More excellent Seattle-area expansion news from the smash-hit dumpling emporium.
International dumpling sensation Din Tai Fung is coming to Southcenter. Less than a month after announcing plans to open a third local branch of the enormously popular restaurant in downtown Seattle’s Pacific Place, franchise owner David Wasielewski says he “couldn’t be happier” to let fans know that a fourth is already in the works. The Southcenter D.T.F. is slated to open in January of 2017, with Pacific Place set for this coming summer.
“I’m amazed,” Wasielewski says of the reception the Taiwan-based chain has received in the region. “We’re excited, and we’re extremely appreciative of the local support.” The Bellevue Din Tai Fung opened to hours-long lines of fans just over five years ago, and, Wasielewski says, “It hasn’t let up.” As it happens, today is the two-year anniversary of the debut of the University Village branch.
The restaurants feature spotless prep kitchens in which small armies of dumpling specialists meticulously fashion the chain’s signature steamed dumplings. Patiently (or impatiently) waiting fans can watch the process to while away the time in line. D.T.F.’s xiao long bao — “soup dumplings,” pork ones with a delicate, swirl-topped wrapper and a mouthful of hot broth inside — have a cult-like following.
“Historically, we have not opened at this type of aggressive rate,” says Wasielewski. He’s encouraged by the performance of the locations in Bellevue and University Village. “Both stores are doing very well — it gives me a lot of confidence.”
The Southcenter edition will be the largest locally, at a whopping 9,400 square feet. In Pacific Place, the restaurant is taking over the 9,200-square-foot former Pnk Ultra Lounge space in a fourth-floor corner spot. The University Village Din Tai Fung is 8,800 square feet; Bellevue is 7,200. Wasielewski is also building a commissary kitchen in Sodo that will eventually serve all four locations.
Wasielewski is quick to credit “all the success” to the founders of Din Tai Fung, the Yang family. “The amount of teaching and guidance they have given us in the past five years has been so valuable,” he says. And, he notes, “None of this can happen without the great employees we have.” (He’s also grateful for his friends and family for support, “my mom in particular.” Awww.) “I’m just lucky to be the figurehead,” he says. “I certainly can’t do it all by myself.”
The Southcenter location brings Waslielewski close to home. Born in Taiwan, he moved to Federal Way when he was in middle school. While his previous restaurant experience was solely as a busboy at a Chinese restaurant when he was in high school, he graduated from the University of Washington, holds an MBA from Seattle University and worked at Intel for about a decade prior to opening Din Tai Fung Bellevue.