$25 per person
If there were one thing that could make even some 4 AM studying for a Spanish test bearable, it would be Joe’s Shanghai’s soup dumplings being deliverable. But they won’t make it home in one piece. You have to go to the restaurant, wait on line in the cold (or the heat, but whatever it is it always seems to be an extreme temperature), squeeze into one of the huge, communal tables in the packed restaurant and then you can order your dumplings.
But if anything was ever worth it, Joe’s Shanghai’s soup dumplings are. I feel like I might be beating the dead horse writing about Joe’s Shanghai. Most of the people who live in the city have been there, or at least know what it is, and it’s not a secret spot or anything. The soup dumplings even made a cameo in a YA book I read in sixth grade, I just feel like Joe’s Shanghai needs to be added to the collection of my favorite restaurants. If lines really kill you, there’s a really cool candy shop at the end of the street with an insane variety. There are also stands on the street during lychee season that sell them. And if you haven’t been to Joe’s Shanghai, you really, really need to go.
It’s a little vicious getting in. You put your name on a list and get a number, then go stand outside in a blob of New Yorkers who are all trying to get in front of each other, even though there’s a list and not a line. This is because once you try the soup dumplings here, you can’t eat any other ones. Not that I’ve actually gone on a hunt for better soup dumplings. My family’s been coming to eat here since Grotta Azzurra closed in Little Italy, and to me, this is what soup dumplings taste like. Even now, if we don’t go to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for dessert, my grandma takes us to Café Roma for Pasta Ciotti and a little culture clash.
Of all the Chinese food in NYC, Joe’s Shanghai isn’t the most authentic. There is unbelievable Chinese food in Flushing, but there’s something about the soup dumplings (and everything else we love there) that has an addictive quality. Momentarily, they received a C health rating (which has been resurrected) and for those two weeks or so, it was the saddest thing. All I could think about were my favorite things on the menu. My brother actually cheered when the rating went up. The food tastes so good that I probably couldn’t care less what the cleanliness situation is at Joe’s Shanghai, as opposed to being sketched out by buying gum at a deli with a B. I trust that they’re doing a good job making good food.
When you go, you must order:
Pork soup dumplings (they come in crab also). You put them in the spoon, bite a hole in the dough and slurp the soup out. Then you can eat the rest of it.
Shanghai noodles, which are thick noodles with brown sauce and pork.
Crispy shrimp with meat sauce.
Whatever sort of sautéed green they have that day (usually pea shoots or Chinese broccoli). This is always perfectly garlic-y.
These are the four things my family always gets and it even stresses me out a little bit when we go with other people and have to sacrifice one of our precious usual dishes for something they want (God forbid sharing). But that being said, everything I’ve tried has been really good, especially the orange beef, although I think that I’ll be ordering the same four things for the rest of my life.