Sunday, November 28, 2010

Great Wall

The gauzy Great Wall website does little to prepare for the real life color of this restaurant, located at 440 East Colfax Avenue. Prior to even reaching the door, patrons run a gauntlet of one of Colfax’s more interesting corners. An on-again, off-again area for crack dealing, it is also situated across the street from the Rosslyn Bar and Grill, a rough and tumble bar that fills plenty of bar stools, whether it is 7:30 AM or 7:30 PM.
Yet, the intention is food, and not the environment as it exists beyond the walls of the restaurant. Unfortunately, life inside does not differ significantly from life outside. Upon entry one is immediately confronted with the counter, with a full view of the kitchen and the myriad of ways that food can be fried.
The service is brisk, efficient, and will not be mistaken for friendly. Sodas, well as one would expect, they are not free, but I can only assume given the crowd that gravitates towards the corner at its entrance, this must stated, as well as the cost of refills.
The seating area is small and an amusing mash up of formica, padded booths and tables for two. Simple fluorescent light does little to hide the lack of cleanliness and fan blades lazily spin beneath the weight of their dusty exterior.
Back to the food, which sadly lacked the degree of flavor of either the location or the service. The chicken lo mein, usually a safe choice, was an oily pile of noodles with a minimal amount of protein or vegetables. The shrimp rolls, possessing a single shrimp amidst a bed of greasy cabbage, were not worth finishing. In search of the silver lining? The food was served fast and was cheap, meaning I did not wait long to be disappointed, nor was it costly.
This place has many fans, my friends among them, but when confronted with a food that soy sauce cannot save, I do not envision a return trip.

Great Wall Chinese on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 26, 2010

China Kitchen

China Kitchen, located at 406 East Colfax Avenue, is an a la carte feast where Chinese food collides with cafeteria style delivery. All entrees, of which there are many, sit in a long steam table, behind a surprisingly spotless glass partition, awaiting selection.
At a $1.35 per scoop (up recently from a $1.25) the adventurous eater simply walks along and points. Options include the following:
  • Fried rice
  • Beef and broccoli
  • Lo mein
  • General Tso’s chicken
  • Egg rolls
  • Whole fried fish
  • Wontons
The portions are large. A scoop actually means two heaping scoops. Ordering two scoops of fried rice elicits a chuckle and a shaking of the head from the guy behind the counter, and then he proceeds to mound rice in a pile that is 8” across and 2” deep. Combined with two scoops of General Tso’s Chicken, suddenly there is food for three meals, for $5.40.
The food is Americanized, salty as Lot’s wife, and given the cost and setting, surprisingly good. This is not a ringing endorsement, it is an all things considered endorsement. All the entrees that were tried were within a B+ - C range, using an the American school grading system, and the temperatures varied across the entrees, and in one case, within a single entrée.
The space itself is cozy, read small, worn, but not dirty, and the air is filled with the singular smell that is omnipresent in Chinese restaurants across the States, which is that of frying oil. For the cost and convenience, I would brave the crowds always waiting for the 15, whose stop is directly out the door, and step in, expecting to be satiated, while spending $4 or less.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Joey’s Pizza

Located at 329 East Colfax Avenue, Joeys offers up the closest slice of NY Pizza to lawmakers at the Capitol, as well as legion of hungry workers in the nearby State buildings. Thrifty lunch specials, a slice, salad and drink for less than $6, keeps the lunch crowds coming.
The interior is no nonsense. Small tables, topped with checked vinyl tablecloths, napkins, crushed pepper and parmesan cheese. By putting everything you need close at hand, it makes a simple platform for a quick meal.
The pizza is as expected. Thin crust, simple red sauce and the standard collection of toppings. After a quick reheat in the wide mouthed oven the crust is crispy, yet pliable enough to fold and eat taco style.
This pizza has a bit of fan base on Yelp, but I ultimately found it perched atop the bell curve. Nothing about this slice will offend a diner, but in the same sense, it does little, if anything, to excite one. The cost is hard to beat, and the owner is great, willing to talk your ear off about a wide range of subjects or leave you alone to your thoughts, but there is better pizza in town. There is a host of other items on the menu, including stromboli and calzones, but when I walk into a place with pizza prominently featured in the name, I am only ordering pizza, and in this case, I will likely go elsewhere.

Joey's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pete’s Steakhouse

Pete’s Steakhouse, also known as Pete’s Café, is a diner-esque space tucked into the center of a block that features the Cheeky Monk, Martha’s Beauty Supply, a panaderia (Mexican Bakery) and a Rent-a-Center. The typical incongruous commercial uses that makes Colfax such a unique strip of concrete and asphalt.
Pete’s is likely best known for the sign in its window…EAT HERE OR WE WILL BOTH STARVE! With this admonition in mind, it is a treat to walk into a small space filled with formica tables, immediately hear the sizzle of breakfast on the griddle, which is within 5 feet of the door, and give yourself over to the family that has been serving breakfast, with an emphasis on protein, at this location for more than 3 decades.
In true diner form, the water arrives fast and while one is asked if they would like coffee, the answer is assumed to be yes. The coffee has likely not changed since opening day. It is served in a classic 8oz mug and saucer combo, and a bit watery, unaffected by the march of venti sizes and increasing strength that have become the hallmark of modern coffee.
059While the coffee may be small, the breakfast portions are immense, $5 will get you huevos rancheros or a gyro omelet, as well as other innumerable “specials,” all of which come with hash browns. The hash browns, which are normally not something worth mentioning and normally arrive in a large bag, frozen and stamped with Sysco on the side, are fresh made. As in, whole potatoes are ground up in the rear of the restaurant and then transported 30 feet to become part of that morning’s breakfast menu.
060The huevos were good, not great, but if you need your sinuses cleared they will do the trick. Made with ground beef, instead of pork, they carry a spicy kick that will make you appreciate the attention paid to the level of your water glass. The gyro omelet was a solid performer, exactly as one would suspect a combination of eggs and gyro to be. The pita and side of tzatziki was a pleasant surprise.
If you are seeking a breakfast spot in which to be seen, skip Pete’s. If you are looking for trendy selection, a la Snooze, skip Pete’s. If you are looking for a solid blue collar meal, at blue collar wages, cooked and served in a warm environment by the men and women who own the place, then go to Pete’s.

Pete's Steak House on Urbanspoon