Two new spots for dumplings in the Loop

When you want a quick, tasty lunch with the casual appeal of great food-truck food but in a storefront space with tables and chairs, what could be better?

Jiao

79彩票注册网址Jiao's dumplings

DUMPLINGS

JIAO
18 S. Wabash Ave. 

Cuisine: Chinese dumplings 
Vibe: Hip, happy
Sound level: Varies with crowd 
Entree price range: $9.99-$14.99
Reservations: Not accepted 
Private room: No
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
 
CAFE TOLA
Ohio House | 600 N. LaSalle St.

Cuisine: Empanadas 
Vibe: Warm, hospitable
Sound level: No problem 
Entree price range: $8.25-$9.50
Reservations: Not accepted 
Private room: No
Wheelchair accessible: Yes

All restaurant meals are paid for by Crain's reviewers, who visit restaurants anonymously. They sometimes follow up with phone calls to management after they visit to clarify information.

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79彩票注册网址

Just as every ethnic culture has a pancake, each also has a small savory packet or turnover—boiled, fried, baked—that could be categorized as a dumpling. When you want a quick, tasty lunch with the casual appeal of great food-truck food but in a storefront space with tables and chairs, what could be better? Two new spots, both offshoots of more established eateries, stand ready to satisfy.

Jiao,79彩票注册网址 which opened in October in the Loop, is a cutie-pie sibling to Qing Xiang Yuan, a popular Chinatown restaurant specializing in soup dumplings (dumplings with soup in them, not soup with dumplings in them). Jiao edits the experience down to the barest of bare bones: small menu, counter service with buzzers to summon you when your order is ready, cashless, food served on eco-friendly recyclables and disposables. Tender-skinned dumplings ($9.99-$14.99 for 12), steamed or pan-fried, are spot-on. We are suckers for the lamb and coriander but also deeply dig shrimp, pork and leek, and also tofu, cabbage and wood-ear mushroom. Mix your own dipping sauce with vinegar, soy and chile oil. Among $1.99 sides, shredded potato salad and kimchi especially shine. (Watch out for NSFW garlic on the spicy seaweed salad.)

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Cafe Tola

Cafe Tola's ropa vieja empanada

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MEANWHILE, IN RIVER NORTH

In April, Cafe Tola took over the tiny corner space at LaSalle and Ohio streets, site of the iconic, blast-from-the-past Ohio House motel, whose guests get a special deal from the cafe (though no room service). The fifth member of the Cafe Tola family, known primarily for empanadas (most are $4.25 each), it has a glass-sided case on the countertop for current varieties, replenished throughout the day and available for quick grabbing and going. Depending on your appetite, one empanada could fill you up, as they're good-sized and generously filled; two should satisfy just about anybody. Meaty renditions include pork, beef and chicken, but there are vegetarian options, too. We liked a black bean and cheese combo but were less wowed by one with black beans, goat cheese and plantain, which is quite sweet. In general, fillings are on the quiet side; say yes when salsa is offered.

BUT ALSO . . .

79彩票注册网址Lunchers with time to linger should explore more of the wall-mounted menu, devoted largely to tacos, burritos and tortas. Two pozoles are listed; the brothy chicken version ($9) is chock full of meat and hominy. (Remember this, next time you have a cold.) The cheerful room seats about 20 at the counter and small tables. On one of our visits, a solo diner looked content to munch her way slowly, calmly, through a gigantic burrito, making us notice how this would indeed be a good spot for an afternoon sit-down, empanada and horchata ($2.25) in hand.

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