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Mar 26, 2012 11:54 PM

Old-Fashioned NYC-Style "Cantonese" Chinese-American Food in Seattle?

The Chow Mein threads on the other subforums have me feeling a little nostalgic. I grew up in LA in the 60s and 70s and what we knew as Chinese food was obviously nothing like the real thing, but I loved it anyway. The Chow Mein, as noted in the other threads, didn't actually contain any noodles -- just the protein, bean sprouts, celery and onion, maybe some bok choy -- in that translucent sauce, served with the crispy fried spaghetti noodles on the side. Almond Chicken was more like what everyone orders as Cashew Chicken today and there was nothing fried about it. This was pretty much the same style as what I'd get in NYC when I'd visit relatives for the summers of my youth.

Are there any restaurants in the Seattle area still serving this kind of stuff? (Were there ever?) Wong's China Kitchen in Lynnwood seems like a likely candidate but the Yelp reviews are truly terrifying. I drive past it all the time and I didn't think they were even open -- there are never any cars in the lot and the place seems deserted. But there are some pretty current Yelp reviews, so I guess they're open.

I'm not desperate enough to go to the La Choy canned stuff, but it might be fun to give my kids a taste of my youth....

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  1. Tai Tung in the ID, Louie's in Ballard, and Rickshaw in Greenwood would probably work.

    I'm far from an expert on this, and the last time I've had this stuff was because it was the only restaurant in a town of 250 in southeastern Oregon.

    8 Replies
    1. re: HungWeiLo

      Smaller communities' Chinese-American(-Canadian) are the best places to get this type of food !

      1. re: LotusRapper

        yep - i don't now about USA but for us up here in Canada west - nothing like the old time prairies (or small town BC) where it says 'chinese & western cuisine" on the backlit sign - remember that place in Squamish - near that a-frame building downtown?

        ... but i agree with the OP that there is something very secretly irresistably delicious about some of it. and don't hand in your card - you've got a lot of us remembering what "asian" in Vancouver food used to be like! : )

        1. re: Georgia Strait

          Hey I love all that old-fashioned Chinese-Western stuff. And gotta have the horoscopic placemats too ;-)

          And what Asian food used to be like in Vancouver wasn't all that long ago, when there were many a small handful of respectable Chinese restos (that big one on Granville Mall I forget name to, Peninsula, Pink Pearl, Ho Ho's, Park Lok ......)

      2. re: HungWeiLo

        Thanks for the leads.

        I should point out that I love the more authentic stuff passionately as well. Although admitting a fondness for the old stuff probably means I have to turn in my Chow card.

        1. re: HungWeiLo

          Tai Tung does have that style of chow mein if you order the crispy noodles. I found that out the hard way thinking I would get the kind of crispy noodles you get in the chef special chow mein which more like Hong Kong style crispy noodles. I will say that Tai Tung is not as good as it used to be. With that said it sounds like the Almond Subgum Chow Mein with crispy noodles might be the dish to get for that style of Chinese American food. The BBQ pork is a littfe different but good. It's leaner and less salty than most. The almond chicken is fried. Dishes that are pretty good: ginger beef, beef chow yuk, asparagus or broccoli with beef. The pineapple chicken is strangely addictive even though it can be a little bit overbreaded in a clear sweet and sour sauce with pinepple and green pepper.

          China Village or Uptown China does sauteed almond chicken as you describe it. And their version is pretty good.

          There is always Yings Drive In on Lake City Way. It's got the crunchy noodle chow mein. It's not really very good but there are those that love it. It's lasted since I was a kid and it still seems to get enough customers to survive. I would be shocked if you looked in the dumpster and found La Choy cans.

          1. re: knowspicker

            Tai does that bring back memories. We'd order it @2am, bag up anything left, and eat it cold the next day around noon.
            The old Hong Kong was one of the best there was until the family decided it was time to close it up and move on. I'm going to have to take a memory lane trip into the ID on my next trip.

            1. re: latindancer

              I sure miss the Hong Kong. I used to go there all the time, and it's the first place I ever had dim sum at. Shrimp toast!

              It makes me sad every time I drive by there and see the old, empty restaurant.

              1. re: drummagick

                I don't think my husband could handle that visual.
                That dim sum was pretty awesome....their egg foo young, something that seems to have vanished and gone completely out of style, is one of the most memorable things about the Hong Kong....and the pork fried rice and everything else that seems to have died along with the closing.

        2. Hi I'm not answering your question as-is, but reading it reminded me of a book I have that you might find interesting to read:

          I love dishes like glow-in-the-dark S&S pork and lemon chicken, and bean sprouts and julienned deli chicken slices in my chowmein, even though I'm "homemade" Chinese :-


          I don't think you can call them as "NYC-style" (as you'll discover in the book) but more a general style/trend that was popular amongst early 20th-century Cantonese immigrants' restaurants throughout the US and Canada, taking their traditional recipes and adapting them to local tastes and available ingredients.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LotusRapper

            That looks like a great resource -- I'll have to check it out.

            I use the term "NYC-style" because, while not necessarily accurate, it's the easiest way to explain what I want to the waiters. When I describe the dishes in detail, they go, "Oh, you want New York Style!" ;-) Also, if you read the infamous Chow Mein thread, the that's the style I'm talking about and the posters claim it's unique to NY (but unheard of in Chinatown), although it's all I had growing up in LA.

          2. When I was a kid growing up on Beacon Hill, there was a wonderful old school Cantonese place called the South China Cafe towards the north end of the hill.

            The place is still open but has moved to Bellevue. I haven't been there in many years, so I can't speak for the food, but here's a Yelp review you can look at.


            South China Cafe had the best almond chicken, egg foo yung, chow mein. Straight up mid-century Cantonese!!

            9 Replies
            1. re: drummagick

              second South China Cafe. their fried chicken wings and chow mein and fried rice are as chinese american as i am.

              1. re: shaolinLFE

                i third Perry Ko's in bellevue!
                and i'll NIX Yings Drive In ~ it's absolutely INEDIBLE i thought it might be cool and midcentry modern..but it was awful.

                1. re: elicia

                  I will confirm that Yings is terrible.

              2. re: drummagick

                Perry Ko's tastes exactly the same as it did when it was on Beacon Hill.
                They're in a kind of weird hard to find part of Bellevue now.

                1. re: zippyh

                  The last time I was in the South China Cafe I bet was about 1969-1970. My dad used to take us there a lot when I was a child. I wouldn't touch the food for the first few years, they'd order me a hamburger and it would come on white bread with ketchup. :D

                    1. re: Tripper

                      It's on the edge of Newport Hills, next to Herfy's and the Mustard Seed, where Red Apple used to be...That entire shopping center is one big bag of memories!

                      South China Perry Ko's
                      5606 119th Ave SE
                      Ste A
                      (between 56th St & 58th St)
                      Bellevue, WA 98006

                      1. re: soypower

                        Herfy's? I thought Herfy's went out of business when I was a teenager!

                  1. I ate 'Chinese' in NYC for years from hole in the wall take-out only places. Moved to Seattle over 25 years ago and tried to find what I missed. Beef with broccoli, egg foo yung in brown sauce and my favorite, shrimp with lobster sauce, fat pink shrimp in a pearl white thick semi liquid. I never did find anything like I was used to (tried Louie's in Ballard- horrible) and gave up looking long ago. Would love to try the stuff again!

                    This was comfort food when you didn't want to cook, For real? Chinese you went to Chinatown and often waited in lines to get into the best places. acgold7 don't turn in your card and thanks for posting this!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Bethwick

                      LOVE Shrimp w/ Lobster Sauce, old-school style. Eggy sauce with ground pork, garlic, maybe some peas, and no black beans within 50 miles.

                      Basically I've been making my own, based on memories and guesses (and some older cookbooks) but it'd sure be nice to go down memory lane again.

                      Thanks for all the leads, everyone! Keep 'em coming!

                      1. re: acgold7

                        You guys get deep fried wontons down there ? A disappearing item that was ubiquitous in Chinese-Canadian/American restos. There was a joint called Varsity Grill close to UBC here in Vancouver that had the biggest (approx. 3"x3"), crunchiest DFWs around, a dozen would cost like $5 in the '80s. Of course the mystery filling was like dogfood and size of a postage stamp .......

                        1. re: acgold7

                          Louie's in Ballard is very old-school chinese, just as you describe AC Gold, with all those set-menu combo arrangements, you know - longer list of stuff the more people you have for xyz price points?

                          Plus, it has a great old-school chinese resto interior. I think it's what your after!

                      2. ooh, Red Lotus, in Auburn!! i loved this place!

                        here's the photos

                        the menu ~ chow mein with Served With Crisp Noodles

                        plus: if your kids can get american food too!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: elicia

                          Wow that's a time warp. I'd expect to be greeted by Fu Manchu followed by "gong" reverberations ..... :-D

                          Hmm, at bottom of menu are "cosmopolitan dinners" as follows:

                          Cosmopolitan Dinners
                          Served with soup, salad, potato, vegetable, and a roll

                          Is that a euphemism for non-Chinese food, LOL !