Ping Pong vs. Chen's on Clark: Chinese takeout shootout in Boystown
I'd like to report on a recent comparison between Ping Pong and Chen's, spurred by a couple of posts recommending Chen's that led us to try it. The basis for comparison: hot and sour soup, spring/egg rolls, sesame beef, chicken broccoli. I hope this helps somebody. If you don't want to read this, the last paragraph says it all.
We often take food out from Ping Pong, in nearby walking distance. It's not conducive for us to eat there, due to the extremely loud pounding club music and general volume level in a stark industrial/modern space. But we take out again and again because the food is high quality.
We went for delivery at Chen's, also nearby. The food arrived ahead of the estimated time and was quite hot, possibly the first stop of the driver's route.
Both restaurants used fresh ingredients.
Hot & Sour Soup - Ping Pongs has superior silky texture. Chen's is too thin. Ping Pong's is more spicy (3* average), but Chen's spice level was 1.5*. I like hot and often adjust hot pepper and rice vinegar anyway, so hot/sour is not a big deal to me. Ping Pong's tastes more complex full bodied (savory) and eggy, Chen's more like heavily doctored broth but with decent taste.
Spring/egg rolls - fried rolls with vegetable/shrimp filling. The fillings on both were fine. Chen's was too greasy for Chowspouse to eat (I agreed but was hungry enough to eat it). Ping Pong's have occasionally been greasy but are generally well-drained and almost never as greasy as the sample from Chen's.
Sesame beef - beef with crunchy rice noodles and a sweetish/sourish sauce with some spice. Chen's would have been good (decent crunchy fried sesame-coated exterior) except it was much too sweet and the meat was coated with a little too much batter. Ping Pong's is superior - not too sweet, and more sesame seeds, without extra fried coating, and the meat seemed a bit better quality.
Broccoli chicken - stir fried chicken w/a bland sauce. Chen's had too much corn starch, and the broccoli was completely overcooked. Ping Pong gets this dish right - a lighter hand on the corn starch, and the broccoli is always al dente. The quality of Ping Pong's chicken seemed higher to us, too, but there was nothing wrong with Cheng's chicken.
So, Chen's was a disappointment and we will not try it again. The food was decent quality, but for takeout, save your money. Ping Pong is not perfect, but it's one of the better places we've tried. Just remember, if you want to get a table, bring your earplugs.
Next time, try Peking on Halsted, just south of Belmont for take-out- They have the best hot and sour soup in the city!!! It is thick and loaded with ingredients including tofu, woodear, and shredded pork- They also include a bag of thick, crispy fried noodles to add to the soup. Great combo plates for about $5-6 dollars- I usually get the garlic chicken combo with fried rice and oversized eggroll- As an entree, I'll often get the Singapore Mai Fun, loaded with shrimp ( medium sized- not those baby shrimp), chicken, but I hold off on the beef- You get enough for 4 meals!!!!! Other favorites include Bar-B-Q pork Chop Suey and they make a killer egg foo young.. They also have 1980's prices!!!! You can get 1/2 orders on most entrees, some of which are under $4 and easily feed 2- I don't know how they do it!!!!
They also include free eggroll or pop with $10 order
approx 3100 N. Halsted 773-281-0653
Went to PingPong last night. Wow - tasty stuff. I don't know what I was expecting. They had some $2 wine and other drink specials. The fantastic hot & sour soup is 99 cents and all entrees are very reasonable.
Service was good, too. DH had the orange chicken which actually tasted orange like and not like fried candy goo. I had the Shanghai lo mein - very tasty. Lots of good options for veg and non veg.
I agree, the LOUD house music in a dead space isn't for an intimate dinner w/ friends. But, the price is right - and tasty, too.