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Cheap and delicious: The best steamed dumplings in Houston are worth waiting in line for

Clifford, Best of Everything, Doozo dumplings
A nondescript take-out counter in The Shops at Houston Center, Doozo has become a downtown fixture. This photo was taken around 3 p.m. on a weekday afternoon after the large crowd of customers had come and gone. Photo by Adrienne Raquel
Clifford, Best of Everything, Doozo dumplings
Julie Li oversees the line of customers with military precision Photo by Adrienne Raquel
Doozo, dumplings
An order of "half-and-half with spicy" sauce. There are 10 dumplings to an order, but we dug into this order before the photo was taken. Photo by Adrienne Raquel
Clifford, Best of Everything, Doozo dumplings
Clifford, Best of Everything, Doozo dumplings
Doozo, dumplings

Everyone has a strong opinion on the best steamed dumplings in town. But in more than 15 years, my opinion hasn't wavered: Doozo is the hands-down winner.

For nearly two decades, owners George and Julie Li have been familiar fixtures behind the small take-out counter around the corner from the massive food court at the The Shops at Houston Center. At the noon hour, the line of office workers stretches down one corridor of the mall, but Julie keeps things moving with military precision. 

 Regulars know how to order in shorthand: "Half-and-half, spicy" means an order divided between pork and veggie with spicy sauce. 

Doozo, a Japanese word for "Welcome," started as a yogurt shop in a different location in the mall. But the dumplings, first offered as an afterthought, soon outclassed the desserts and yogurt vanished from the menu. 

A few other items are now on the menu — hot and sour soup, wonton soup, shrimp roll, noodles, fresh fruit — but most customers come for the dumplings — in pork, chicken or veggie with sauce that's mild, spicy or extra-spicy.

Regulars know how to order in shorthand: "Half-and-half, spicy" means an order divided between pork and veggie dumplings with spicy sauce ($6.50 for an order of 10). And they take pity on newcomers, who can't decide what to order and hold up the line.

The couple and their longtime staff, who have been with them 17 and 12 years respectively, rise at 4:30 every weekday morning to to make the dumplings from scratch.

"It's fresh; that's our secret," Julie says. "Everything is handmade, starting with the dough."

They have turned down opportunities to franchise other locations and expand the menu. "We're still basically the same," Julie says. "When people come up, they know what they want. I don't change a lot."

In a city that constantly obliterates its past, such an attitude is rare — and refreshing.

But while Doozo doesn't change, neither does its owners. While I have aged greatly since first coming to Doozo, Julie and George look exactly the same as they did 15 years ago.

Maybe it's the daily dumplings.

Doozo, 1200 McKinney, 713-571-6898. Open Monday - Friday, 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Have you got a favorite place for steamed dumplings? Let us know in the comments section below.

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