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Bay Area Chow Mein

Has anyone found a Bay Area Chinese restaurant that even comes close to Chow Mein like the legendary Jackson Cafe? I have always judged places by their Chow Mein, but somehow, no one has come close to the the old Jackson. Noodles not overcooked, plenty of meat bits, a trifle greasy (maybe duck fat), wok charred, etc. There must be some hidden place.

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  1. I went to Jackson Cafe as a kid until it switched over to the "new"...never recall having the chow mein however. What kind of noodles did they use?

    New Gold Medal in Oakland Chinatown does a very good job but the noodles aren't the old school chow mein noodles...if I'm thinking of the right ones. Most places use a yellower (egg?) noodle.

    The only old school ones were pale. They fried up differently. I think they came from a factory in Oakland Chinatown, well they use to a long time ago...can't remember the name of the company.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      What kind of place is New Gold Medal, fancy, sit-down, take-out only? Sounds like a place I would like to try.

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      New Gold Medal
      389 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

      1. re: virtualguthrie

        Not fancy.. can be sit down or takeout. They have a bbq deli area right in front where you can buy ducks, soy sauce chicken, bbq pork and roast pork also.

    2. Maybe New Lun Ting on Jackson?

      1. Just the mention of Jackson Cafe sends me into nostalgia overdrive! That place was a real treasure.

        I used to be a lunchtime regular. Frequently ordered "beef chow mein with black bean sauce". There is a chow fun version which I've seen here and there, but the JC rendition had curly noodles and slices of hot green chiles along with the usual ingredients. I've never seen it anywhere else.

        1. The trend in Chinese food is to serve Hong Kong style Chow Mein. But the old school style (like Jackson Cafe) is where the meat and other ingredients are mix in with the Chow Mein is still available in San Francisco Chinatown at many places if you ask for it.

          Tell the wait staff you do not want Hong Kong style chow mein.

          This style of Chow Mein is available at

          New Lun Ting

          Utopia Cafe

          New King Tin

          Are a few places where you can get this style of chow mein.

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          Utopia Cafe
          141 Waverly Pl, San Francisco, CA 94108

          1. I don't know the old Jackson Cafe. But wasn't that at 640 Jackson, where Bund Shanghai now is? Coincidentally, Bund makes very good Shanghai-style chow mein with thick, chewy Shanghai noodles. I don't know if that's the style you're looking for, but they are not overcooked, generous with meat, greasy (more than a trifle), and wok-charred.

            5 Replies
            1. re: david kaplan

              Yes, Bund is at the old Jackson Cafe location. Shanghai noodles are thicker than the old school Cantonese one. But not as thin as the won ton noodle.

              The thickness of the noodles of the Cantonese one is about half of the Shanghai one. and double in thickness of the won ton noodle.

              If you go to a Asian market ti will say noodles for Chow Mein.

              1. re: yimster

                The noodles at Jackson were not the very thin Hong Kong noodles. They were from one of the local noodles factories in one of alleys. Not thick like Shanghai...and I've always assumed the secret was in the minimal cooking. I've come close to duplicating Jackson Chow Mein, using standard 99 Ranch CM noodles, but I'd like to find them in a restaurant. One thing that does make a difference, however, is refrigeration overnight. After all, chow mein IS a leftover snack.

                1. re: OldTimer

                  Well OT I have found it you freeze the fresh Chow Mien noodle over night prior to pre-boiling them the texture is better. Yes, reduce the cooking time. If you find steamed noodles they work better. Just place in boiling water for a quick minute and then shock in ice water and add to the meat and vegetables and you have it.

                  I am doing this from memory which not what use to be.

                  I will need to do it again to see how it turns out. Not sure if the trick was for Chow Mien or soup noodles. I will to have cook some next week

                  New Hong Kong Noodle factory was my brand of choice when I made Chow Mien. but not done it in while.

                  Have found soup noodles (as well as easier) more warming during the winter months.

                  Give Utopia try. Ask for old style chow mien with the ingredient mix in. Be sure you tell them you do not want Hong Kong style. By the way they charge extra for Hong Kong style too.

                  San Francisco Cantonese cooking start to change when a branch of Ruby Palace opened (where R&G is now) and started cooking Hong Kong style food in the Seventy if I remember correctly.

                  1. re: yimster

                    I remember going to Ruby Palace in 1974. Nothing like the appeared in L.A. (actually Monterey Park) for another couple of years.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      The senior chef at Ruby Palace was a Hong Kong trained head chef who offer new takes on old dishes. Had a lot of new style food at Ruby Palace. If I remember right they were one of first to offer Hot Pots on the menu.