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Food Truck Week: Rickshaw Dumpling of NYC

From coast to coast we’ve searched to find some of the quirkiest, interesting, original, and of course delicious food trucks around. Each day we’ll introduce a new truck and let you discover why it made it to our list.

With two New York City restaurants, Kenny Lao and David Weber know that eating dumplings is an experience everyone can enjoy. The pair have taken Rickshaw Dumpling to the city streets. Three food trucks later, Rickshaw Dumpling serves authentic and delicious dumplings everyday to hungry lunch-goers and always has a good time too. PBS Food caught up with Kenny who shared the story of his Rickshaw.

Rickshaw Dumpling of New York City

What motivated Rickshaw Dumpling?

Growing up, dumplings were my favorite meal. It wasn’t just about the dumplings but also about the shared experience of wrapping dumplings and cooking them with my family that is such a sweet memory. When my business partner David Weber and I decided to open up a restaurant it was this shared experience around food that I wanted to create. So today, customers can share two orders of dumplings with each other, staff can share their love of Rickshaw with customers and our staff can experience working together in an awesome environment. We now have two stores (Flatiron at West 23rd Street between 5th Ave. & 6th Avenue and Midtown at 45th & Lexington Avenue as well as three trucks.) Soon we will have a kiosk in Times Square

How did you come up with the name?

In Chinese, Rickshaw means, “Man Powered Vehicle,” and we really like the imagery a human helping another human and we aim for that at Rickshaw. We really try to connect people with awesome food that they will really like.

What makes you food different or unique?

The dumplings can be eaten as a snack on their own or as a full meal when a customer orders the Rickshaw Regular, which is six dumplings a dipping sauce and a side such as a hot noodle soup. Our dumplings are served fresh and served by awesome staff that are psyched to match you up with the perfect dumpling! What dumpling are you?!

What inspired the menu?

We have created, along with celebrity chef Anita Lo, a line of authentic and accessible dumplings and matching dipping sauces such as the Peking Duck Dumpling made with locally sourced Hudson Valley Duck, five spice and with a hoisin dipping sauce.

What are some of the challenges and advantages with operating a food truck as opposed to having a traditional restaurant?

The most awesome thing about operating a food truck is that we can go to our customers rather than our customers coming to us! Tweet that you want us near your office! Put your money where your mouth is and come on down because we can be there. The weather and the trucks have a love-hate relationship. When Mr. Golden Sun is-a-shining our customers come-a-wanting dumplings!

Rickshaw participating in a flash mob dance at a birthday party for documentary filmmaker Hope Hall

How important is location? How do you decide/ plan your locations?

Rickshaw’s locations are almost like my children (if I had any). Locations are mostly based on amount of foot traffic and what the foot traffic looks like. Tall, dark, and handsome with large stomachs is what you are looking for when looking for good foot traffic. We have spots that we go to at the same time every week so our we can keep our regulars satisfied!

Do you have a few words of wisdom for anyone looking to start their own food truck?

Be ready to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Make sure you have enough operating cash to operate for a few months while you develop your spots.

Learn more about Rickshaw Dumpling and stay updated with news and their locations on Twitter and Facebook.