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American Chop Suey

Anyone know where I can get a good big plate of this in the city or Cambridge?

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  1. My house! Because I love to make it now that I am in a place where people know what I'm talking about. I grew up in New England, and when I was six I moved to Nebraska, courtesy of the US Army. Talk about culture shock - I lived in constant fear of tornadoes and locusts, and was horrified that no one knew what American Chop Suey was or where I was going when I said "down cellar".

    Man, am I glad to be back.

    They used to have this at Zathmary's in Brookline - I imagine a similar place with prepared foods will have it also. Can you make bad American Chop Suey?

    4 Replies
    1. re: jsjs09812

      LOL! I am from Michigan and never heard of American Chop Suey until I married a guy from Haverhill. How did that dish get such a name?

      It is often at the food bar at various Whole Foods but expect mushy macaroni.

      1. re: three of us

        I grew up in Michigan, too, where we called it "goulash" :)

        1. re: Prav

          I grew up here in Boston, but only encountered the name "American chop suey" in high school - the dish was my favorite school cafeteria lunch. In my family we also called it goulash - I've always assumed my grandmother, raised in Buffalo, picked up the name there. Oddly enough, BFP, whose parents were both Texans, alse knew it as goulash.

          1. re: Allstonian

            Yeah, ACS I pretty much only saw in school cafeterias (and now at my work one). All of them around these parts. I didn't see it in school cafes before we moved here, nor at the cafeterias/etc when in college.

            A coworker of mine a few years back was making dinner for some of us and was serving "goulash". I was very excited as I love a good goulash. To my surprise he brought out ACS. Now, I happen to like ACS so I didn't really mind, but I always wondered HTF that was being called goulash. Now I know.

    2. If memory serves, they sometimes have this at Florentina in Cambridge. Note though that it's a dumpy little lunch place that serves stuff out of steam-table type metal trays -- the whole thing might remind you of your college dorm cafeteria.

      1. I've seen it at the prepared foods bar at Whole Foods on Cambridge Street.

        1. Recently saw American Chop Suey on the menu board at La Ronga in Somerville.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bachslunch

            I have never seen it outside of my elementary school cafeteria, WF my own kitchen. The is almost eerie, bc I had a craving for it last night. I make my own, WF's version is mushy.

            1. re: bachslunch

              I, too, have seen it at LaRonga Bakery on Somerville Ave. so it may be a pretty regular item on their menu.

            2. American Chop Suey was my childhood nemesis! My entire family loved it except for me.

              Looking back though, the combination of ingredients doesn't sound so bad, it may have just been my mom's recipe. My mother also made an awful meatloaf, but other versions I've had have been good. Does anyone have a GOOD american chop suey recipe?

              4 Replies
              1. re: heWho

                I think this is fantastic, and yes, with the tomato soup and all!!


                1. re: jules127

                  That recipe sounds 100x better than the stuff my mom used to make. Thanks!

                  1. re: heWho

                    Coming from California, I've never heard of it, but the sound of it reminds me of Hamburger Helper :P

                    1. re: marilees

                      Well...yeah. It's the same principle: a one-pot meal based on ground beef, tomatoes and elbow macaroni.

                      As Allstonian says, we grew up in very different places, but we both grew up knowing this dish as goulash. She makes her mom's version, which includes green peppers and celery. I make my mom's version, which only has the onions and garlic. We each secretly prefer our own, although we're happy to see either version show up on the table.

                      For what it's worth, I saw ACS in the steamer table at the Allston Shaw's the other day. Frankly, it looked extremely nasty.

              2. Grass Roots, a mostly takeout, breakfast/lunch place on Devonshire St has it from time to time.

                1. This thread is so cracking me up! Everyone in NE knows what AMC is but everyone's mother made it differently. Mine made it with Franco American canned spaghetti doctored up with ground beef, onions and celery. Mmmmmmmmmmm!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mtm7654

                    So funny! My mother made it with tomato soup, Heinz Chili sauce, beef, onions, and elbows.

                    1. re: Trixie Too

                      And mine (not my mother's) is loaded to the gills with chopped jalapeƱos. But please don't ask me where in a dish of ACS the gills are located.

                      Curiously, I just yesterday ran across a thread on General Chowhounding (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/458892) which mentions that in the Midwest, what we call American Chop Suey is known as (believe it or not) Johnny Marzetti!

                  2. I think the pasta "Bolognese" at St. Alphonzo's, fka Potbellies Kitchen in Southie, comes close to what I recall as American chop suey, though my mom's version also included green bell peppers. It's very good and nice-priced, like most of the food there, but it won't remind you much of anything you'd get in the North End, let alone Emilia-Romagna.

                    1. American Chop Suey was The Hungry Traveller's special yesterday. I had to induldge and it brought me right back to elemntary school.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: Allstonian

                          Hungry Traveller is at the end of Pi Alley. It's not a chow destination by any means, but does offer cheap lunches. I was with a co-worker, which is why I was there. Glad I was because I would have missed out on the chop suey.

                      1. There used to be a place on Craft st. in newton that made a good american chop suey. But it burned down a while ago, maybe 4 years ago now, I believe they've re-opened, not sure if its the same owners, but ACS was one of the few things they made well.

                        Occasionally, Strip-t's in Watertown has this on the menu as a special, when they do, its good.

                        Finally, McKinnon's in Davis Square serves this at lunch sometimes (maybe once a week in the winter) I find it a bit greasey but you may like it.

                        1. Victors in Ball Square has it daily and its very good

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: babs12462

                            Good call! I forgot about Victor's having this.

                          2. I, too, only have memories of this (not so good either) in elementary school; you might be able to get some at the local house of correction.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: bakerboyz

                              I would ADORE a plate of American Chop Suey! I'm a Bostonian living in the UK and long for an authentic plate of AMC. It was my favorite school cafeteria meal. I've tried lots of recipes but they don't quite come out the same. I can't remember. Does it have cheese on the top?

                              1. re: kyzzie

                                I don't think it had cheese on it. If you go to recipezaar.com, you could get some pretty good recipes for it.

                                1. re: kyzzie

                                  Mine just has grated parmesan (this is actually one of the very few times where that grated cardboard that Kraft makes tends to work).

                                  Elbow macaroni, canned tomato sauce (as much or as little as you want, I like mine well coated, others prefer dry or soupy), ground beef, celery, green bell peppers, cinnamon, occasionally pepperoni and whatever else is left-over. Cook macaroni. cook beef, throw everything together. Top with cheese. Eat out of pan.

                                  For me aside from sauce, beef and macaroni, the key ingredients are cinnamon and celery.

                                  1. re: sailormouth

                                    In order for it to truly taste like what we used to have in the school cafeteria, the ground beef needs to be at least a few days old after having been used for multiple purposes prior to its inclusion in the american chop suey.

                                    1. re: bakerboyz

                                      Roache Brothers has a great version with green peppers, onions, ground beef and chunky tomatoes.

                              2. Just saw this on the menu board behind/above the counter at a breakfast and lunch place in Reading, MA called Christopher's. No idea if they have it regularly or if the food at this place is good or not. But it looks like North Shore folks hoping to find American chop suey up their way might have a little success at it as well.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bachslunch

                                  AMC is on the menu at a lot of places in the Merrimack Valley all year long....usually on Wednesdays.
                                  A-1 Deli in Haverhill makes a good version.

                                2. Three other North of Boston places: Brother's Deli in Danvers Square, Red's sandwich Shop in Salem and The Agawam Diner in Ipswich. All great, diner stye American Chop Suey. Oh, yeah, and my house when my Chef Gina makes it for dinner on a cold winter night. Yummy!

                                  1. I was salivating over this post. ACS had a steady role in my mother's 3 dish rotation when I was growing up, and although I grew to loathe it then, it's total comfort food now. Her's isn't very good, and this thread gave me such a craving so I tried the recipezaar version linked here. Pretty satisfying. And we always called it ACS until my brother-inlaw came into the family and renamed it 'Train Wreck' ...'cause that's what it looks like...

                                    1. Old thread, I know, but I noted American chop suey on the specials menu at Danny's Diner and recalled this post. I also see that Chowhound triple_creme has actually tried it and liked it, here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/416900 .

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                        Is Danny's the kinda sketchy looking place that looks like it's about to be condemned? I rather hope so: I work very close by and, after turning them on to the real menu at Zoe's it'd be nice to go somewhere sometimes for a quick, cheap lunch that my colleagues won't tag along.

                                        Google's street view is not being cooperative for that block for me.

                                        1. re: sailormouth

                                          Yep, I believe so. Although anyplace that gets reviewed in the Globe quickly loses its "sketchy" tag in my eyes. Others on the board have had pleasant breakfast experiences there.

                                          1. re: digga

                                            The condemned looking building houses a scary American Chinese takeout joint. Danny's is the clean, bright, overly formica'ed diner next door.

                                          2. re: sailormouth

                                            Danny's doesn't look fancy -- it's about as bare-bones as you can get -- but I was very impressed with my first breakfast there. House-made hash, homefries that aren't especially well-seasaoned but do have a nice crust on them, properly poached eggs.

                                            The menu is big, too. You can order breakfast all day, and a whole bunch of lunch and dinner items (but only during lunch and dinner.)

                                        2. salem lowe at salem willows park has american chop suey sandwiches

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: galangatron

                                            I think those are "Chinese-American" Chop Suey sandwiches - celery, beansprouts, onions, and oh yeah, find a piece of chicken & win a prize. What's the prize? That little bit of chicken you found in there!

                                            Depot Diner in North Beverly has AMC on the menu every day but I haven't tried it yet. I like my own on the dry side and without peppers.

                                            1. re: PrincessBakesALot

                                              yes, you are correct Princess about the Willows' CSS.

                                              1. re: PrincessBakesALot

                                                Best ACS around (well, on the North Shore) is found right around the corner in Beverly at Henry's Market, (great place for when you are in a pinch and need prepared, heat-it-up-at-home stuff. They have a very large selection of fairly good prepared items. Good mini-bakery too.) I too, grew up feasting on ACS that my father would make. Love it, it's such a guilty pleasure. He made that and the "Cheeseburger Pie" on the Bisquick box. Funny thing, in direct opposition, my mother was a major chef, she even catered for a while. Dad took the road less travelled (repertoire included something called "mayonnaise cake". Need I say more?). Long live ACS!

                                                1. re: lobsterinareddress

                                                  Oh, cheeseburger pie is a whole other thread. '

                                                  "Dad food" in general is something I sorely miss.

                                                  1. re: lobsterinareddress

                                                    Had a great plate of it the other day from Victor's Deli in Ball Square, Somerville.