DUMP CITY DUMPLINGS

Food: () Meat skewers are delicious, but dumplings are uneven.

Service: () Counter service is prompt and friendly, but cooking can take time.

Atmosphere: () A work in progress: Spacious room needs a maintenance overhaul.

More Info

Location: 384 Upper Terrace Drive, Bend

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday

Cuisine: Savory Asian dumplings and skewers

Price range: Dumplings $3 and $4, plates $5 to $10.

Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: No

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Salads; vegan pad Thai and four-cheese dumplings. Gluten-free diners can order meat skewers.

Alcoholic beverages: Fully licensed

Outdoor seating: Patio seats about 20

Reservations: No

Contact: facebook.com/DumpCityDumplings, 541-323-6243

For more area restaurant reviews, visit bendbulletin.com/restaurants

D ump City Dumplings owner Dan Butters wants his restaurant to be the “dumpling house of Bend.”

For all practical purposes, it already owns that title.

Butters and partner Keith Shayon, who established Dump City as a solo food cart in June 2010, elevated to a brick-and-mortar restaurant in April of this year.

Their specialty is Chinese-style steamed buns, although in their new permanent location, they’ve added skewered meats, as well.

The former college classmates (from Ohio’s Kenyon College) studied in China in study abroad programs — Butters for six months in Nanjing, Keith for a lesser amount of time. They fell in love with Asian street food, but they found it hard to come by after their return to the Midwest.

Not surprisingly, both were enchanted by the food-cart culture of Oregon. And it didn’t take long before they were in business together, traveling first with one, now with three, mobile kitchens to music festivals all over the West Coast.

The primary fare is filled “hum bao” buns. “Technically, they may not be dumplings,” Butters confessed. “But it’s close enough for me.”

Plump dumplings

Three “classic” dumplings ($3 each) are on the menu every day at Dump City. Easily my favorite of the three is Chinese-style pork. A stuffing of minced pork shoulder, braised with a blend of mild spices, is blended with shredded carrot, cabbage, garlic, ginger, green onions and cilantro. It is wrapped in a yeasty, wheat-based bread dough not recommended to gluten-free diners.

A vegan pad Thai dumpling is filled with marinated tofu, “glass” vermicelli noodles, carrot, cabbage, sauteed onions and roasted peanuts. Finished with a chili soy sauce, it was less than satisfying.

But it was better than the four cheese pizza dumpling, which contained a molten mix of Parmesan, provolone, Tillamook cheddar and Mexican queso fresco cheeses. A house-made marinara sauce of Roma tomatoes did little to enhance it.

On the other hand, one of the constantly changing daily dumpling specials ($4) was delicious. Labeled a Pho Soup Dump, the Shanghai-style soup dumpling squirted warm bone-marrow broth at the first bite. Braised beef, bean sprouts, glass noodles and various herbs, including fresh parsley made it the next best thing to a bowl of Vietnamese stew. It only lacked the basil.

I wasn’t crazy about a “dessert” dumpling called sweet potato pie ($4). The purple yams were cooked down in a blend with butter and orange juice before filling the pastry dumpling. A generous sprinkle of crushed almonds went on top. It might appeal to a diner with a bigger sweet tooth than mine.

Ostrich and lamb

My palate is more inclined to the full meal deals, including ostrich. The flightless African bird, which as an adult can stand 7 feet or taller, is farmed at Central Oregon Ostrich in Redmond. Leaner than distant avian relatives like turkey and chicken — and leaner than beef, whose taste it somewhat resembles — it is a delicious meat.

My serving of ostrich ($6), peppered and served on a skewer with roasted garlic cloves, was remarkably tender. Cooked medium, it was presented with chimichurri sauce and a scoop of sticky rice. Although there was nothing fancy in the preparation, I thoroughly enjoyed the meat. “We try to keep it pretty simple,” Butters said.

On a different visit, I enjoyed a skewer of Xin Jiang lamb ($5, or $10 for two skewers). First marinated in a blend of soy sauce with Szechuan peppers, garlic, chilies and cumin, it was cooked with onion and served with sticky rice. Prepared medium rare, it was as delicious as the ostrich.

I have yet to try Dump City’s teriyaki chicken ($10), but if it’s as good as the ostrich and lamb, I’m sure I’ll love it — perhaps with a side dish of a cucumber or summer salad (both $3).

Several sauces from a self-service area are available to accompany meats and dumplings. I’m a particular fan of the sweet ginger selection. Others include teriyaki, a thin peanut sauce, a vinegary chili sauce and Sriracha.

Dump City is fully licensed, with beers and ciders on tap.

Service and ambiance

If I have an issue with Dump City, it’s that preparation of dishes can be very slow. Counter service is prompt and friendly, but it may take time for the scratch cooking. That was especially true on a Sunday afternoon, when my companion and I waited a full 25 minutes to have our food delivered. (It took half that long on a Wednesday.)

Atmosphere is a work in progress. “We have some work to do,” Butters acknowledged.

Indeed, Dump City didn’t make many changes to decor after taking over the lease from its previous tenant, Upper Terrace Eats. Floors are unevenly tiled. Tables need paint. Chairs are falling apart. If Butters and Shayon are considering winter projects, they’ve got them.

But it’s sufficiently spacious, with seven indoor tables (seating about two dozen patrons), another eight spots at the bar and room for 20 guests on an outdoor deck.

There are even plans for music every other Thursday night. That will sometimes include Butters’ own band, the Tortilla Chips.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached janderson@bendbulletin.com .

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