Hello, I missed you! I was in Chicago for Thanksgiving weekend and it was AWESOME. And where have you been?
Today, because your Mother loves you, I’m going to put down this turkey sandwich and “out” two ethnic Chicago ‘hoods for serving alcohol to minors. (I could, in theory, out my parents for “forgetting” a six-pack of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers in their basement, but that’s a story for another day.)
Anyhoo, I’m sure these neighborhoods have learned to card hard since 198whaaa? And I highly doubt that Chicago cops are reading Mother Drucker. (But they SHOULD.)
First ‘hood, Greektown (see above). Even the most baby-faced sixteen year old could get woozy on zee ouzo. But Greektown is on the near West side, and I was dating a U of C student on the South. So where did he take his 18-year old paramour for General Tso’s Chicken and delicious whiskey sours, the alcoholic equivalent of a Jolly Rancher? It’s Chinatown, Jake. Specifically, Moon Palace.
Last weekend, I dragged my sweet and accommodating parents to Chinatown on a cold and blowy November night, to the NEW Moon Palace (no longer on the second floor), because the old Moon Palace burned down. 15 years ago. That’s how long it’s been. (Now they’re right next to a fire house. Coincidence?)
The place was crowded, filled with Bears fans and uniformed Chicago cops. (Who may or may not be reading this and planning a sting operation for underage drinkers this weekend.) And the food was… Wrong. Just wrong. Not bad, exactly but wrong. (Wong!)
We started with Shanghai soup dumplings — xiao long bao. I first had them at Yank Sing (always makes me think of flogging the dolphin — first you yank, then you SING!) in San Francisco, and fell hopelessly in love.
They are splotchy little satchels filled with porkylicious liquor — I think it’s broth. How they get broth to stay and even travel in a porous vessel like a dumpling is clearly an ancient Chinese secret. This is what they SHOULD look like:
And here’s what Moon Palace’s dumpy dumplings look like:
Um, that’s just a pork dumpling. (My name in prison.) Maybe some people would call it a potsticker? Regardless, the only ‘soup’ involved is the liquid that squelches out of the pork when you stab it with a chopstick. Another fatal flaw was moo shu pork, wrapped in this:
That is a TORTILLA. That isn’t remotely Chinese. And while it may very well be delicious warm with butter or filled with various Mexican delicacies, moo shu pork should be served with a delicate, transparent wrapper. Right? RIGHT?!
As my sister astutely pointed out, I should look on the bright side. That’s one Chicago stop I can tick off my list. Which is a good thing, because between my mom’s pies, the Apple Haus cider doughnuts, the Lou Malnati’s pizza and the Ditka’s pot roast nachos (how big is Ditka?), it’s a good thing I’m back in the land of sushi and salads.
On a totally unrelated and very sad note: a lovely little girl I once knew lost a long, drawn-out battle with spinal muscular atrophy over Thanksgiving weekend. Rest in peace, angel.