Arts and Entertainment

Cheap *ss Lunch #8: The Best Deal Near Stuy is… Chinese Food?!

It won't win any prizes for authenticity, but Taste Chinese Restaurant is a surprisingly strong contender for best lunch deal in the neighborhood.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The area around Stuyvesant isn't known for its stellar Chinese cuisine. We've got halal on top of halal, pizza, delis and coffee shop galore, almost every fast food chain, and enough expensive restaurants to bankrupt the average student. But the closest thing one gets to East Asian food is the teriyaki chicken and rice noodles at K-Cuisine, which isn't much more than a glorified halal cart.

So you could imagine my surprise when I encountered a storefront labelled "Taste Chinese Restaurant" next to the Chambers Street 1-2-3 train station earlier this year. It's stylized signage and picture-heavy menu mark it as a distinctly American-style Chinese takeout, but the uncommon cuisine alone wasn't what caught my eye. I was immediately drawn to a banner pasted on the glass storefront announcing "Lunch Express - $5.69" that listed a mindblowing 12 options to choose from.

With a bargain as good as that, I knew that I had to give them a chance, cultural authenticity aside. After all, who would've thought you could find 12 appealing choices of anything when chicken over rice has been jacked up to seven dollars?

Entering the joint, there was a predominance of construction workers and taxi drivers among the clientele, which is always a sure sign of ample portions, quick serving, and good value. In short, everything you'd want from a Cheap *ss Lunch. The special is just as much as advertised, and with only an extra dollar you'll get a second selection, bringing the total to $7.28. This comparatively low sum speedily yields a midsized plastic container chock-full of fragrant steamy food, with the choice of the rice accompanying your meal being white, brown, or fried.

The dishes available are quite extensive, but among them are some highlights. Fan favorite Sesame Chicken comes just as you'd expect, drowning in a sweet orange sauce, slightly squeaking as you cut into its crispy exterior. Though not a standout, Sesame Chicken lives up to its name, and this is as good a place as any to pick up those bright orange chunks. If you're hankering for less cartoonishly colored poultry, the Chicken in Broccoli is a mediocre substitute. Its white meat is soft and gives a bit too easily to the pressure of the jaw, but the sturdy broccoli and a coating of tingly sauce that accompany it save the dish from being a complete bland disaster.

A better chance to try something new comes in the form of the Pepper Steak, comparatively chewy with an exterior studded with red pepper for hints of spiciness. The real kick is that it also comes with large slices of sauteed onions and surprisingly crisp and fresh bell peppers. For a “healthy” option, or just a great use of the optional dollar, the mixed vegetables aren't easily dismissed. They come as a full raft of broccoli sprigs, chopped carrots, mushroom slices, onion, and even zucchini. For the carbs that come alongside the meal, the fried rice is a joy after years of dry yellow halal rice, the peak blend of soft and chewy interspersed with morsels of peas, carrot and sweet onion. The brown rice is solid enough, if a bit unappealing in comparison. Both do a more than adequate job of soaking up the lake of tangy sauce left behind by all the main attractions, and portions are ample enough that you won't be left wishing for more.

When (there's no "if'' here) I go back, I'd definitely like to explore the full depth of their extensive menu. My fallback would probably be the Pepper Steak with an extra option of the mixed vegetables, and to correct the distinctive absence of a kick in any of the meals, I'd ask for a bunch of hot sauce packets on the side. Taste Chinese Restaurant is a bit of a walk from the school building and certainly doesn't come near anything you'd get from a more “authentic” eatery in Flushing or even nearby Chinatown. But for the price, accessibility to Stuyvesant, and sheer range of options available, it can't be beat. It's a whole head and shoulders above most of the halal carts in the area for sure, and a much better bet than any of the questionable slice joints.


Head out from the bridge and all the way down Chambers Street to Church Street, hang a left past the ACE stop, and go over one more block to the corner of Church and Reade.