Imagine if you will a TV quiz show. You are allowed to call a friend, but who? It depends on the question. You know who to call for history, music, pop culture. It’s important to know each person’s special talent. I believe it is equally important to know your special talent – and practice.
For the same reason it is critical that your music buff be up-to-date on Bieber’s movie, possible Zeppelin reunion tours and the best piano bars, I am, and forever will be, the girl who knows where the good Chinese Take-out is at anytime.
This comes from my father – a hot and sour fan from way back. At our home in the burbs of Cleveland we would ask if he was in the mood for #11 prepared medium spicy. (For those of you who do not have the combo list memorized, this was Moo Goo Gai Pan). In fact 15 years ago when he gave up carbs the first questions I asked were “What of fried rice? What of Egg Rolls?”. Rest assured, weight was lost and carbs minimized with the occasional exception made for a crab wonton.
Chen’s Garden www.chensgardenchineserestaurant.com Yup – my neighborhood chinese takeout has a website!
It was 9 years ago. I was moving in with a friend of mine in Cuyahoga Falls. After unloading my belongings from the back of my ’89 Ford Escort, Lezle showed me to the most critical parts of the city. Chinese, she knew, would be my first stop. Chen’s has been with me ever since.
I’m not sure when I officially became a regular. Was it when I started to recognize the girls behind the counter or when they started to recognize me? Maybe when I called in from a different phone and they still knew me and my ordering habits. Was it when we ran into one of the girls at the mall and exchanged coupons for the department stores? There was even a 4 month period when we were there Wednesday nights like clockwork and after skipping a week were greeted with questions about where we must have gone on vacation!
What draws me back? Crispy Egg rolls that aren’t greasy. Vegetables that walk the line between warm and crunchy. Crab wontons with sweet fillings. Potstickers with toasty fried sides my husband craves. A friend of mine who describes himself as “a large American” claims their General Tso’s to be vastly superior due to their thick chunks of white meat chicken and the spicy sauce.
My usual staple is the Chicken with Garlic Sauce loaded with crunchy veggies, big pieces of chicken and just enough sauce. Recently, I saw another customer’s order being packed up. It looked like beef in a rich dark sauce. I pulled the “I’ll have what he’s having”. Beef in Mushroom sauce – I was in heaven. Chewy mushrooms and the earthy sauce – fantastic!
Last night we stopped in. There’s a new girl behind the counter. We give her our order and politely wait. As she is packing up the back of goodies a friendly face pops out from behind the kitchen door. I realize that I see this face at least 20 times a year for the last 9 years and don’t know her name. She doesn’t know mine either but we are comfortable in our relationship. I ask about the health of her baby, she reminds the new girl to give me extra hot mustard packets and asks when the wedding in Pittsburgh will be.
Next week I will ask her name.
Until we eat again,