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Aug 23, 2011 01:04 PM

Retro Chinese

Back in Chicago for a few days. Looking for great old style chinese restasurant that serves the classics from the 1960s-70s. Our family used to go to a superb Chinese place on Cicero Ave. just north of Peterson but its long gone. Want to find great egg rolls, sweet and sour pork, shrimp fried rice, subgum wonton--lovingly prepared.

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  1. I sure get your request, rubinjames. I think I know the place you remember. Kow Kow? It may still be there, but I don't know if it is as good as it was.

    It still ran second to a place on Lake at Wabash, Hoe Kow. I don't know of anyone who still does what those restaurants did. But I'll be watching to see what people say.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      Kow Kow is indeed still around - but it's not worth a visit.

      Kow Kow Restaurant
      6755 N Cicero Ave, Lincolnwood, IL 60712

      1. re: ferret

        +1...Kow Kow is terrible. Please avoid.

    2. In what part of the city will you be staying and/or spending time?

      If you're going to be on the north side again, China Chef in Morton Grove is pretty good at all the old style specialties, although they also have Szechuan and Filipino items on the menu. I wouldn't travel all the way there from downtown Chicago, though; if you're downtown, I'd just go to Chinatown.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Are there any *good* places in Chinatown for that kind of Chinese-American-Cantonese food# the OP is asking for? I'm curious myself.

        # which encompasses the "chow mein that doesn't actually have any mein in it" etc kind of food

      2. The Chinese restaurant that does the best impression of a time machine, in appearance and cuisine, is Orange Garden. It's on Irving Park by Ravenswood, accessible by Brown Line.


        Just take a look at the signage, it SCREAMS retro. Food is OK, but you are looking for old school, right?

        1. Agree about Orange Garden, there is also House of Sun Wah down the street from there on Lincoln Ave. It doesn't appear to have been updated ever, and the eggrolls, egg foo young, fried rice and other standard fair are as you remember them. They also have the paper zodiac place matts if that tells you anything.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Shaggy


            Just to avoid any possible confusion wit Sun Wah, I believe you mean the House of Wah Sun.

            House of Wah Sun
            4319 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

            1. re: deesher

              House of Fortune in chinatown is pretty classic hong kong taste.

              House of Fortune
              2407 S Wentworth Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

              1. re: Xellosw2099

                Xellosw, I've never been there (or heard of it until now). Could you describe what you mean by "classic hong kong taste"? Perhaps dishes you have had? Thanks.

            2. The old place you're thinking of is the great Hi-Howe, which closed in in 2000....the closest I've found in quality is China Chef in Morton Grove. Fantastic egg rolls made with peanut butter...

              7 Replies
              1. re: dirwuf

                I don't think egg rolls with peanut butter are retro.

                  1. re: dirwuf

                    Interesting! I don't remember ever having an "egg roll" in a Chinese-type restaurant in Chicago (although I've had it elsewhere). It seems from the CH threads you link to that these "peanut butter egg rolls" are a Chicago variation. Is one sure that it is peanut butter, though, rather than just peanut paste or ground peanuts, which is used in some egg rolls served in Chinese-American restaurants? Of course, almost all "egg rolls" of the type we have in mind (those fairly large, deep fried rolls comprising largely shredded cabbage with bits of this and that & rolled in a dough wrapper) is a largely Westernized Chinese food item. (Both whole & ground peanuts are, of course, used in Chinese/SE Asian cuisines)

                    Great Wall in Chitown Chinatown - heh, I've often got their BBQ/roast meats/duck/chicken when I pass through Chicago, but have never sat down and had any of their dishes - or consciously noticed if they serve these "egg rolls" let alone sample them. :-)

                    1. re: huiray

                      >> Is one sure that it is peanut butter, though, rather than just peanut paste or ground peanuts, which is used in some egg rolls served in Chinese-American restaurants?

                      I thought peanut butter, peanut paste, and ground peanuts were all the same thing, no?

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Not really.

                        Peanut butter is usually ground between rollers until they acquire the consistency of butter. Spreadability could be increased by adding some vegetable oil. Ground peanuts (and crushed peanuts) is different, and sauces made with crushed peanuts (e.g. peanut sauce for satay) is not peanut butter. The peanut paste I have in mind is not as thoroughly ground up (with extensive release of oil) as peanut butter. Crushed/ground peanuts that are not brought to the consistency of peanut butter is scattered in some rolls (like some variations of popiah), some "egg rolls". Whole peanuts are used in some dishes in SE Asia/SE China.

                    2. re: dirwuf

                      That's new to me. I would have guessed peanut butter in egg rolls to be a relatively new variation. I'm sure it's good, but in the Hi-Howie, How Kow, tradition from the 50s and 60s (which did have those really big fried rolls filled with shredded cabbage, mushrooms, shrimp and pork, it would have been a total anomaly.

                      1. re: chicgail

                        I had them as long ago as the '60's at Pekin House on Devon, which is still open, though I haven't been there in 20 years...

                        Pekin House Restaurant
                        2311 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659