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Chan's Dragon Inn (Polynesian Chinese Retro)


Jason Perlow
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Chan’s Dragon Inn

630 Broad Ave, Ridgefield, NJ

(201) 943-1276

I’d like to think that since getting married 11 years ago, and then later on forming eGullet, my tastes in Asian cuisine and particularly Chinese food have matured. I love great regional Chinese food, particularly real Sichuan, Hunan and Shanghainese food when I can get it, and I’m a frequent customer of several the local Hong Kong-Style Dim Sum haunts in the area as well. Still, at the end of the day you sometimes want the Chinese food of your youth, that your parents and grandparents introduced you to. For me, its the sort of Chinese food that was (and still is) served at places like King Yum in Fresh Meadows, Queens (and long-gone venues like Trader Vic’s and Don The Beachcomber) a totally American style of Chinese food that never, ever existed in Asia and is served in such kitschy atmospheres, you’d think you’d died gone to to Tiki hell.

Chan’s Dragon Inn is such a place. True to my own memories of King Yum while growing up in Queens, Chan’s is also totally bad-ass old-school Polynesian Chinese, and they’ve been proudly serving knock-you-flat-on-your-ass umbrella drinks and Egg Foo Young since 1965. Walking into this restaurant throws you right into a time warp, where life was simpler back then, as were tastes in food. People wanted to escape a bit in their dining experience, even if it was in a totally faux atmosphere, and the food really wasn’t truly Polynesian. It doesn’t matter — I’m a complete sucker for this type of place.

To fully appreciate it, you really need to be immersed in the atmosphere itself Click Here For Video

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If you’re not old enough to remember what Master Charge, Carte Blanche and BankAmericard is, you’re likely going to be somewhat traumatized by what lies inside.

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Abandon all hope, ye who orders from this drink menu. You might not be able to find your way back home afterwards.

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That drink is most definitely on fire.

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Wonton soup, in a classic American-Chinese preparation with peices of bright red roast pork in it..

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Shrimp with Lobster Sauce and Roast Pork Fried Rice. This and Egg Foo Young (below) are the benchmark dishes of any Amercian-Chinese restaurant. Chan’s versions are excellent and retro-tastic.

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Egg Roll — with both pork and shrimp in it, fried to golden brown perfection.

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Chan's Dragon Inn rules!!! (or...it used to and I'm assuming it hasn't changed a bit) Please tell me that the waiters still wear the Hawaiian shirts :biggrin:

Up until 2000 I lived on the Englewood/Leonia border and was there all the time. PuPu Platters, Zombies, blowfish light fixtures...what's not to love?

This place definitely deserves its own thread. The photos really capture the atmosphere. To quote John Hiatt:

"Thank God the tiki bar is open

Thank God the tiki torch still shines

Thank God the tiki bar is open

Come on in and open up your mind "

---

ETA: I remembered posting about this place before so I just did a search, and sure enough here it is. FWIW- I pretty much said the same exact thing. I'm getting way too predictable in my old age :hmmm:

Edited by TongoRad (log)

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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Tongo: Don't miss the video. Definite proof of hawaiian shirtage.

And a nice one, too!

Gotta love the music- that's a lounge version of Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight", no? Perfect...

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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Tongo: Don't miss the video. Definite proof of hawaiian shirtage.

And a nice one, too!

Gotta love the music- that's a lounge version of Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight", no? Perfect...

Yeah, they have a soundtrack playing in the background with various Hawaiian-ized versions of old favorites from movies ("Somewhere over the Rainbow" etc.) and popular culture. I wonder if its an 8-track or its on CD or MP3.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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My uncles used to own these types of restaurant back in the hay days..."exotic" cocktails and the tiki layout!!! That's it, I am taking my wife to King Yum for her birthday this Saturday. Haven't been there since the 80's. I guess I will stick to the Singapore Sling, Pu-Pu Platter and pershaps lobster with ginger sauce.

Leave the gun, take the canoli

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I have never been to a Chinese restaurant of this type... my sole Chinese experience has been either Generic Dragon or Chinatown. How does the food differ in quality from either? I'd kill to take my girlfriend to a place like this, but if the food tastes the same as my neighborhood Chinese place, we'd probably end up going to Han Ah Rheum and the Chinese place that looked good in one of Jason's other posts.

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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MJP, at these places, its not just about the food (although the food is different than most standard American-Chinese places -- its "retro" American-Chinese cuisine.) its about the experience and the atmosphere. I can't say I like to have this kind of Chinese food all the time, but its enjoyable nevertheless.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Now that's some good looking eats! That fried rice looks delicious. A few months ago, I asked a local Chinese take-out place to "cook the fried rice longer in order to brown it better", and I envisioned something just like what was shown in Jason's pictures. They thought I was crazy, so I had to forget about it. Now I know where to go to get some decent fried rice and other good Chinese food!

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That browning doesnt come from cooking it longer. It's from the use of a type of dark soy sauce that comes from Hong Kong. I'm not sure what specific brand is used but it imparts a characteristic flavor that is different from the fried rice you might get at other Chinese places where they will use something like a commercial Kikkoman.

I buy various brands of dark soy from the Chinese supermarkets but the flavor is not the same as what is used at these kinds of places. It might also have to do with the professionally-made roast pork that they have that flavors the dish as well.

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Which do you guys think should be the first hit for someone like me who's never been to this type of Chinese restaurant before: Lee's Hawaiian Islander or Chan's?

I live in Lyndhurst, maybe five minutes up Riverside from Lee's, but I'd rather get the full experience (and of course, better food). :-)

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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I haven't been to Lee's yet (but planning to go shortly) but I've heard good things about it. The new Lee's location BTW is in Lyndhurst on Stuyvesant Ave, the Clifton location closed due to a fire in 2003.

768 Stuyvesant Ave

Lyndhurst, NJ 07071-3037 View Map

(201) 939-3777

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Speaking of retro style Chinese restaurants....do you guys/gals remember the Chinese restaurants or take-outs with signs that said "Chow-Mein" or "Chop Suey"? I sure missed those retro....

Leave the gun, take the canoli

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Lee's is KAKA...my humble opinion

I really miss Chans from rt 4 in Paramus...Flaming PU PU for 2 and they had this filet mignon dish that was pounded thin and rolled with ham then battered and deep fried. Or the Chans from rt 17 in Mahwah a dish called Gim Lo Wonton (yes it has been more than 20 yrs) it was like sweet and sour everything with pineapple and garnished with fried wontons....MMMMMMM

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

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The other Chans were "Waikiki" and "Polynisian".......

T

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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Now that's some good looking eats! That fried rice looks delicious. A few months ago, I asked a local Chinese take-out place to "cook the fried rice longer in order to brown it better", and I envisioned something just like what was shown in Jason's pictures. They thought I was crazy, so I had to forget about it. Now I know where to go to get some decent fried rice and other good Chinese food!

Like Jason said, the brown is from dark soy. However, if you like the crispy bits that come from allowing the fried rice to get a crust and then get mixed in, you should try the fried rice at Don Alfonso in Hackensack. It's Peruvian, but they had some of the best fried rice we've had in a long white.

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I've been to Lun Wah in Roselle a couple of times, (we've got friends that live right down the street who love the place).

Lun Wah

587 Raritan Road

Roselle, NJ 07203

908.254.0656

In looking up the name of the restaurant (it's been a year or two since I was there), I came across this Tiki-centric forum with pictures of Lun Wah and reviews of some of the other restaurants mentioned in this thread.

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Tikiroom is a great site, I joined it recently myself. Its run by this software designer guy who did interface work on the ReplayTV, if any of you guys remember what that was. It's the veritable eGullet of Tikis stuff.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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When I was younger I remember a Polynesian place like that on RT 23 in Wayne on the southbound side. It's not a Japanese steak house but the same building and behind it is a hotel. Anyone recall the name?

I also recall the Jade Fountain in Clifton and Ding Ho in Passaic on Main Avenue.

-Scott

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When I was younger I remember a Polynesian place like that on RT 23 in Wayne on the southbound side.  It's not a Japanese steak house but the same building and behind it is a hotel.  Anyone recall the name?

I also recall the Jade Fountain in Clifton and Ding Ho in Passaic on Main Avenue.

-Scott

Wasn't there a Jade Fountain on 17 in Paramus at one time? And Chan's on Rt. 4!!! I remember going there with a large group of friends not that long ago, and having a terrific time (those drinks sure helped). And there was a place in Closter my parents used to take us to- Who can forget that pink gel that kept the PuPu Platter warm.....

Dana

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I haven't been to Lee's yet (but planning to go shortly) but I've heard good things about it. The new Lee's location BTW is in Lyndhurst on Stuyvesant Ave, the Clifton location closed due to a fire in 2003.

I remember the Tommy Lee's Islander in Hoboken (!!) but now I'm going back more than 30 years. Still, the Lobster Cantonese (the exact same sauce as in Jason's photo of the SLS) was superb.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Shades of maraschino cheeries and pineapple-heavy Sweet & Sour Pork!

I tried to get that video, Jason, but it wouldn't come thru.

There used to be a Jade Fountain in North Arlington and it was like going into another world. The Chan's Dragon drink menu looks just as I remember Jade Fountain along with the knife/fork/spoons and the zodiac place mat.

Aeons ago (really do mean aeons) the fried rice in a can was as close to that brown stuff in restaurants of yore, and I loved it. But, now it is YangChow FR or no FR at all. (purist that I am)

But if I took DH there, he would love it! Chop suey on the menu??

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