San Louis Obispo’s Chinatown consists of a parking garage, a sign, and one small noodle shop. Why does the city put so much effort into showcasing its “Chinatown Historical District”? The only visible Chinese-ish influence is the chop suey joint, which is a stretch in itself. Chop Suey was invented in the USA, so can it even be classified as Chinese? Are the plaques truly to remember the past or is their purpose to give a sense of the exotic to the town?
Located on the main road of a commercial area, the restaurant had a homely, diner-esque feel. Chinese pop played pleasantly from overhead as we scooted into a booth and perused the menu. My friend David and I decided to get the Dinner Special A: wonton soup, fried wonton, eggroll, foil-wrapped chicken, fried rice, and one entrée per person. I ordered the Hot Pepper Chicken. David got the Sweet and Sour Chicken. The soup came first, followed quickly by the appetizers, rice, and entrees. The food was unremarkable, but in a familiar way. The sensation was similar to eating at a diner: you knew what you were getting and the food was greasy and bland. The food was boring, but it gave you the same recognizable hit of sugar and fat under the guise of being exotic. Perhaps that is why American-Chinese food is loved so much across the USA; it’s comfort food.