Everyone knows about Vanessa's Dumplings - walk down a random NYU dorm hallway or stop the first Danish tourist you see carrying a Lonely Planet, and ask them where to get dumplings in Chinatown. They'll probably tell you to go to Vanessa's. on Eldridge Street. If things are really dire, they might even send you to the 14th Street location, or the one on Bedford Avenue.
But here's the truth: Vanessa's Dumplings is kind of bad. They're not bad, say if you're at a strip mall in Connecticut. But they're thick and often greasy, and more importantly, all you need to do is walk about 20 steps to have what might be the best dumplings in Manhattan.
On the corner of Broome and Eldridge, about a quarter block up from Vanessa's, is Shu Jiao Fu Zhou, a spot you could easily walk by without noticing - no less going in. Don't make that mistake.
For $2, you can get 6 perfectly steamed, smooth, truly delightful dumplings with a pork filling that is almost sweet. They don't come fried, and if you can't deal with that, you don't really deserve to be here anyway. For $3, you can have 10, and for an extra $2, you should add on a plate of their also delicious wheat noodles with peanut butter sauce.
Or, by all means, go eat a thick doughy orb with a bunch of teenagers next door. Your move.