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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Columbia Eats: Egg Roll Chen's

If I were a betting man, I would guess that there were more Chinese fast food joints in Columbia then fried chicken stops. Between the number of Yummy Yummy restaurants, four million versions of China Hut and everything in between, it can be hard to pick out the good from the bad. For me, Egg Roll Chen stands as one of the very best in the Columbia area. Not only do they serve up all the usual favorites, but they also feature a special menu full of interesting picks that are found no where else in town.

My usual standby at the restaurant is the Taiwanese Yen Su Jee. Hot off the special menu, the Yen Su Jee is a heaping pile of fried chicken tossed in chili pepper, green onions, and hot oil served on top of their fried rice - arguably the best in town. It definitely serves as a great guilty pleasure after a long, hard day of whatever the heck you've had to deal with. The Yen Su Jee, along with the Beef Noodle Soup are easily the two favorites among local natives. Unlike other Chinese fast food locations, Egg Roll Chen's is the only place where you can constantly find actual Chinese natives coming in and out with orders of these two dishes and more on a daily basis - a great sign that the place knows what their doing. The Beef Noodle Soup is worth mentioning: a nice, chewy noodle in a sweet, savory broth, it makes for a nice pick-me-up on a cold winter day and is an interesting option for anyone looking for something a little different from the norm. The beef can be a little on the poor side though, on occasion spot on and on occasion slightly undercooked.

For anyone looking to stick to the original Americanized Chinese fast food, you'll most definitely find something to satisfy your taste. A word to wise though: while Egg Roll Chen features an expansive menu, find what you like and learn to love it - this definitely is a hit-and-miss sort of location despite the praise. The Rice Noodle Soup, for example came completely bland and devoid of any real interest to support even a second chance. The Spicy Taiwan Beef also failed to impress due to its gloppy sauce and poor quality beef.

No Reservations, Egg Roll Chen
Atmosphere: Bustling, but homey. Lots of Chinese regulars.
Cost: Fantastic. $5-7.
Try: The Yen Su Jee. Spicy, salty, and beautifully
crispy chicken on top of quality rice. None of that soggy stuff.
Don't: Rice noodle soup. It looks interesting, but the lack
of flavor makes it a bit of a bummer.

The Final Verdict
There are many admirable qualities about Egg Roll Chen that sets it apart from the rest. A large, bustling sit-in area already makes it feel more expansive, and the special Chinese menu definitely gets a thumbs up for those looking for some more offbeat - and even authentic - picks done the fast food way. The prices are also quality, with everything hitting the five-to-six dollar region. While you may not love everything that comes out of the kitchen, you're sure to find something that makes you come back for more. Everyone - though perhaps not on the first or second try - generally finds a dish that hits the spot. Give the place a couple of chances and you'll be sure to find yours.

Eggroll Chen on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

One of my favorite places, especially for the noodle soups and curry shrimp. I am actually a bigger fan of the rice noodle soup than the beef though I will admit that I have had it once where it was a bit bland...the beef noodle is great too but I'm not a huge fan of the subtle nutmeg flavor. Either way bring a big appetite because they are huge portions.

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