June 18, 2003

This afternoon a menu was slid under my apartment door. A frequent enough occurrence, of course, and I normally throw such things away as I have my regular stable of delivery joints. But this one caught my eye. It’s from Number One Chinese Restaurant, located at 639 South St., Philadelphia.

Hmm…Number One Chinese Restaurant. Where have I heard that before?

Oh, I remember now, it was when I was living in New York and working in the financial district. There, downtown, at 10 S. William St., is, uh, one “No. 1 Chinese Restaurant,” as the awning in front proudly proclaimed, this despite the fact there are at least three other restaurants in Manhattan of the same name.

I swear, I walked past that place at least once a day, sometimes as many as three or four times a day, and never, not once, did I see anyone -- no one -- eating in there. And so, for me at least, the Williams St. “No. 1 Chinese Restaurant” became known as “No One Chinese Restaurant.” I mean, it must have been a front or something.

I’m tempted to give Philadelphia’s “Number One Chinese Restaurant” a try, though. Prominently displayed on the cover of the menu is the internationally recognized “No M.S.G.” sign: You know, the acronym “MSG” enclosed within a red circle accompanied by a foreboding slash through the forbidden letters.

Yeah, right. Get real. I like Chinese food as much as the next guy, but as far as the Americanized version is concerned, I think it’s kind of sad they’ve built an entire cuisine around a food additive.


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