I’ve been pumped for the West Village arrival of Lumpia Shack from the moment I heard about the impending expansion. I’ve loved Filipino food for quite some time as you may have seen previously on Winston Wanders, but my passion has grown substantially while dating my quarter-Filipina girlfriend and eating with her Filipino family. More Filipino food in my life is definitely a good thing.
Lumpia Shack got its start as a vendor at the very popular Williamsburg waterfront, open-air food fair Smorgasburg as well as indoor winter version with Adobo Shack. I personally had never been to Lumpia Shack or Adobo Shack at either of the Smorgasburg venues, mostly because I’ve pretty much given up on that excessive-wait-filled, long-lined, hipster-loaded, food wank-fest. That’s why I was so excited to hear that this vendor was finally making the jump to full brick-and-mortar and in my neighborhood no less.
Upon hearing about their shop opening, Amy and I knew we had to get over there fast and see what what all the hype was about. After all, it’s not every Smorgasburg vendor that’s good enough or popular enough to make the transition.
Even with this destination in mind and address in hand we struggled to find the shop. There was pretty much no external signage marking Lumpia Shack’s location. Perhaps it was because they were still in soft launch mode and maybe a full-size, eye-catching sign is on the way, but they definitely need something to draw in the Greenwich Street pedestrian crowds.
But we did manage to find the tiny, unassuming shop. It definitely had a high-quality fast food vibe and will likely have a delivery component as a big part of their business model. It’s a small, clean, white brick and wood-walled shop with a couple of subtle hipstery design features and faux-tin shack roof. It’s a simple shop with a bit of bar seating, but that’s all it really needs. The menu is pretty limited or shall I say focused, but I usually find that that’s a good thing so places like this don’t spread themselves too thin.
Though Sinigang Garlic Chips are offered on the menu, we did not specifically order them, but the shop owner brought out a bowl of them for us to munch on while the rest of our food was being prepared anyway. I’m glad he did though because they were delicious.
These crispy, puffy chips were texturally somewhere between the puffed rice crackers and shrimp chips you often find at Asian groceries around the city, but the flavor was so much more exciting that either of those have ever been. The spice blend sprinkled on top was actually really complex, flavorful, and spicy and made for a really satisfying snacking chip experience while we waited.
Then the first of the two dishes we had ordered was ready. We began with the shop’s namesake dish in its traditional flavor, the Original Pork Lumpia. If you’re not familiar with these classic Filipino snack items, they’re pronounced loom-PEE-ah and are what you’d commonly refer to as a spring rolls.
These rolls were loaded with a thick, meaty, moist, and flavorful ground pork filling and paired really well with the thin, but supremely crispy deep-fried flour wrapper. They were fried absolutely perfectly and were simply drizzled with a bit of sweet a sour sauce. That’s all those delectable little spring rolls really needed. They needed just a bit of the sauce and allowed the natural flavors and textures of the spring rolls shine on their own.
Amy, who is a lumpia expert, claimed that these were as great as the ones her Filipina Auntie makes. Now that’s high praise!
In addition to the spring rolls, we made a selection from the the rice bowl section of the menu to sample the Adobo Shack fare as well. I followed a Foursquare tip and selected the Pork Belly Adobo Rice Bowl and was told immediately by the shop owner that I was making a good pick. This was his favorite rice bowl combo as well!
What arrived was a large bowl of brown rice topped with funky pickled radish wedges, herbaceous cilantro, scallion, and Thai basil leaves, crispy toasted shallots, sticky brown adobo sauce, and large meaty hunks of pork belly. After snapping a few shots, we tossed the whole thing to integrate and combine that funky, sticky, flavorful adobo sauce throughout the entire bowl.
The rice was cooked really well and sort of popped when you chewed each grain. The variety of herbs added a real vegetal brightness to the whole thing. And that pork belly was downright ridiculous. It’s made with heritage breed pork belly that gets brined for 72 hours before being slow braised in locally brewed soy sauce and organic vinegar with garlic, black pepper, and a bay leaf. Every slice was half tender, moist, pork meat and half luscious melty fat with a crackly, crispy chicharrón skin layer on top. So damn good.
And to wash it all down, I got a Calamansi Juice. Calamansi is a small Filipino citrus fruit about the size of lime with a flavor somewhere between a lemon and an orange. Though this juice was a little milder and less funky and sour than other calamansi juices I’ve had before, this lemonade-like drink went really well with all of the hearty, bold, complex, delicious Filipino dishes.
Though Lumpia Shack claims to be “Filipino Inspired” I thought that all of the flavors and textures were about as authentic and excellently prepared as I’ve found in New York. Don’t sell yourself short Lumpia Shack, all of this food truly kicks ass!! I’ll definitely be back, especially when the frequent urge for a meat-loaded rice bowl strikes again.
Got another ethnic fast food eatery in NYC I should check out? Let me know in the comments below.
50 Greenwich Ave. New York, NY 10011