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What's With "Chinese Food, Subs, Chicken and Seafood" in DC?

I'm driving down Georgia Ave. in Northwest DC for the first time in many years and I start seeing all of these restaurants touting the same combination of Chinese food, sub sandwiches, chicken and seafood. I've eaten at thousands of Chinese restaurants all over the country and I had never seen this combination before, and here I see one of these on every block. Can anybody out there explain why all these restaurants offer the same group of items?

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  1. Thousands?? How many were in low income areas? I noticed the same thing two days ago driving down Georgia Ave and other main roads of NE, DC.

    The residents in these neighborhoods like to eat these basic foods, and if the commercial chains like Subway, Popeye's, and Long John Silvers served them, I'm sure the Chineses entrepreneurs would stick to Chinese. Lateral menu expansion is not so unusual. I remember seeing Chinese Spanish restaurants, etc in LSE, Manhattan and Jackson Heights, Queens (years ago).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Minger

      Thanks for the explanation. In Los Angeles I've been to quite a few "Chinese food and donuts" places in the inner city so I guess that's the Washington D.C. equivalent. What struck me about the subs etc. is that every restaurant used the identical terminology. I'll have to go try one of them soon, though I'm torn between trying the Chinese food and having a sub sandwich.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        Um, try the sub or chicken. I've had the chance to eat at a couple of those places and the Chinese food is super-greasy and loaded with MSG.

    2. These kind of establishments are typical in the ghetto/inner city. Low cost food, low nutritional value. Most chinese people who own these joints want to be the end all, be all in serving the needs of the people who live in this area.

      If you look closely, you'll also see a corner store on each block that serves booze, chips, candy, etc. They're usually korean owned.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chownut

        I call it "urban eclectic."

      2. OK, is it the same as carryouts serving "Lake Trout" in urban Baltimore? Seems it's fish served breaded and fried, but I never got out of the car to check it out nor seen it in the Metro DC area. Does "Lake Trout" refer to the species of fish or the way it's prepared?

        19 Replies
        1. re: Lydia R

          What's popular in the hood is "fried whiting." The cheapest fried fish you can get.

          1. re: Chownut

            So it's popular in the less-than-chic quarters of town. But in France, it's known as merlan and it's pretty darned good when it's prepared well. A good low cost, easily available fish. Use similar recipes to John Dory or sole.
            If Whole Foods tripled the price and called it by a fancy French name, lot of yuppies would buy it.

            1. re: MakingSense

              in Spain it's Merluza. usu. sauteed and served in a parsley garlic sauce.

              my quess these places show up where they do, because others are just too timid to invest there and without the variety and choices, residents have the demand.

              1. re: MakingSense

                Maybe, but I don't think While Foods would want to take that risk for an extra buck.

                Keep in mind, Whole Foods is the supermarket chain that removed lobsters from its offerings because of one woman's complaint on how they are treated.

                1. re: Chownut

                  I've noticed threre are just no whole live lobsters to be found anywhere on a retail basis - is that it???

                  1. re: hill food

                    I've seen whole live lobsters at Safeway and Giant and some of the larger Asian groceries.

                    1. re: FoodieGrrl

                      Safeway seems to be phasing out live lobsters. My local Safeway in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore stopped carrying them in the last year or so.

                    2. re: hill food

                      Whole Foods recently removed lobsters from their offereings because a woman complained about how lobsters are treated and then cooked. WF rethought their approach and decided to remove it.

                      Lobsters can be found in any asian grocery store. Asian grocery stores will sell you anything that legal, and sometimes illegal. Just last week, I was at "El Grande Supermarket" for the first time and thought it was a hispanic market. I realized when I walked in that it was korean. They had a 10 minute special in their seafood section, $6.99/lb for lobsters, and I picked up 4 of them.

                      1. re: Chownut

                        odd how some of us omnivores can't deal with the source. if we're gonna eat it we can't be squeamish...

                        where's el Grande (I'm a carless Hillbilly, but for 6.99/lb a flexcar may be worth it)

                        1. re: hill food

                          El Grande is in Springfield, near where Route 617 hits the Beltway. They have an excellent selection of Korean panchan and fresh fish, their vegetables make the local grocery look like slop, and they're a lot closer to DC than the other Korean markets. Definitely worth the drive.

                          -----
                          El Grande International Supermarket
                          6901 Hechinger Dr, Springfield, VA

                          1. re: hill food

                            There's actually a new El Grande on the corner of rt. 50 and Gallows Road, a few steps from Great Wall and Han Ah Rheum. It's in the same strip mall where Grevey's is located. Only thing it doesn't have is a Korean Kafeteria.

                      2. re: Chownut

                        What risk? Merlan, aka Meluza, whiting, is a perfectly good fish. Mild. Similar to flounder in flavor.
                        And when did WF ever have a problem with getting the extra buck?

                        WF still sells lobster "products" just not the live ones that the seafood department staff puts to death in the store. That upset some of the customers who preferred that the lobsters die elsewhere. WF also stopped selling live softshell crabs for the same reason.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          WF's considers themselves a high end grocery store, not the end all be all, so don't hold your breath in hopes of them stocking whiting.

                          1. re: Chownut

                            Neither hill food nor I thought WF would stock "whiting." Too déclassé. They might however offer "merluza" or "merlan" to their up-scale clientele.
                            There are a lot of surprises at WF. We saw Karo light corn syrup in there last week - HFCS and all. Right by the Domino refined white sugar. Almost died laughing!!!

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            I always thought that merluza was hake

                            1. re: cleveland park

                              hill food said it was merluza in Spain. Wiki says that merluza is hake. How much diff is there?
                              I know that whiting is merlan in France.
                              It's also on sale (frozen) at Safeway this week at $2/lb. You nave to buy the 2 pound bag but $4 still leaves cash for garlic and parsley for a bargain dinner.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                any basic white fleshed fish (but not whitefish) will do in a pinch

                    3. re: Lydia R

                      Baltimore's 'Lake Trout' is Atlantic whiting, which is found in waters from the St Lawrence to Virginia. Lake Trout, I guess, just sounds better so that's what they call it. It's no different than what you might find in DC, although it could be consistently better because it seems some folks take it more seriously.

                      Remember, Baltimore is the only city with a facetious nickname.

                      1. re: Steve

                        You can get plenty of that whiting at the Lexington Market.

                    4. And the strangest combination of foods in a restaurant was in Long Beach Ca where they had burritos and Pastrami advertised. Makes the Chineese, sub, chicken and seafood pall in it's shadow.
                      One chain that serves the above mentioned mix is Danny's in Maryland and they have the best gizzards.Haven't been there in a while, I think they are still around

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: cappie

                        oh wow, gizzards and gravy on dirty rice was my favorite at London and Son's in STL - nobody (few) like gizzards it seems.

                        1. re: cappie

                          Danny's on H Street NE also serves fried gizzards and damned if they ain't tasty. You can get fried gizzards in the deli section of some Safeways, but it's always way too salty. $5 at Dannys buys you enough gizzards and french fries to kill yourself with, and the steak and cheese is not shabby either. Beats the hideous simulacra they peddle at Subway by a mile.

                          The chinese/subs/chicken/seafood/pizza(?!) combo can be found along Bladensburg Road/Maryland Avenue in DC as well. I don't think this was a recent development. Yum's (the alleged ground zero of wings and mambo sauce) served the combination years ago.

                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                            Yum's? Was that on 14th St. NW?

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              The original was on 14th near P Street, but now it's expanded throughout the DC/MD region.

                              http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&amp...

                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                Liberty Road, west of 695 in B'more county, certainly rivals the chinese/fried whatever/pizza menu, with the addition of LIVE! crabs, no matter what time of year. I will say that the best ribs I have ever had came from a smoker stand in the Shoppers/Ollie's parking lot on Liberty Road. Get there early before they sell out.

                                1. re: nickdanger

                                  smoked parking lot ribs are usually the best. (except for the ones at home)

                        2. I had to laugh this morning when I pulled out the food adverts. etc. in my Wednesday WaPo. I'd never known about these combo fast food joints until I read this post and viola!, what's in my paper this morning but a flyer from a new Chinese place in Springfield, VA called Tasty Cafe- Chinese, subs, chicken and seafood-now in the burbs.

                          www.houndstoothgourmet.com

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: monavano

                            One of these days, I'm going to go to one of these places and have them make me a sub filled with fried chicken, chinese food, and seafood. That's some spicy fusion cuisine!

                            Actually, I'd just settle for a St. Paul sandwich.

                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Paul...

                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                              What's up with the mid-West that they need to combine disparate ingredients and put them between bread? Witness the Chicago dog (not that there's anything wrong with that)

                              1. re: nickdanger

                                the St. Paul - as a former STL-er, a word: "boredom"

                                actually is it really so different from an egg salad?

                                but the culinary sins of the midwest are a whole other thread or even website. us ex-pats trade horror stories of weird combos. best not to go there.

                            2. re: monavano

                              The place round the corner from me on 14th goes one step further - Chinese food, chicken wings, subs, seafood and pizza. I have yet to try their offerings but the versatility of their chef bodes very well.

                              1. re: jt1

                                Most of these places also serve gyros as well, but they're REALLY nasty: sort of a cross between grey bologna strips with flecks of "something" in it, and gaffers tape.

                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                  Ironically, my teenage son was at a concert at the 9:30 club (7th and Fl Ave NW), and told me he was going across the street for chinese food. When he got home I asked him where he went, and he described the places in this thread to a "t". He had chicken fingers, by the way.

                                  1. re: nickdanger

                                    The Lowest Price gas station/food marts sometimes offer this combination. At least the one on 14th and W does. Lowest Price Gas, Subs, Chicken, Pizza, Seafood. Something like that. I recommend not eating there, though not from experience.

                            3. It occurred to me driving through these areas again that they are redlined by corporate crime maps. I also noticed a local chain, Eddie's, advertising a big menu of the same sorta stuff, sans Chinese.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Minger

                                My bad, seems like Eddie's offers Chinese food too, in addition to the subs, chicken, fish, etc. Without stepping inside, I assume Eddie's is Chinese run too. How ironic that I only see these places on my way to dim sum in Silver Spring.

                              2. Not just DC, of course -- Piney Branch in Takoma Park/SS has several such restaurants.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                  Those signs are awfully tempting. What's worth eating in this places?

                                  1. re: Minger

                                    Fried chicken can be hit or miss in these places. The aformentioned Danny's does them hot and crispy, but other are way too soggy. Look for the pile of pre-fried wings next to the fryer; they've usually been sitting around for a while and they just re-dunk them in oil when you place an order. Avoid. I've been surprised by some of the subs. I was expecting a processed Steak-Um thing and got a decent portion of shredded ribeye on a nice kaiser-ey roll. But I have yet to figure out why they always cut the subs in four pieces. I have to tell them to leave it whole and don't drown the thing in mayo. Seafood's usually pretty nasty, particularly the deep fried krab stick, but the Chinese is no better/worse than what you'd find at any takeout, but it's usually a couple bucks cheaper because the neighborhood's dodgy.

                                2. I have lived in College Park for over 20 years. Most of the Chinese restaurants around here have that format, and they need it to stay in business. On a busy Fri, Sat, or Sunday evening it always seems like I am the only customer buying actual Chinese food. Everyone else is buying sandwiches, fried chicken, or fried fish. Sometimes the "fried seafood platter" is pretty good.

                                  At least one place that used to be Chinese changed format to all fried seafood (but they sell friend chicken too). I have yet to see a Mexican/Fried Chicken carryout here. The best fried chicken out this way is Bojangles (chain like Popeyes but better food).

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Portieowner

                                    I've always wondered why the joint KFC - Taco Bell locations don't offer a taco/wing combo I mean, why not? sometimes when you want junk, you may still want a variety of it.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      That's just the kind of spicy fusion cuisine I can get behind!

                                      1. re: hill food

                                        Because they know that the people who are really jonesing both wings and tacos will probably be willing to pay the extra 45 cents that it would take to order them a la carte vs. as a combo?

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          I can't believe I'm admitting this, but when I was in college I frequented the KFC/Taco Bell. At the time they were running a special wrap type thing called the Tornado. It was fried chicken strips in a tortilla type wrap with lettuce and cheese and tomato and some sort of sauce I believe (but maybe not). We use to take the Taco Bell hot sauce and eat it like that. Perfect combo of the 2 grease pits. While I no longer eat Fast Food and haven't for years, I still would be tempted to try a Tornado if they offered them again.

                                      2. These restaurants aren't just in "the ghetto." They are everywhere. Even downtown. They do nothing well, and most things poorly. DC is in dire need of better delivery options and this type of place doesn't help.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: DCHill19

                                          hear hear on delivery!!

                                          except we do indeed want more Gore-Tex eggrolls, indescribable egg-drop something and Kung Pao guess-what...

                                          1. re: DCHill19

                                            What's that service that does delivery for restaurants that don't have their own takeout staff? Takeout Express, or something like that? I never used them because they charged some ridiculous premium and the food always arrived cold, or semi-congealed.

                                            Granted, most of these places serve cheap slop, but every once in a while I find something really tasty, like a "house special soup" that really hits the spot on a cold rainy day.

                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                              Takeout Express or Takeout Taxi are MAJOR rip offs like you said, because of the premium. Plus the few times I used them, the order was some how messed up or took over an hour to recieve (and therefore was cold).

                                            2. re: DCHill19

                                              TOTALLY agree about delivery options. Outside of decent Thai delivery our subs, pizza, chicken fingers etc sucks compared to other places I have lived. I'm not asking for NYC where you can get Korean one night and filet mignon the other delivered. But Boston always had good options growing up in terms of sub shops, chicken, Italian, Greek etc.