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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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In Dining Blogs

Old-school on the outside ...

In Dining Blogs

... and deliciously retro on the inside.

Step into a Chinese time machine at House of Fong


I love Chinese food, and I always have. But my earliest memories of Asian cuisine, in retrospect, were bland and downright Americanized compared to what I prefer now.

Growing up, we ordered take-out, pretty much exclusively, from a place called Port China, 312 W. Bradley Rd. This was before I knew the different between Szechuan and Cantonese. I didn't know Asian food comprised Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean or Vietnamese (and more). I just knew that when my sister and I would stay at my grandparents' house, my grandma would simply say, "Would you like chop suey for dinner?" and send my grandpa out to pick it up.

By "chop suey," my grandma was referring to all Chinese cuisine, but without fail, I ordered beef with peapods and chicken fried rice. I can still taste that dinner now.

I bring all this up because my wife and I had a ridiculously retro and wonderful dinner this weekend. Running around, doing pre-baby chores, we passed House of Fong, 5460 S. 27th St. We've seen this place before with its teal, pagoda-inspired exterior.

But this time, we said, "Lets do it."

Walking inside was like stepping into a Chinese time machine. Red vinyl booths, arched wood paneling and a sound system quietly playing the theme from "Taxi."

I felt almost giddy.

I knew, then and there, that I'd be eating a dinner that would be pumped full of MSG, heavy on the sauce and light on the spice. Could I really order anything but beef with peapods? Of course not. And just to keep it real, Velia ordered "chop suey," which, I believe, was invented in America.

You know what? The food was great. If there's a such thing as Chinese comfort food, this was it. The thick, black "soy sauce" made it even saltier, too, and it brought me back to 5 years old, sitting in my grandparents' kitchen.

House of Fong is ridiculously inexpensive, too. Two dinners (hers included soup, egg foo young and ice cream), plus a virgin Mai Tai for the pregnant wife, came out to less than $20.

We are so coming back ... with friends.

For the record, Port China is still there, but after a visit a few years ago, it felt rundown and bland and reminded me that you can never really "go back."

That said, House of Fong is about as close as you'll get. It's as far away as you can possibly get from nouveau Asian fusion cuisine.

But sometimes, a little old-school chop suey is all you need.


Talkbacks

Observer | Aug. 20, 2008 at 8:54 a.m. (report)

Fong. For some reason whenever I'd drive past, I'd think of W.C. Fields. I'd picture him saying, "Fong. Fong's the name. The name is Fong." "Chinese" comfort food- Every now and then I'll get a craving for Egg Fu Yung; go figure.

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mke girl | Aug. 18, 2008 at 1:57 p.m. (report)

i got really excited when i saw the picture of House of Fong! when i was a kid (i'm 34 now), my parents would always take us kids there - i can still see the big red booth right around the corner to the left that we'd always sit in. we'd all order tea and our waitress was always Connie. always great food and a great time, glad to hear it's just as good, i'll have to go back sometime soon:)

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littletinyfish | Aug. 18, 2008 at 12:26 p.m. (report)

This made me incredibly hungry even though I don't normally like Asian food. I may have to give this a try...

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