Tiger Dumpling Co. (Review)

Tiger Dumpling Co. finds its perfect niche along Calhoun Street in Clifton Heights


iger Dumpling Co. is the kind of place we all wish we’d had on our own college campuses. It’s inexpensive, serves belly-warming, great tasting food and is open until 3 a.m. — every single day. The tiny space adjacent to the University of Cincinnati campus is conducive to wandering in after a night at the bar to order a few dumplings and heading back to your dorm/apartment/house to scarf them down in peace (or in front of your envious roommate, no doubt).

That said, Tiger Dumpling Co., conceived by Eli’s BBQ’s Elias Leisring, is much more than just a drunk food oasis. We stumbled into the small Calhoun Street storefront on one of the many snowy days in February and ordered lunch: a few dumplings, some hot and sour soup and their popular chili-garlic edamame. We sat at one of the four high-top tables and watched the falling snow as we scarfed down the feast in front of us.

First: a brief note on dumplings. Though they resemble potstickers in shape and filling, they are an entirely different animal. Dumplings have a denser consistency and are much larger in size. At Tiger, the dumplings are absolutely humongous. Attempts at using chopsticks were futile; the dumplings are simply too cumbersome and too dense to be adequately contained by two wooden sticks. Post-bar eaters will likely end up using their hands.

Tiger offers two dumpling options: pork and veggie. You have the option of “potsticker style,” which is essentially pan-fried, or steamed. We tried one of each option with both the spicy and mild sauce choices. The dumplings ($5 for a five-dumpling order) are standard; they honestly taste like potstickers on steroids, beefed up by a lot more dough and absolutely erupting with filling. The real winner at this place is the sauce, deemed “tiger sauce.” It is oh-so-much-more than soy sauce. You taste vinegar, a little red pepper and the tiniest hint of sweetness. The spicy sauce is no joke: You feel that burn in the back of your throat in that slightly delayed way that makes spicy Asian food unique. It is delicious and addicting.

The other items on the menu are few. Their soup ($3 small; $5 large) changes frequently; the hot and sour was the only option during our visit. It comes out piping hot and tastes a level above your standard Asian takeout place. It is certainly not an afterthought, but it does little more than warm you up and temporarily entertain your tastebuds.

The sweet chili-garlic edamame ($4) at Tiger, on the other hand, takes a beautifully simple concept and makes it playful and intriguing. By stir-frying the edamame in the sticky, flavorful chili-garlic sauce, the kitchen creates a completely different dish. They were messy, yes, but still fun to eat and something UC students and dumpling enthusiasts will remember. The restaurant also offers a standard sea salt edamame option along with “tiger style,” one that is served covered in that delicious tiger sauce.

When it comes to beverages, patrons turn to a fridge beside the cash register. They offer your standard soft drinks and bottled water along with items like sweet green tea in a can without a single English word on the label. Dumplings go great with beer, but much like the situation at Eli’s, you’ll have to find your alcohol in one of the many other Calhoun establishments.

With a simple, love-it-or-leave-it kind of menu, Tiger Dumpling Co. should expect a large crowd looking for good food fast. If they can keep up with the late-night demand, they’ll be a longtime fixture on the Calhoun Street strip. 

Tiger Dumpling Co.

Go: 249 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights
Internet: Searchable on Facebook;
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 a.m. daily.

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