Giving In to the Pull of Chinatown Express’ Sidewalk Cart
There is only a certain number of times a guy like me can walk past a place like this without stopping. I have a special place in my heart for Chinatown Express, the pay-by-the-pound cheap Chinese place on 7th Avenue btw. 33+34th (right next to Gyro II). Long before I lived in NY, I used to visit from Boston- and Chinatown Express was usually my first stop after leaving Penn Station or even Port Authority. What can I say? I’ve been addicted to cheap Chinese food for a long long time (in fact, General Tso’s chicken put me in the hospital in college… *allegedly*). Of course my early flirtation with Chinatown Express was long before they set up the satellite stand on the sidewalk selling cheap chicken wings, egg rolls, fried chicken and lo mean. And, after walking by this sidewalk ”cart” more times than I can count on my hands, I finally succumbed to the pressure of the easy access super cheap Chinese food.
What I got (who am I kidding, I ordered everything), and how it was (who am I kidding, you know I loved it) after the jump.
6 wings for $3. I was kind of bummed about this, because they serve two different kinds of wings (sweet and hot) and they are willing to give you 3 and 3, which is what I asked for. But I wasn’t paying attention, and he ended up giving me only sweet. How you like your wings is a very personal thing… personally, I like mine as dry (read: crispy) as possible. I hate when they are under fried, and you get the moist chewy bits of skin (but that’s just me.) I don’t mind sauce, but I like it super sticky and clinging to the dry, crispy wing. So these were right up my alley. I like sweet wings too, so that didn’t hurt. Not sure what the hot wings were like…
Egg roll, $1.50. Qualities of a good egg roll is another thing you could argue about for a long time. (Well, I can anyway.) Once again, I’m a big fan of dry (this time on the inside.) In other words, my favorite egg rolls are the ones where they really shred up the cabbage and carrots and everything that make up the filling, and then stuff it in the skin as tight as possible. I hate loosely packed egg rolls, where the filling ends up being really wet and moist. The moisture should come from the duck sauce you dip it into, not inside the egg roll. Am I making any sense here? Either way, the ones at Chinatown Express are exactly the kind of egg rolls I like. A delightful surprise! (I was ready to hate…)
And finally… the main event. 2 pieces of fried chicken and lo mein, $3.75. I was completely prepared to get a little container of lo mein with my two pieces of fried chicken- so when the guy scooped a massive amount of noodles into one of those big styrofoam containers, I almost lost my shit. Really? Seriously? For $3.75? I like the way you guys think… unfortunately, just from looking at the lo mein, you could tell it was going to be mushy and not that good. But it is filling, and for that much food it’s tough to get a cheaper lunch than this. As for the fried chicken itself, it was surprisingly tasty… and by “tasty” I mean it tastes like Chinese food. It’s hard to put it into words, except to say: the fried chicken at Chinatown Express tastes like it has been fried in the same oil as a million other cheap Chinese food items (fried wontons, egg rolls, etc.) If you like that flavor (and of course, I do) you will love this fried chicken. If you don’t, you probably wouldn’t be eating at a place like this anyway.
Admittedly, I haven’t been inside Chinatown Express in probably 9 or 10 years, and hopefully this little trip will keep me away for a little longer. As you know, I always get myself in trouble when I have to pay what my lunch weighs. All in all, despite the sub par lo mein, I was pretty content with the lunch. Now that I’ve checked it off my must-try list, walking by the place every day should be a little easier now.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- So cheap
- I love cheap Americanized Chinese food
- I love sweet chicken wings that are dry and crispy
- I love mushy lo mein (who would say that?)
- They give you a ton of lo mein
- I like dry, tightly packed egg rolls
- I like my fried chicken to taste like Chinese food (you’ll see what I mean if you try it)
- The lo mein is pretty bad
- I like my chicken wings to be super moist on the inside and slightly chewy on the outside
- I don’t like my fried chicken to taste like it’s been fried in Chinese food oil that hasn’t been changed in a year
- I hate Americanized Chinese food
Chinatown Express, 427 Seventh Ave. (btw. 33+34th), 212-563-3559