Dough Zone Dumpling House based in Seattle is expanding to the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Mateo location soft-opened today, May 1, and the Cupertino branch is expected to launch a couple months later, possibly by July 1.
Two weeks ago I reached out to one of Dough Zone's principals about its plans in California. With eight restaurants established in Washington, the group felt it was ready to try another state. The Bay Area was attractive because the tech orientation and multi-racial culture are similar to Seattle. Texas and Florida are being looked at for future expansion. If it can succeed in California, the feeling is it can make a go of it anywhere. A faster casual concept for 30-minute lunches along a Shake Shack business model is also being explored for downtown San Jose or San Francisco. While its founders are originally from Northern China, the Dough Zone restaurants serve a mainstream market and not only the ethnic Chinese community. Unlike many Chinese restaurants, the employees come from more diverse backgrounds. An experienced team from the current restaurants will spend at least six months opening the new sites and provide comprehensive training for the staff.
The menu features traditional comfort dishes from the northern and central regions of China. The offering in San Mateo is almost exactly the same as in Seattle. Pork is the most popular meat and is sourced from Niman Ranch. Signature dishes include dandan mian, using a proprietary recipe and fresh wheat noodles produced to spec, xiao long bao filled with Berkshire-Duroc pork and aspic, and sheng jian bao, dubbed “Q Bao”. When asked his favorite dish, he recommended I try the chewy sweet and sour clear noodles made with yam starch. He also suggested the frozen dumplings to cook at home. Some of the buns are machine-made.
Neither the San Mateo nor Cupertino location have space for outdoor seating. The County of San Mateo is currently in the Orange Tier with maximum indoor dining capacity set at 50%. He pointed out that the San Mateo restaurant has ample square footage to accommodate many diners while complying with the strictest COVID-19 practices. Delivery orders are expected to make up a high volume of the business. As a top 10 national Doordash client, a special team of drivers works with Dough Zone locations at a lower negotiated fee that benefits the delivery customer. He assured me that delivery orders are prepared in their own restaurants and not ghost kitchens.
Asked to compare Dough Zone to international chain Din Tai Fung, he said that the style of food is very similar. However, he described Din Tai Fung as striving for a more upmarket and exclusive brand image with destination mall locations, long waiting times and higher prices. In contrast, Dough Zone targets local communities and everyday people in a more casual, contemporary setting. The goal is for customers to consider it their own home kitchen where they can afford to eat out every week with their families. The average tab is $15 to $20 per person.
He encouraged me to try it during soft opening and will keep me posted on the opening schedule for Cupertino.
Dough Zone – San Mateo
111 E 4th Ave
San Mateo, CA
Dough Zone – Cupertino (coming in July)
19600 Vallco Parkway, suite #130
(Next to Kura Revolving Sushi Bar)
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