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Who has the best old school Chow mein, egg foo young, you know the stuff I grew up on. Cheap and Tasty

I grew with a Jewish family that always had chow mein, lo mein, kung pao, egg foo young on Sundays. I'm coming to San Francisco next week and am looking for a restaurant to get these old style favorites of mine.

I did search the board and couldn't find any solid answers, most places listed were out of the city. I'm staying in Union Square area. I've heard to avoid Chinatown, but beyong that I seem to be missing where these places are.

Thank you for any help!!!

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  1. I can't give recs for the specific dishes you're looking for but why do you think you should avoid Chinatown? I even like its dim sum though many prefer places in the South Bay. From Union Square all you have to do is walk about two blocks to Chinatown. There's SO much to choose from. We stay in the north end of North Beach when we're there and walk all the way through Chinatown picking whatever food we're in the mood for at that time of day. Good luck.

    1. Here's an old thread about Americanized Chinese food that suggests Chinatown because that's where the stuff you remember can still be got, although I am not sure any restaurant serves chow mein with those hard "noodles."
      I particularly like this article linked from Gary Soup's old blog about Chinese food and Jews.

      4 Replies
      1. re: wolfe

        The "hard noodles" are typically called "crispy noodles" by the restaurants and they are available at most Chineese restaurants. You just have to ask for crispy noodles and you will get them.

        1. re: skwid

          The crispy or Hong Kong style fried noodles here in SF are not the same as New York-Chinese/Jewish/American food. The food here is different...you'll need to find these disappearing places in the Northeast, but even there Chinese food is undergoing great evolutionary change as peoples tastes become more educated...I still miss aspects of this 'cuisine' but I have never found it here....I eat pizza and Ancient Brooklyn Chinese, real deli and bagels, when I return for a visit! ..but I am certainly contented by the flavors of China (not to mention the rest of Asia) that I have experienced here.

        2. re: wolfe

          You forgot the link :) I do that all the time.

          Oh, THAT kind of chow mein? I didn't know that was even really Chinese. How long ago was that?

          1. re: c oliver

            I replaced the link but the one to the La Choy canned noodles disappeared.
            Skwid, are you telling me those noodles are really available? The next thing will be Chinese green bean mushroom casserole with "crispy noodles."

        3. I cant think of anyplace in your area that serves that type of chinese.
          There is a place in Daly City called the Lily Cafe that is just what you are looking for.

          1. But if you're not from here, or from someplace with a big Asian population, you can just walk over to Chinatown, take a look around, and enjoy yourself. It may or may not be exactly what you were looking for, but it's the easiest and funest way to get your Chinese fix.

            1. New Gold Medal in Oakland does a nice chow mein if you ask for pan fried noodles...various toppings. The other stuff...don't really know. If you're looking for Chicago noodles (like La Choy canned), I have no idea.

              1. I'd try New Woey Loy Goey -- it's an old-school Chinatown restaurant that has both "authentic" Cantonese fare and old-style Chinese-American fare (at least, it has both chop suey and egg foo young, in addition to the much sought after tomato beef chow mein, on the menu I found online). Plus, it's kind of a kick to eat in the basement. Just ask for the "crispy noodles" if you order the chow mein.

                Capital might be another option. If you go to Capital, though, you have to get an order of the salt and pepper chicken wings with whatever you get. Sooooooo good!

                New Woey Loy Goey Restaurant
                699 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                Capital Restaurant
                839 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                1. In the Richmond, Empero Taste might meet your requirements.

                  Empero Taste
                  4052 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                  1. I went through a bit of an egg foo young thing a couple of years back and settled on
                    B & M Mei Sing as the best I could find. It's your basic steamtable chinese cliche sortof
                    place which also has a menu with chow mein and maybe the others you're looking for.

                    Close to where you'll be and not in chinatown. Not sure what the hours are; I've only
                    been there for workday lunch.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      Wouldn't it be cool if places could be added by editing a post?

                      B & M Mei Sing
                      62 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                    2. Well, there's Cathay House, on Grant and California, a Chinatown restaurant full of out of town tourists and no Chinatown locals. It could well be what you're looking for,

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        Is that the one on the 2nd or is it 3rd floor on the far left corner? I've never been there.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Yes it is, and if you prefer authentic Chinese food you wouldn't want to go there.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            Somehow even from the exterior I knew that. But I also respect the fact that there are many travelers who are nervous and that's going to be sometimes better Chinese food than they've ever had. I hope that for them anyway :)

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              Have not gone to Cathay House for many a year. But in it day it was a nice setting for a family meal. Our family has had a few parties there many moons ago. If I remember correctly it has a fairly large dinning room. Also in the day parking at St. Mary parking lot was close and you did not have to fight Chinatown traffic. Wonder how the food now. Maybe Chowfun should try it for all school East Coast food.

                              Speaking of old school places, does anyone remember Lamps of China and Shanai Low a block or so closer to Market Street.

                            2. re: c oliver

                              I was there for a "long life" banquet -- it has a funky/fun bar and atmosphere. The food was pre-ordered and ordained, but I suspect it may have what the OP is seeking.

                            3. re: Chandavkl

                              Cathay House, that brings back memories - my Mom used to take me there when I was a kid when she worked at 230 California (we're talking circa 1958 +/- ooops, I'm giving away my age!! Anyway, I thought it was the coolest place and we loved the food..... I didn't realize that it was still in business. Egg foo young, puffy fried shrimp, chow mein with crispy noodles and sweet and sour pork.

                              1. re: RWCFoodie

                                Karen....Are you saying It has the New York version of crispy noodles (not Hong Kong style) with the gloppy bean sprout/chicken celery sauce over rice????

                                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                  Wasn't gbs/ccs over rice chop suey and with the hard noodles it became chow mein?

                                    1. re: wolfe

                                      I don't remember Chop Suey ...my family was Lobster Cantonese, or Shrimp in Lobster sauce (white sauce (no black beans) with chopped pork) NY spare ribs, chow mein, fried rice (dark), NY egg rolls, (the size of baby burritos) etc. ....the only mention I remember of Chop Suey was "Flower Drum Song"!

                                      1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                        For what it's worth Wikipedia on chop suey.
                                        Found online menus of
                                        New Woey Loy Goey
                                        Hang Ah Tea Room
                                        Y. Ben House also has egg foo yung
                                        Sam Wo and others.

                                        1. re: wolfe

                                          there's a southeast asia/straits Chinese dish that's close to "chop suey" both in name and content--mixed vegetables with variations of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, doufu skin et cetera--chap chye. In Malayan/Singapore restaurants or homemade of course it can be quite good and you'd think, this is chop suey done the right way. I think I also saw it on menus in Indonesia. The same region has their version of ketchup with a very similar name, as well.

                                          1. re: moto

                                            Hmm... I wonder if chap chye is related to the Korean dish, japchae.

                                            1. re: Humbucker

                                              the words themselves actually mean the same things, 'mixed vegetables' literally translated, but the dishes in execution are very dissimilar--aren't the translucent vermicelli-type noodles a standard ingredient in the Korean dish, though it's not implied in its name? There can be linguistic relationships between regions that otherwise do not have much cross cultural contact--with all the cultures that have indo-aryan traces in their vocabularies, the cultures themselves might be close or very distant.

                                    2. re: ChowFun_derek

                                      Derek: I truly can't remember details about the chow mein just an overview of the whole experience which at the time was very exotic to me and definitely outside our "regular" modus operandi for sure... I guess I was 10 or so

                                    3. re: RWCFoodie

                                      People who've eaten at Cathay House recently also can't believe they're still in business. Chinese food has evolved so far, these throwback places don't look very good by comparison.

                                  1. This won't help the OP who's looking for San Francisco, but others looking for good old-school egg foo yung should check out Tea Fragrance House in Berkeley. Everything else I've had there has been ordinary, including the tomato beef chow mein; but the EFY is consistently excellent.

                                    Tea Fragrance House
                                    1301 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Nina

                                      I recall egg foo young in my youth in the East (along with Moo Goo Gai Pan. Once dated a girl who was so proud to order the stuff...thought she was fluent in Chinese.) I never ever ordered it in the Bay Area, but once, in San Rafael, my daughter ordered eggplant and waiter got a bit confused. I had forgotten how good EFY could be, if cooked rignt...especially with crab meat and the ubiquitous brown sauce.

                                      1. re: OldTimer

                                        I never could figure out what was Moo Goo Gai Pan until I saw a Chinese take waiter say it is Chinese on the Bob Newhart Show said it in Chinese. Button Mushroom with Chicken Slices.

                                        Now a regular dish at home is four or five types of mushrooms with sliced chicken with a touch of Oyster sauce and etc.

                                        If you really want this type of food easy enough to make yourself.

                                        1. re: yimster

                                          Moo Goo Gai Pan, first I heard of it was in a Doris Day movie possibly "With 6 You Get
                                          Egg Roll." That would predate the Newhart show.

                                          1. re: wolfe

                                            I think yimster had heard it before. I think he meant that he couldn't figure out what people meant by moo goo gai pan until he heard a Chinese person say it in Chinese (pronounced correctly with the right tones) on the Newhart Show.

                                    2. It sounds like you're looking East Coast old fashioned Americanized Chinese, in what some associate as a Brooklyn style. I don't think San Francisco really ever had Lo Mein, just a lot of really great Chow Mein, and that dish will be easy to come by. For the Egg Foo Young, and other dishes, you might have to head out of the city (Oakland has a vert small Chinatown too) to find a menu that's still serving the die hards who never stopped ordering this stuff. In SF, there's New Woey Loey Goey in Chinatown...Andy's menu is worth looking at too.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        Many places have egg foo young in the city...I haven't found ANY that do crispy noodle new york chow mein however...

                                      2. Something close to the Chow Mein is called Hong Kong Style Chicken Chow mein. Seems to be found in some old school venues.

                                        The noodles are partially fried like a pancake with a crisp outside and a noodly interior. amd greasy. On top chicken, veg and celery sauce. No mushrooms. Gourmet Carousel, SF.

                                        Once I found Butterfly Shrimp but they finally dropped it.

                                        Some days it's fresh and good, some days not.

                                        Was 50's confort food. Yes, we thought it was Chinese.

                                        So happy to hear that chop suey is actually a dish in Taishan.