flood waters.

“It’s slowing down a little, so we’re ready for this next step,” Triplett said.

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The couple hopes to open the new Iowa Avenue location come February. Triplett said more might be on the horizon — including a spot in Des Moines and perhaps even outside of Iowa — if the new move goes well.

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