Here in the Champaign-Urbana area, we are lucky to have a variety of Asian restaurants, with an abundance of options that range from traditional to Americanized favorites. It’s safe to say that with delicious choices like Golden Harbor, Peking Garden, and campus favorite Cravings, among others, the competition is fierce.
Dumpling Noodle BBQ has thrown their hat into the ring, opening their doors in the space previously held by Kamakura and Sushi M. I did not know much about Dumpling Noodle BBQ before visiting the new restaurant. They do not have a website or a large social media presence. However, I had enjoyed the previous restaurants that occupied the Neil Street location, so I was hopeful on good vibes alone.
The atmosphere is a very similar aesthetic to the most recent occupant, Sushi M, with booths lining the walls and long tables for big groups in the middle of the room. A nice addition is the delicious smell of the grill, which can spark any appetite. They had a setup for live music or karaoke towards the front of the room. Given how late they are open, especially on Saturdays, this could be a nice place to end your evening out. As their name would suggest, their specialties are steamed dumplings, noodle dishes, and barbecue skewers.
Given they are relatively new, and I think they had one chef who delivers the dishes for the entire space — which was nearly full when we visited — it does take a while to get your food and it all comes out at once. My suggestion would be to order a variety of dishes and plan to share. They do have a liquor license and have a selection of domestic and import beers from which to choose.
We decided on the beef and scallion steamed dumplings to start (12 for $7.99). The waitress informed us that to order meat from the BBQ menu we needed to order a minimum of five lamb or beef skewers. This was not stated anywhere on the menu, and as I had planned on ordering a large variety of skewers, so it was fine. We decided on five lamb, one chicken BBQ liver, and one bacon-wrapped enoki mushroom skewer (skewers range in price from around $1.50 to $3 each). We also ordered the garlic eggplant ($4.95), to add a vegetable to our meat-heavy selections.
The food overall was really tasty. The dumplings came out piping hot and you could really taste the scallion. The table has a selection of soy sauce and vinegar for dipping. All three types of skewers were prepared well and had a nice smokey taste from the grill. However, they are very small, so make sure to order 3-4 for each person. The garlic eggplant was my favorite dish of the night. The garlic and onions cooked in with the eggplant were delicious and added great flavor and a nice crunchy texture. The outside is chard black and the inner flesh was seasoned with oil and spices. I would definitely order this dish again.
Overall, Dumpling Noodle BBQ has some pretty good fare in a competitive market. As a bonus, while other restaurants usually close around 9 p.m., their new hours have them open daily from 1:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. (1:30 a.m. on Saturday). If are looking for a place to bring a group to share dishes, and are not in a rush, this place would be perfect.
Dumpling Noodle BBQ
715 S Neil St
Su-F 1:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Sa 1:30 p.m. to1:30 a.m.
Photos by Madeline Trimble