Business consultant Patrick Coyne said he’s been wrestling for nearly a decade with how to capitalize on the wholly satisfying sensation of slurping freshly steamed dumplings he originally encountered while teaching English in China.
Putting others through the paces of fulfilling their own entrepreneurial dreams provided him with a window into what it takes to survive in the free market. After careful consideration — and some inspiration from quick casual visionaries in D.C. (he mentioned Sweetgreen and Cava, specifically) — Coyne decided to take the leap.
His contribution: Laoban Dumplings.
“There’s kind of this trend of food 2.0 … food that people trust that’s done in a responsible way,” he said of the current hospitality scene.
A fan of home cooking, Coyne said he developed recipes with Chinese natives and friends who’ve also spent time abroad.
While certainly interested in honoring the iconic treat, Coyne also wants to push its boundaries a bit. “Everybody kind of has their own take on it,” he suggested.
Coyne has devised a menu comprised of roughly a dozen signature flavor combinations. He plans to introduce the initial offerings — a roster that includes pork and cilantro, chicken-honey-ginger, spicy bok choy paired with grilled shiitake mushrooms, scallions and chili oil, and a wild mushroom mix bolstered by pickled mustard tuber (per Coyne, this particular Chinese delicacy is typically served as an appetizer) — at the Chinese New Year’s party/karaoke jam happening Friday night at The Passenger.
He’s continuing to develop additional offerings, including Xinjiang lamb a la Uyghur (think: cumin), five-spice pork with yu choy, and a vegetarian medley that’s spent some time on the grill.
“I’ve been messing around with smoking tofu,” he shared.
In coming months he expects to partner with existing venues (On Rye and Compass Rose are already on board) about once a week. From there, he’d like to occupy a stall at Union Market, and ultimately open his own brick-and-mortar shop.
Right now, he’s focused on nailing that crucial first impression.
“I’ve seen the risk in trying to do too much too fast,” he said of the lessons learned from his 9-to-5.