It wasn’t the best day—chilly, windy and rainy, in June!—to be wandering around Chinatown, but I was in search of the best lunch $5 or less can buy in New York City, so I huddled under my umbrella and forged ahead. There it was—an unassuming storefront on Eldridge Street, marked with a bright yellow sign. (“All the signs are yellow!” my umbrella-less lunch companion pointed out, when I said I could see our destination up ahead.)
There’s no room to sit down at Prosperity Dumpling, just a small room at the entrance with a window opening into the narrow kitchen. The menu is simple—non-Chinese speakers can order by number for maximum efficiency—and pretty much everything costs less than $3. Despite the late hour for lunch (around 2:30 pm) and the rainy weather, a line formed in the five minutes we waited for our food to come out, and we were lucky to stake out a spot at the counter.
The fried pork-and-chive dumplings came out hot and had a browned and crispy shell. Try them with a mix of soy sauce and sriracha, both of which Prosperity provides on the counter. The dumplings were delicious, but the star of the meal was the sesame pancake, which you can order with beef, pork, tuna or vegetables. The pancake was golden in color and obviously fried, but surprisingly light, and studded with crunchy sesame seeds; the filling was bright with carrot and cilantro. We left full but not overstuffed, and vowed to come back on a sunny day, when we could enjoy our meal in the park located just a couple of blocks away, between Eldridge and Chrystie Streets.
Best of all is the price: Five fried pork-and-chive dumplings are $1. Ten of the boiled variety (with pork and chives, vegetables, or vegetables and pork) go for $2. The pancake with beef or pork costs $1.75; vegetable is $1.25. Add a soda for 75 ¢, and you’ve got an entire meal for well under $5. The one pictured here, with the fried dumplings and a sesame pancake with beef, plus a Diet Coke, cost just $3.50. Vegetarians can feast on an order of 10 boiled vegetable dumplings, plus a sesame pancake with vegetables and a soda, for a total of $4.