recently, two new restaurants have opened in philly's c-town that are similar in offering made-to-order meals or steam table "choices and a soup".
xiao guan garden chinese restaurant, 915 race st., next to best bakery, has a $3.50 lunch special from the steam table, which by the time they were done serving me reached five choices and a soup. whoever is cooking for the steam table seems to have a deft hand. particulary good were some curry dishes, such as curry potato and chicken and, also, a curry squid and onion, both of which were balanced perfectly between taste of the yellow curry and heat of pepper, in the southeast asian-style. a little hot pepper was even snuck into a mixed vegetable, tofu skin, and lotus root offering, a surprising but savory spin.
fu zhong buffet, on 11th street, next to nice noodle, has a $3.25 "4 choices and soup" meal from its steam table. in general, the food was less complex than xian's steam table, but they did have some interesting offerings, such as a ground pork mixture wrapped in tofu skin. overall, fu zhong had decent steam table, and, being located next to the nyc c-town bus queue should help from the freshness aspect, which is the bane of steam table.
time will tell which of the new "choice restaurants" is the best steam table choice, but xiao guan garden's seems to have a distinct, early edge.