For Becky Lin, a first-time restaurateur who just opened a charming little counter service spot on West 4th Street, dumplings mean love.
Lin grew up in Fuzhou, China, before her family moved to New York when she was almost 12. "When I was working in our family restaurant [on Long Island] as a teenager, we would all make dumplings together after closing, the whole family sitting around the table. It was a very bonding experience," she told Hell Gate. "It made me feel happy. So dumplings have always brought me joy."
But maybe, even with that memory, noodles were even more beloved? "My original handle on my Instagram was @NoodleOverDumplings," Lin said with a chuckle.
Either way, everything on the appealing, noodle- and dumpling-dominated menu here at Lin & Daughters has a personal history behind it, whether it's something Lin created—"just a combination of me experimenting"—or a dish passed down from her parents and grandparents.
There's the platter of pork and chive dumplings, for example, that are sometimes made by Baba Lin himself when he comes in to help out his daughter in the kitchen. These wrinkly, thin-skinned Fujianese beauties work especially well if you break tradition and dump on some sriracha.
Baba is also responsible for the beef filling in the pan-fried dumplings, though Lin is the one who decided to add all that cumin, giving them some extra zing. The dumplings stuffed with a Japanese-style chicken curry are her creation as well.
Lin's sibling Mike gets a menu shoutout with my favorite dish of the feast, Brother Lin's beef noodle soup. A riff on the Taiwanese national dish, Lin's version includes chili oil and jalapenos if you order it spicy (which you obviously should do), swimming around the meltingly tender brisket, crunchy bok choy, and slippery noodles.
Sister Lin's chicken noodle soup is, per the menu, "heartwarming and good for the soul, and so is my little sister Lili." Awwww. Mom's wonton soup is also a longtime Lin family favorite. And if you're in the mood for something rich and sticky, Grandma's peanut butter noodles, a Fujianese classic, makes for a terrific accompaniment to...literally everything else here. (Including, probably, the chocolate lava bubble tea.)
And yes, the namesake daughters get in on the action through Lin's four-year-old's invention, a stack of cheesy scallion pancakes, which are as gooey and glorious as they sound.
Lin first got involved in the professional dumpling game through a website called Shef, which she likened to "an Etsy for food," offering a platform to home cooks who wanted to test the market for their stuff without making a big upfront financial commitment. According to the site, most of the "shefs" are women, and 80 percent are people of color.
Lin's success on Shef gave her the confidence to actively pursue finding a location for her dream dumpling shop, but it had to be near her home in the West Village. "I needed it to be close to my kids," she said. "I knew it would be long hours, and I wanted to still be able to see them as much as possible." This slightly elevated spot on West 4th Street, which used to be a ramen restaurant, and before that a sushi place, was perfect.
A Kickstarter raised more than $6,000 for, among other things, the homey design touches inside. "I wanted people to come in and feel like they were eating at an auntie's place," she said. "I made it as cozy as possible. It feels like a Chinese household, I hope, but with some Western influences, like the fireplace. It's really a mix of both. Very much like myself."
Lin & Daughters is located at 181 West 4th Street, between Jones and Barrow Streets, and is currently open on Sunday, and Tuesday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (917-645-0229)