Din Tai Fung is something of a cult favorite around town. A Taiwan-based chain renown across Asia; the Bellevue and University Village locations were the second and third of four U.S. outposts (there are now six locations in California) and an additional location will open at Pacific Place in downtown Seattle (after a delay, they opened March 9). Hour-plus waits are not unusual for a chance to sample the famed dumplings and other fare. Sounds just great with kids, right? The good news is, with a little planning, this no-reservation hotspot is actually a fab place to dine with kids in tow.
What's all the fuss about? It's mostly focused on the diminutive soup dumplings called xiao long bao, described as "juicy pork dumplings" on the menu.
To avoid a long wait, Din Tai Fung's advice is to come early. Yes, there was a line, but you may wind up waiting only about 20 minutes, and at the U Village location, your kids can watch the dumplings being made through the large glass-paned window that separates the entrance from the kitchen and they will notify you by text when your table is ready so you can wander while you wait.
Not only are the dumplings tasty, they're fun to eat, and slurping is practically mandatory. Beware: the liquid inside those steaming hot dumplings is (surprise) hot. You can poke a hole in the paper-thin dumpling wrapper and let the "juice" out into the small bowl provided, gobble up the dumpling, and then eat the soup separately.
The dumplings come 10 to a bamboo steamer and are traditionally served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, vinegar and fresh ginger. The green beans with garlic and pork chop fried rice are hits with kids. The wontons with spicy sauce are worth sampling, but may be too spicy for kids.
While the restaurant's small lobby is a less-than-ideal waiting zone with squirmy kids, the Bellevue location is right next to the pedestrian sky bridge – great for kids who need to blow off some steam.
Bellevue: 700 Bellevue Way NE, Suite 280, Bellevue (in the Lincoln Square shopping center, second floor); University Village: 2621 NE 46th St. dintaifungusa.com
Lynn Schnaiberg is a Seattle-based freelance writer and mother of two dumpling-obsessed children.