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Oct 25, 2007 10:01 AM

Chinese American in Chinatown Flushing for sit down or take out?

I find it hard to believe such a place does not exist in this area of Main, Northern, Kissena, Parsons, Roosevelt? I keep looking but have not seen one. I am dying to find good quality Chinese American cuisine of my youth. In the 80s it was so easy to find a high quality one
Now its like trying to find good pizza in NYC. What happened?

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  1. What happened? Chinese people came. Still, you might try Flushing Noodle on Roosevelt near the train station. They have some authentic Chinese stuff but I believe they also have the Chinese American food you seek.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Brian S

      LWong-Man I ask a sincere question and i get dissertations on Chinatown and authentic cuisine. Some of you high brow chowhounds might remember a place called Lum's which served the best Chinese American cuisine in Queens and was right on Northern off Main St. They were there for years until it burned down in a fire. Thats what I was alluding to. I know Chinatown doesnt cater to gweilos but the fact is Flushing is not all Asian. Im not going to bother illustrating that point. I thought some chow vets from the 60s, 70s, 80s might recall Lums and what became of them or if they relocated under a different name. To the other posters thanks for the recs. Much appreciated.

      1. re: fcara

        Hey what about New Lok Kee? They might do some of the dishes you seek.

        1. re: fcara

          lum's is now gum kang san, the korean restaurant, isn't it? lum's was the place that was on northern near union. there was discussion about lum's here before. gum kang san still uses those hexagonal shaped signs on the front from the former tenant.

          another place i would recommend for chinese-american food is harvest buffet out in little neck on northern blvd. the owners used to operate chu jiang's kitchen on union turnpike and 188th st in fresh meadows, right near king yum's, actually. that place was great chinese-american food. however, they sold the place (terrible replacement), and the owners are solely at harvest buffet.

          i'm not crazy about buffets - it's a mad house and i can never eat that much. but the turnover is decent and they still crank out decent chinese-american food.

          i was never a fan of king yum's - i remember thinking everything was too sweet and overpriced.

          1. re: Linda

            Harvest Buffet is frequented by Chinese people. I took Dad there on Father's Day and had Quail and Conch (done very well and pretty surprised). Maybe that is why we paid a higher price that day. They may not be on the menu there always, but that day was all food porn. I usually don't like buffets but it was pretty darn good that day. Its Chinese Cantonese food there and the owners are from Hong Kong.

          2. re: fcara

            I've lived around the corner from Lum's (and its ghosts) for 30 years. Lum's came in with Flushing's Jewish population in the post WW2 years and left with them by the 1990s! The large parcel (suitable for Sweet 16s and Bar Mitzvahs along with fancy cocktails and columns A/B and PARKING) was just the kind of property the new Asian entrepreneurs were after. The Korean restaurant there now is even larger, having swallowed a furniture store also. Lum's had a wonderful hybrid wonton-eggdrop soup and great service.

            This food is gone now. Others mention King Yum which is close but not in Flushing. In Flushing, New Lok Kee, which moved out of Chinatown after 9/11, is a vague reminder. Fortunately there is lots of other wonderful chow out there.

        2. Agreed. The neighborhood is now full of actual Chinese people and actual Chinese food. However, I believe what you seek can still be found in other places in Queens with a different older ethnic mix. I've heard word of such places still in existence down by St. John's. Maybe you should check some older threads here or do a google search.

          1. As “Brian S” has stated, the “Chinese people came.”

            In all of the many NYC Chinatowns, the customer base for most of the more authentic Chinese restaurants are essentially 99.44% Chinese clientele. There are usually a few select Chinese restaurants in the Chinatowns that are favored by non-Asian customers, but in the main, most Chinatown restaurants are devoid of non-Asian customers, especially the Cantonese ones that are out of favor in general with the non-Asian public.

            For whatever reason, Chinese people do not enjoy the Chinese-American style of cooking which is why the Chinese restaurants in the Chinatowns usually do not have many Chinese-American dishes on their menus. Businesses must cater to their customer base.

            Chinese-American dishes can still be ordered at quite a few of the restaurants in the Manhattan Chinatown due to the tourist traffic and the native NYCer’s who venture out to a Chinatown for Chinese food, but many end up ordering the standard Chinese-American dishes. But the other four Chinatowns, including Flushing, are strictly working Chinatowns, with few tourist or non-Asian customers other than a few intrepid Chowhounders, hence there is less likelihood that there will be any restaurants strictly serving Chinese-American dishes on the menu.

            But once one leaves the Chinatowns or neighborhoods with high-density Asian populations, the Chinese-American restaurants are everywhere. Every neighborhood or town in metro NYC has at least several Chinese take-outs or sit-down restaurants in every business district. There is no town, no matter how small in size or little the population in all of North America, that there is not a Chinese-American restaurant in the town. On a trip to northeast Canada several years ago, it was dinner time and it was decided that our family wanted to eat Chinese for some reason, and we randomly got off at one exit at some small town since we felt that if we drove down the widest street in the town, sooner or later a Chinese restaurant would pop up. There was indeed a Chinese restaurant in this very small town and it served Chinese-Canadian food. We had asked if they might cook a very Chinese home cooking dish, steamed chopped pork with salted fish, but we were politely told this was not possible.

            Chinese-American style restaurants probably comprise over 95% of the Chinese restaurants in America. The Chinatown restaurants serving more authentic Chinese style food are only a small percentage of the Chinese restaurants in America and predominantly are in the major Chinatowns of New York, Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, San Francisco, and the other smaller Chinatowns in America. The Washington DC authentic Chinese restaurants are usually in the suburbs of Washington DC due to the demographics of Chinese in the Washington DC area, who are usually white collar professional types who live in the suburbs, but whenever there is a critical mass of sufficient Chinese, an authentic Chinese restaurant catering to Chinese tastes will pop up.

            5 Replies
            1. re: lwong

              Was that 99.44% a recently performed survey, I would have tagged it at about 96.2%.

              Anyway, I would agree that King Yum (cited below) is an option but to say the food is great is a little bit of an overstatement. Its heavily salted, maybe even MSG infused but the ingredients are quality.

              Also, to say that there are few tourists in Manhattan chinatown looking for a Chinese meal is not correct. I would say a large majority of tourists from outside NYC (whether foreign or domestic) flock down there for at least one meal on their visit.

              1. re: pepper

                As much as I love Spicy and Tasty and other places that are more authentic, King Yum is great because you will get the best versions of classic chinese -american dishes and the food just tastes great. I have gone with senior citizens who have a low tolerance for salt and never heard a complaint. I am not particularly sensitive to MSG and that has also never been a problem.This blog report says it all. Scroll down to near the end


                1. re: pepper

                  As the poster “Xiao Yang” corrected surmised, the fanciful use of the “99.44%” figure by us was indeed appropriated from the famous Ivory Soap commercial. Our purpose was to indicate that there are few non-Asian diners at the more authentic Chinese restaurants in the various Chinatowns and we were playful in using the Ivory Snow figure. The figures in our earlier post were not based upon a formal statistical survey with standard deviations and margin of errors, but only based upon our subjective perceptions (a quick off the cuff mental calculation) over the many years (more than we care to admit) of eating and shopping at the many NYC Chinatowns.

                  We would like to take a side note here to thank the poster “Xiao Yang” for their many patient and clarifying remarks of our comments in response to another poster who took umbrage with our comments and inferred nefarious intentions to our original post. Our intentions were quite benign. We had read the OP’s question asking why the old Chinese-American restaurants had disappeared in the Flushing Chinatown, and although we were surprised at the OP’s question, it appeared that the OP was genuinely perplexed as to the reason. Our intentions were to respond with our best knowledge as to the situation in the NYC Chinatowns and principally for other non-Asian readers who may not be aware, since Chinese and other readers who frequent the Chinatowns would be aware of the situation and certainly yawn in reading our comments.

                  And while we can certainly be wrong in our perceptions, we do not believe that we are far from the mark. However, anyone with two subway tokens can visit any of the NYC Chinatowns and randomly peek into many of the Chinatown restaurants to ascertain what the true situation is. Our guess is that one does not need to visit too many Chinese restaurants to get a good gauge of the average percentage of non-Asian diners. Probably all one has to do is visit several of the larger Chinese banquet halls during dinner time or other busy times to obtain all the data one needs to make their own informed conclusions.

                  It was not our intention to convey the impression that there are not a lot of tourists and that they do not partake of a meal in the Manhattan Chinatown. There indeed are a lot of tourists and they do indeed partake of meals in the Manhattan Chinatown. But while there are a lot of tourists dining at the Chinese restaurants, the number of Chinese diners are a lot lot larger, and thus our perception of a very small percentage of non-Asian diners.

                  We happened to be in Manhattan Chinatown for lunch at a fairly large restaurant, “6 Chatham Square,” this Saturday afternoon, but the lunch was very disappointing compared to a very nice dinner experience we had there earlier this year. As for the number of non-Asian diners, there were zero non-Asian customers during the time we were there.

                  One further comment is that our use of the word “authentic” in our earlier post is used in the manner that the restaurant tries to cook the food in the traditional style of Chinese food, and although there might be substitutions, variations, and changes in the recipes, the spirit and style of Chinese cooking is maintained. But “authentic” does not necessarily mean “good” and the converse, that “inauthentic’’ does not necessarily mean “bad.” The food we had at “6 Chatham Square’ this Saturday was authentic, but many of the dishes were not very good.

                  Eating food at restaurants is one of the more democratic institutions in this world. Every man can freely vote for their food of choice, whenever they eat each, and every day.

                  1. re: lwong

                    Whew, not sure what that is all about, but totally sure I don't want to.

                    Anyway, anyone with two subway tokens can't go anywhere unless they have a metro card.

                    Anyone may also surmise that the Chinese people in the Chinese restaurants in the Chinatowns aren't interested in eating any other ethnic foods which is the reason I always discount the ol' "well its only Chinese people eating there it must be good". Maybe that's all they know and want to know, irregardless of however democratic the choice is.

                    Long live King Yum.

                    1. re: pepper

                      I don't see the logic there. If anything, if Chinese aren't interested in other ethnic cuisines, that's all the more reason to want to know which restaurants their uncorrupted taste buds lead them to.

              2. King Yum, 181-08 Union Turnpike, and the food is great.

                1 Reply
                1. re: stuartlafonda

                  Went to King Yum last night - hoping for decent versions of American-Chinese food, tiki atmosphere, and hopefully drinkable tiki drinks (sweet, fruity drinks are really not my thing so I was dubious about the last). Check on the latter two - the drinks were surprisingly decent versions of those sorts of drinks and not at all sickeningly sweet or too watered down - had the golden lover's cup and had sips of the King Yum special and the Mai Tai. Great atmosphere. Loved the shell lamps with the stained glass fish bottoms. Nice old-fashioned service too. Love the hot towels post-spare ribs.

                  The food though was not good. Not bad - not bad ingredients, nothing bad - just not good except for the Wonton soup which was actually decent. Spare ribs were juicy but flavorless. Shrimp in lobster sauce was like shrimp in cornstarch sauce and flavorless. Roast pork egg foo young was pretty flavorless. Now, to be fair, I actually have never had shrimp in lobster sauce or egg foo young before, so for all I know they were pretty accurate renditions of what have always been absolutely flavorless gloppy American-Chinese dishes and I just have no nostalgia-buttons for them to push . . . nah, they really were just not good dishes. I almost ordered the lemon chicken as that is what I grew up eating from take-out joints - wonder if that would have done the trick for me?

                2. Right on Union Turnpike east of St. Johns is King Yum. I went there abot a month ago for the first time, it was awsome. Its the old school Chinese food your looking for,TRUST ME. I had there Dim Sum, egg foo young, wanton soup. Im in the Bronx and I will go there for my Cantonese fix!! The place is old Polynesian themed probably never redocorated since they opened. I would compare trhe flavor to the now closed Tung Hoy of Larchmont when they were operating at their best. Hope this helps.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JoeyCannoli

                    anyone know if King Yum has any of the standard vegetarian fare you might find at a chinese american place, tofu or just veggie dishes? The only menu I saw online was just of meat and poultry.

                    And i'm not looking to join the above discussions, we go to the authentic places, will be hitting Little Pepper for the second time shortly, but this just looks like a fun trip with the rum drinks and tiki bar and all that.