A popular Cincinnati restaurant is taking the final empty space that was left behind when WG Kitchen + Bar closed at the Banks in 2014.
Tiger Dumpling is relocating its property near the University of Cincinnati at 249 Calhoun St. to the Banks, which will become its restaurant’s flagship location.The move is scheduled for August.
“I had been approached very, very early on when we first opened Tiger Dumpling in Clifton about the original Johnny Rocket’s space, but at the time it was too big,” owner Hunter Hebert told me.
“We needed a much more high-profile flagship location (than Calhoun Street), and we’ll get a lot of traffic at the Banks between the Reds and Bengals stadiums and the GE (Global Operations Center).”
Tiger Dumpling first opened on Calhoun in January 2015, serving pork dumplings, vegetarian dumplings, chicken dumplings, steamed edamame cooked in signature sauces and soup. The Clifton Heights location, with just 525 square feet, was more of a take-out space than a full restaurant. The new location at the Banks offers 1,500 square feet.
The extra space is key because Tiger Dumpling plans on growing fast. The Clifton Heights location filled well more than a quarter-million orders in its 15 months in that location. The Banks location includes a new manufacturing space that will allow Tiger Dumpling to quadruple its output. The dumplings are still a handmade product, but the final step is mechanized, Hebert said.
With all of those dumplings being made, Hebert has big plans for new locations. He brought in an investment group and is putting together a package to franchise Tiger Dumpling. The restaurant’s sweet spot seems to be the college crowd, much like who it was serving on Calhoun. As such, he’s been looking at additional locations in college towns in Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Hebert is also exploring locations on the East Coast, where he has family. He said he’s had a substantial amount of franchise interest, including people interested in purchasing territories.
The Banks Tiger Dumpling location will continue to serve the same pork, chicken and vegetarian dumplings from the Clifton Heights location, but the menu will be expanded. Because of the limited kitchen space in the original location, soup was only available for part of the day. That will be available all day in the new location, and Hebert is adding a steamed bun and a soup dumpling to the menu. He’s also going to add on a quick-serve ramen concept, eventually permanently adding popular ramen items to the menu.
Hebert knew he wanted to be in the restaurant industry from the age of three.
“Since I can remember, I wanted to cook. My first job was as a dishwasher in a restaurant, and I’ve stuck around the industry since,” he said.
After working in kitchens throughout Oakland County, Mich., he attended the New England Culinary Institute. He traveled around from a young age, and that’s where he fell in love with Asian street food and dumplings in particular.
Hebert originally moved to Cincinnati from Detroit for a relationship and started Tiger Dumpling with partners. While both of those things fell apart, Hebert decided to stay and push forward with his restaurant.
“I had already sunk my cash in, so I put my head down and worked it out,” he said.
Brownfield covers retail and restaurants, technology, manufacturing and courts.