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The Early Word on Packed, Hyde Park's New Dumpling Wonderland

Chef Mike Sheerin's foray into fast-casual hasn't come without a few early bumps in the road.

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Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Almost two weeks have past since chef Mike Sheerin and business partner Aaron DiMaria opened the doors to Packed: Dumplings Reimagined, featuring an array of dumplings made with organic ingredients that are locally sourced. They've ran out of food multiple times as they've attracted Hyde Park residents, University of Chicago students and customers from across the city interested in selections such as dumplings full of pastrami. The soup dumplings aren't yet available, but this is what visitors are saying so far:

The Good Food News: While ownership has made much out of responsibly-sourced meats, the unsung hero maybe the butternut squash dumpling, which Rachel V. described as tasting "wholesome and robust, like they were made by gourmand grandma." But it's not the squash by itself, as Michael P. wrote "the fried sage with the squash dumplings was a perfect accompaniment." There's more veggie love, as Virginia Lee wrote: "The twice-roasted beets with candied sesame seeds were amazing."

The Meaty News: But don't worry, carnivores, wrote Court Sprewer: "[T]ried the Peking duck, Short rib & Housemade pastrami dumplings and they did not disappoint."  Heather W. has a favorite: "The meatball was especially tasty."

The Green News: The cost of environmental impact attracted a few customers, including Melisa Elliot: "The food is delicious and the prices are fair considering what you are getting (very high standards for humanely raised animals, organic/non-gmo plants, local farming and the taste quality of bigger restaurants)." But not everyone agreed, like Will D.: "the dumplings still need to be amazing to justify the price point."

The Bad News: Many customers —especially students— weren't happy with the value saying prices were too high and portions too small. As Zoheyr D. wrote: "I would not suggest going here unless you want to spend a lot of money for a small amount of average-tasting food."

The Small Portion News: Some weren't satisfied after their visit, like Frank O.: "You don't return to a place because it had good service, you return for the food and price, and both are strikes against Packed. I spent $15, left hungry, and finished lunch elsewhere."

The Kitchen News: There's also some kitchen kinks the need to be addressed, according to Gabriel Barkley: "We ordered for carry out and half our order was raw." But the problems weren't just for takeout, said Lucy L.: "Flavor was good on both but found the filling incredibly dry and packed too densely to be considered a dumpling."

The Queue News: Folks seemed all right with long lines for the opening, as Alicia C. noted: "Service was also good—any kinks will be worked out the longer they are open."

The Vibe News: However, not everyone was OK with the vibe, especially the seating configuration and the fact some dumplings cost more than others, wrote Nick Nielsen: "I disliked it the entire time as I was constantly stressed from poor seating, deceiving menu, and loud music."


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