Ding Feng Tang: Where Dumplings Are the Stars, But Variety Steals the Show

In the heart of Chinatown, dim sum classics and lesser-known deep cuts come together in harmony.

Ding Feng Tang

An assortment of skewers, dumplings and dim sum favorites from Ding Feng Tang / Photography by Gab Bonghi

Ding Feng Tang is never really quiet.

Slow, sure. On Sunday afternoons and Wednesdays between shifts, maybe. There are days and hours where everything downshifts — running at a gear that’s all about conserving energy, waiting for the next rush — but it’s never quiet. There’s always someone here ordering, eating, asking for another round of dumplings, always something that the staff is cleaning, polishing or wiping down. As I sit at the bar, reading a book, my back to the world, I can hear the girl at the table closest to the dumpling kitchen bouncing up and pointing at her dumplings like she’s at the aquarium and just saw a really bright fish. I can see the two-tops pressed against the wall and the regulars and friends of the house sitting hunched, waiting like they’ve grown there, roots sunk down through pale wood and subway tunnels. Like they never actually leave.

The place can be hard to see unless you know it — just a narrow door on a busy section of Arch Street surrounded by mochi shops, crepes and karaoke. Its neon shouts no louder than anyone else’s neon; its maneki-neko statues­ wave no faster. But inside, there’s the bright red bar and bleached wood floors and brickwork and polished caramel tables. There’s the paper menu like an all-day dim sum restaurant, marked with numbers and checkmarks, a very efficient wish list for the dumpling fairy. And the people, always. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen it full, but I know I’ve never seen it empty.

Ding Feng Tang

Maneki-neko (beckoning cat) figurines welcome you at Ding Feng Tang

Ding Feng Tang is that dumpling restaurant — the newest spot in Chinatown, all shiny and bright. You say that, and everyone knows the place you’re talking about. It’s that dumpling restaurant if you’re referencing the glassed-in open-kitchen-slash-dumpling-vivarium where busy ladies in white hats shuffle bamboo steamer baskets and send shu mai and soup dumplings out into the world. Most days, the best seats are the ones close up against the glass. When the bar is showing nothing but basketball, it’s better than watching TV.

Crystal dumplings and Shanghai-style rice shu mai and pot stickers with crisp brown skins and pork soup dumplings squishing with slick, fatty broth are (arguably) what Ding Feng Tang does best, but the menu is long and full of interesting diversions. The wontons in chili oil bring Sichuan heat and will stain your shirt red forever if you drip. You’ll find fried rice and vegetable stir-fries on the back of the menu, beef ho fun and big plates of sautéed bok choy that taste of garlic and a gentle greenness, like kale’s less annoying cousin.



Ding Feng Tang
1021 Arch Street, Chinatown

CUISINE: Dumplings and dim sum


Order This: Soup dumplings, shu mai and scallion pancakes are a good place to start.

Plus, the scallion pancakes here are amazing — laced and brown, crisp as spun sugar, greasy as hell and almost sweet from the oil. Catch the kitchen at just the right moment, and they come to the table so hot, they’ll burn your fingers. But that’s how they’re best — when you have to blow out a sharp breath as soon as you take a bite, huff sharp, cooling gasps so you don’t sear your tongue. Even folded double, they feel delicately thin. Dredge one through the soy sauce that comes with them, and there’s just the barest hint of scallion sharpness, but they’re actually better with the sharper, more vinegary, more heavily fermented soy the kitchen serves with the skewers that take up a quarter of the menu.

Ding Feng Tang

Soup dumplings in a bamboo steamer at Ding Feng Tang

There are a dozen kinds — meat (plus the occasional vegetable or fungus) on a stick, grilled and plated, three at a time. Chicken is the easiest. The most approachable. The kind of thing you want to have first when you’re starving or later, when you’re three beers deep with a table full of friends. The beef comes very rare, in a sweet/savory marinade that’s so heavy on the garlic that it’s almost bitter, but the shrimp are excellent, and it only gets more esoteric from there. Squid? Sure. Gizzards? If that’s your thing.

Ding Feng Tang

Ding Feng Tang’s kitchen and dining room

Because shaking yourself out of your routine once in a while is important. You gotta mix it up, maybe eat the gizzards or the Grandma noodles. While repetition can be comforting, variety is where Ding Feng Tang truly excels — in the surprising depth of a menu that seems so simple on first glance. It’s a place where you want to become a regular, that you want to be yours in that possessive way people get about their favorite places. And it can be that. It seems almost designed to be that. Because it’s not just that dumpling restaurant.

It is whatever you want it to be.

2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood

Rating Key

0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America

Published as “Dim Sum’s Greatest Hits” in the June 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.