MSP: Chow Mein
I am looking for a good chow mein around town. I prefer chicken but, most importantly, a chow mein that comes in a brownish sauce. So many that I've tried come in a white/clear sauce/glaze that I don't like very much.
(The importance of the brown sauce all stems from the food at a Chinese restaurant that I LOVED to go to when I was growing up...Port Arthur's in New Hope if anyone remembers it.)
it sounds like you're looking for really "old school" chow mein, the kind you don't really see around much anymore. i don't like chow mein personally, but i used to work at the nankin downtown, and people would lap up the chow mein (4 kinds) by the bucketful. the most popular type seemed to be "subgum" chow mein, which i think is the "white/clear sauce/glaze" you don't like-- usually had mushrooms in it. i think the brownish sauce (dark) you're looking for might actually be called "chop suey." the nankin and its famous chow mein are long gone now, but the recipes are still cooked, in much smaller batches, at the family's other chinese-american restaurants: ping's on nicollet, and the wanderer in minnetonka. that's pretty much the extent of my local intel on chow mein, there used to be lots of little chow mein shops around town, but they seem to be a dying breed these days. maybe someone else knows more.
I guess I've never checked the color of chow mein sauce before...
I really like Hong's on 38th and Nicollet. It most reminds me of what I grew up with in Brooklyn Park, probably similar to what you grew up with. But they have two kinds (each in multiple flavors), one is pre made and one made to order. Clearly get the made to order one.
I dislike Village Wok's a lot. I love their food, but their chow mein tastes like they are trying to make it good, which is not what I want when I get chow mein.
If "old-fashioned" (= "greasy spoon") chow mein is what you're looking for, you really should go to Leo's Chow Mein. It's on Earl St. in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul (on the east side). It's been around forever, has great ambience, and some good comfort food. They also have an amazing lunch special-- something like 5 bucks for all you can eat, brought around to your table on big platters. It's great fun, and great people-watching too. We love it.
I've had chow mein exactly twice in this town and did not grow up with it (other than in a can from La Choy). From the two times I've had it, I suspect it's just not a food that appeals to me too much. However, I bet that the chow mein was what you are looking for.
The two places were Cathay Chow Mein on Nicollet just south of Diamond Lake Road in Minneapolis and Kim's Chow Mein on Marshall just east of Cretin in St. Paul.
It's been years since I've been to either of these places, so maybe someone else can throw some more light on them.
Cathay Chow Mein
5457 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Kim's Chow Mein
2048 Marshall Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Kim Huoy Chor is not that new (the website is dated 2006, for instance), and it's not that good. I think they've been there a couple of years, but they've had the "Grand Opening" sign out the entire time they've been doing some remodelling... It's pretty average, based on the few times I ordered delivery from them. It certainly might be better dining in... (EDIT: I do recall, however, that the eggrolls weren't half bad and, as I said in the other thread, they were the only place I could find that would deliver pho when I was sick last winter.) Here's the thread faith is referring to: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/468977
I'd second Bob's recommendation for Kim's on Marshall before I'd send them to Kim Huoy Chor, I think. Plus, then you can walk a couple doors down to Izzy's for an ice cream cone when you're done. Kim's does a good job with that authentically unauthentic chow mein, though, I can't recall if it meets the OP's requirements for a brown sauce.
Grand Shanghai on Grand Avenue in St. Paul also offers chow mein and, again, we like that better than Kim Huoy Chor (but not as much as Kim's).
I just checked with my old-style chow mein "expert" (ha!) and his recollection was that "none of the above" had brown sauce on their chow mein, though I personally don't remember.
re: bob s
Cathay's Chow Mein today is certainly not the chow mein I grew up with. Used to make it as well when I worked at Willow Gate Chinese Restaurant (in Highland Park on Cleveland Avenue) in the 80's. Last time I was back (2006) Willow Gate had turned into another one of these inedible, non-authentic, all-you-can-stuff buffets that seem to be so ubiquitous these days. Although chow mein, as it was made back then or is made today, is not truly an authentic Chinese dish. We did have it weekly growing up it almost and it is comfort food for me today. Like Churchka says, it is not supposed to be too good! And the type of chow mein served up in Minnesota is not found elsewhere - at least I've never seen it outside of MN. We used molasses and soy sauce to darken the sauce up a bit and make it look more appealing to the eye.
Asia Chow Mein in Columbia Heights - been around forever. I am 90% sure that the Asia special Chow Mein comes in the brown gravy. The other varieties may too.