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Friday, August 19, 2011

Greenville (NC) Eats: La Hacienda, King Panda, and Mongolian Empire

While I blog my fair share, I've certainly eaten at least twice as much around town. There are plenty of unmentionables anywhere you go, but every once in awhile one finds some decent picks a random night out. Here are a few hit-and-mostly-misses in the Greenville area:

La Hacienda Mexican Grill
Type of Food: Tex-Mex
Price: $6-7 lunch, $10+ dinner

Recently opened on 10th street, La Hacienda offers some Tex-Mex options for the local crowd. To be honest, I have a slight bias for the taquerias - restaurants serving tacos, sopas, burritos and other traditionally Mexican fare - over what you usually see. East Carolina is an area bustling with these family joints serving some incredible tacos that will make you forget those Tex-Mex versions in a pinch, so it was a little disappointing to find that Hacienda was a Tex-Mex restaurant after seeing their "authentic Mexican" sign outside. For a Tex-Mex in Greenville though, it's on par with everything else on town. I tried out the quesadilla relleno for lunch which was stuffed with shredded chicken, vegetables and cheese. Along with a side of rice and salad topped with guacamole, it made for a filling meal. I wasn't too impressed with the flavors though, nothing was really strongly seasoned and the quesadilla needed a large dose of salsa to stay interesting. It had a good crispiness though, and maintained it to the last bite which was a redeeming factor.

While the location makes it an ideal choice for students who can't venture further into town on a daily basis, I would still take the marginally longer walk and pick Armadillo Grill in the downtown area for Tex-Mex tacos. Anyone with a vehicle, however, should try hopping either cross Tar River to El Azador or the taqueria at the Mexican supermarket down Charles St. for some good eats.

Final Word: Meh.

La Hacienda Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

King Panda Restaurant
Type of Food: Chinese-American
Price: $5 lunch, $8 dinner

Unlike Tex-Mex, I have a bit of sympathy for Chinese-American fast food. General Tso chicken, sweet and sour pork, hot and sour soup, that fast food fried wing, the lo mein stuff - I love that crap to death for no reason. I've had my fair share of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to Chinese buffets though, and for me King Panda sits right in between the bad and the ugly. The sickly sweet taste of bottled sweet sour, uncrisp meats, and generally either bland or overly something made my two attempts at the buffet turn sour fast. They have a cheap lunch buffet, but this is one of those times where I can say you pay for what you get.

Final Word: Thumbs down.

Mongolian Empire BBQ
Type of Food: Asian Grill
Price: Can't remember, but under ten I'm sure.

I've been a little baffled about whether I should review this place, because in theory everything you have there is as good as you make it out to be. The way this or any Mongolian grill works is a pile of fruits, vegetables, mysteriously dehydrated meat and sauces are left out for you to fill a bowl. Once you get your bowls set, the cooks throw it onto a grill and combine until ready to eat. If we just leave it at that, Mongolian is satisfying in the sense that you get a nice diversity of food to mix and match at your leisure and enjoy.

I think I like Mongolian Empire, but a large heaping bowl of noodles with various Asian sauces and vegetables is commonplace in my own home, so that may be a personal bias. If you are hungry for bowls of meat and vegetable noodles and don't want to purchase the pieces yourself, I guess this is an option for you. It's a good way, if anything, to experience a variety of Asian sauces that you may have never touched on and help inspire some ideas for your own kitchen. If you are looking for more of a savvy culinary meal though, then crawl up the street and check out Sakura Asian Express instead.

Final Word: Craving bowls of noodles in Greenville, NC? It's okay.

Mongolian House & Golden China on Urbanspoon


Jenn said...

You silly head. The meat at Mongolian Empire is thinly shaved and frozen... not dehydrated! ;)

Bach Pham said...

That makes sense! It just looks like a piece of dehydrated something, at least to me.

Anonymous said...

We lived there ten years ago, it was our favorite restaurant, and we haven't found anywhere else we have enjoyed more. Their hot/sour soup was the best we ever had in four states. The flatbreadwith sesame was also very good. Best bet, use minimal noodles, one or two meats, a little of all the sauces, and your favorite 2 or 3 veg. Our children were thrilled with the gold carp pond outside. Staff were always kind and enthusiastic. Wish they had a restaurant in Columbia SC!

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