One of my favorites is going the way of Dodo: the S & C Café at 900 Arch had become a regular lunch hour stop. They had a fine Banh Mi Vietnamese hoagie made by a loving little Vietnamese woman who had a secret stash of Thai birds eye chilis for those of us in the know. Light lunches arent super easy to find in Chinatown and you can get some well-made spring rolls here as well as a tasty salad with Vietnamese meatballs (sausage) over greens and vermicelli.
I was talking to the owners daughter yesterday (she stopped me on the sidewalk, yes, I go there quite a bit) and said they were to close the deal yesterday afternoon. The owner (the older Vietnamese woman) ran it with her two daughters and some help. One daughter was going away to school and the other had another job, so the mother was looking to relax for awhile. Too bad. Great food and a really nice family. I initially ignored this place because it looked like a sub shop at a glance with cheesesteaks and hotdogs on the menu, not really something Id seek out in Chinatown. Further inspection revealed good homemade fare. I dont believe it will necessarily close, just be under new management with new cooks and could therefore go in any direction.
In other news, Szechuan Tasty House continues to impress at 902 Arch Street. The dumplings in spicy sauce are among the best Ive ever had. Small dumplings (sort of made in a shark-fin style like youd see at dim sum, thought not fried) floating in a sea of chili and soy broth and approximately 10-15 cloves of garlic minced over top (my breath could peel paint).
They include a judicious dose of Sichuan Peppercorns in the oily chili broth (if youre not a fan of oil, this isnt for you). This particular spice delivers a mouth numbing sort of spiciness not seen with other sorts of spice (the sensation itself is called ma la I believe, correct me if Im wrong). The menu is a bit more expanded since the last time Ive been. The girl behind the register speaks decent English and can give you the low down on the Chinese menu (theres two menus). She pointed out a spicy duck in Sichuan sauce that Ive got in my crosshairs for next time. Also, Dan Dan noodles are still good as ever.
The Sichuan Peppercorns had previously been under a trade ban but thats recently been lifted. Really, Sichuan places were still using them (I even bought some personally from under a counter in Bostons Chinatown), now its just officially ok. They carry something that can wreak havoc on citrus crops but now theyve got a treatment process that takes care of that without really compromising the taste (I think its a light toasting).