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Apr 15, 2001 01:20 AM

Big Game in Rio Vista

  • g

Was driving through the Delta today and came across a bar/restaurant in what I think was Rio Vista that was decorated with a most impressive collection of stuffed animals mounted on the walls....lots of Big Game - including an Elephant! Anybody know anything about this place? Is the food very good? There were a lot of bikers hanging out front ... is that a good sign?

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  1. That must be Foster's Bighorn. I've only heard about the taxidermy, reputedly the largest private wild game collection in the country. Don't know if the food is any good.

    I've not spent any time in the Delta. I've always wanted to take a drive through some of those small towns, maybe check out the various Chinese camps of days gone by. Any place you found of particular interest?

    18 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Yes, it was Foster's Bighorn. Very impressive collection....worth a visit for that alone plus a chance to hang out with bikers.
      We were on the way to Stockton for a red egg baby party so didn't really stop for any meals en route. The event was held at a place called China Buffet. The sign proclaimed it as New York Style. Whatever that means...I thought they might have a lot of attitude and act rude but that didn't happen. It probably referred to the Shanghai dumplings that are popular in NYCity. The gathering was very enjoyable but the food was only OK, at best.
      Locke is the Delta town with the largest Chinese presence....I think there is still one or two restaurants there but I haven't heard much about them. There is a Crayfish festival in Rio Vista or Isleton I think.

      1. re: Gordon Wing

        Were those family bikers or outlaw bikers? I'm seeing another side of you here, Gordon . . .

        Normally the idea of a crayfish festival would spark my interest, but now it still makes me queasy. I've been wanting to go to Locke to see what remains of the Chinese settlement. During the Depression, my grandfather fed his family by gambling in the various Chinese settlements around Yolo County. I didn't know this until he was gone - he didn't like it when we played any cards games, even solitaire! Wish I'd learned to play poker and black jack from him.

        I have cousins in Stockton who grew up in the "other delta", in backwater Mississippi. They were part of that now extinct Deep South Chinese social order that owned the general stores in small rural towns. I guess Stockton feels familiar in that way.

        Interesting about the NY style Chinese, as a new place in Salinas opened less than a year ago that proclaims the same thing. My mom made us go there for dinner the Friday after Thanksgiving (we'd finished the turkey jook for lunch (g)). She had met the young couple who own it and said we should help their business by letting people see a Chinese family eating there. She takes these responsbilities seriously! Every single dish (except the scallion pancake) was sweet, lotsa brown sauce, and there were excessive amounts of zucchini and carrots in them.

        My cousins are popping out babies (and some of their kids are too) so lots of baby parties. Actually I need to remember to call them red egg parties to attend. One of my friends was alarmed at the term "baby party", guess it conjured up images of bbq'd infants.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          There have been various "New York style" Chinese restaurants down here in Los Angeles, too. I once asked the proprietor of one of these places what was meant by that term, and he said it's Chinese food made for Jewish tastes! By the way, I also have relatives who originate from the Mississippi delta area, and perhaps the best chow mein I ever had was at a place called Kim's Restaurant in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            Thanks for sharing that. Now I understand the overdone and sweet aspects much better. Although one wonders who this particular restaurant thinks its market will be in Salinas?

            I don't know which Mississippi town cousin Bonnie lived in. She told me that she could chop chickens into parts faster than anyone by the time she was 12 years old. She said that the Chinese grocers they'd known had all put their kids through college, then sold out to Lebanese and more recent immigrants, and moved on as her family did. Are your relatives Chinese too?

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Yes. Like all the Chinese in the Delta area they were in the grocery business. One cousin is originally from a small town on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi river about 50 miles out of Memphis. About 25 years ago I decided to drive out there to see it and was it depressing--hot, dumpy and people with nothing to do milling all over the place. I guess they stayed there as long as they did because it was a living, but I'd go crazy.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                That's my sense too. It was a steady way to make a living. A link below to an article I found.

                Sounds like it's too long ago for you to remember, but was there something particularly distinctive about the chow mein that burns it into your memory? Perhaps there's a Mississippi Style Chinese food?


                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I never thought about it before, but what made the chow mein distinctive was the thick gravy, which I suspect has something to do with the similar use of thick gravies generally in Southern food. It's interesting to see how Chinese food has adapted to different regions of the U.S. For example, a little further north in Springfield, MO, they proclaim themselves to be the "Chinese cashew chicken" capital of the USA. My understanding is that the Springfield version of the dish has both thick batter and thick gravy, and has crossed over to non-Chinese restaurants as well. I've always looked for an excuse to go there but never have made it.

                  Thanks for the link on the Delta Chinese. My aunt was one of the plaintiffs in the Gong Lum case mentioned. There have been two books written on the Mississippi Chinese and both make very interesting reading.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    Wow, your aunt, that makes history come alive!

                    Interesting comment on the chow mein avec gravy. I was introduced to Taiwan style fried noodles in Taipei by our country manager who said I'd like them so much better than HK-style jin mein which he considered too dry. I can't say that I liked the Taiwanese version better, just different. Not a heavy gravy but definitely sauced and not crispy like a HK noodle cake.

                    I've not had Springfield cashew chicken. One of my parent's friends from Springfield will be visiting this year, maybe I should request a care package?

                    A cousin who was born and raised in SF Chinatown went to college in MO (can't remember which city), and of all things, learned how to eat Mexican food. He really loves menudo now!

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      I have had Spingfield MO Cashew Chicken. IT IS THE BEST!!!!!!!!

                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                      I rec'd an email that the article linked in the message above is no longer on John Hopkins site. I googled (search terms - gong lum delta chinese) and found, if not the same, a similar article on the history of Chinese in the south which is linked below.


                    3. re: Chandavkl

                      "Chinese Food for Jewish Tastes" .... reminds me of my Jewish friends telling me about going out to eat at Chinese restaurants as kids and enjoying the ribs (pork) and several other forms of pork but somehow their parents overlooked that little detail. I guess they were "reformed". Anyways, there's a great history there.

                      1. re: gordon wing

                        Gordon, I posted an inquiry about this on the General Topics board (link below). You might want to check out the responses.


                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Thanks for the link .... I'll look forward to reading more about "New York Style" Chinese food. So much to learn!

                2. re: Melanie Wong
                  Brandon Nelson

                  Aint life funny

                  You aren't the only hound with a depression age gambler in your past. My grandfather used to hustle cards in Northeastern Texas. Took a couple of brutal beating living that way. I can understand your grandfather having a strong aversion to seeing his loved ones trying to buy a spade to make that flush.

                  F.Y.I. the crawfish festival is in Isleton on Fathers day weekend. Tasty!


                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    Christine Vallejo

                    The only time I've ever been over to Locke was during a trip FROM SoCal TO NoCal back in early 1983. The place seemed to be ramshackle and on the verge of falling apart then. We had a late family lunch at Al's Place (AKA Al the Wop's) with my sister and her family, my family, and two others.

                    1. re: Christine Vallejo

                      From what I've read about Locke, it's almost a ghost town. Maybe I'll get over there in not too long.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I was in Locke a couple of years ago -- it is almost a ghost town, but they are working hard to preserve it, both physically (many of the buildings look like they are about to collapse) and culturally (over the years all the young people have moved away and the old folks have almost died out, so they are trying to recruit young people back into town). I believe the whole town is a state historic monument.

                        My father took some wonderful photographs of Locke in the '50s, and it looks pretty much the same today.

                        I don't remember seeing any restaurants, but we had just finished a lavish picnic and weren't really looking.

                        A quick search turn up a website:


                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          My mom has recently read a book written by a non-Chinese who settled in Locke about his life there. He was finally befriended by the local Chinese population because he could fix toilets.