I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Stockton, California.
Greetings from Stockton, California
View from space Elev. 32 feet
I couldn’t run across The Chop Stick in a million years. Someone had to tell me it was there; I learned of its existence years ago from a musician friend. And everything is so wrong about the place for a land yachter. It has a true “Park the yacht? Seriously??” location, strictly limiting my visits to nights and weekends.
Hell, even the address is suspect: The Chop Stick isn’t really on N. El Dorado, where I park. The hole-in-the-wall take-out-only restaurant actually faces a side street, E. Vine, I think. Who knows? I’m driving a 75-foot-long (currently) 78,000 lbs. land yacht so most residential side streets don’t pique my interest too much, if you catch my drift; i.e., weight + height + length = it’s not a car!
The restaurant is located at the furthest-from-the-road end of the building. The N. El Dorado corner is occupied by a laundromat.
There is no dine-in at the Chop Stick. You can carry it out or they will deliver it to you. You enter the building to an anteroom with a counter, a cash register and a trusted face behind it at one end. It’s a very small, sparse room with few chairs, but it has a giant window through which you can watch “the wok magic.” It’s very cool.
While I was waiting for my order I talked to a 60-year-old local who had also been coming there for years. Before the Chop Stick he “always went to a place called Ernie’s over on Highway 120,” he said. One of his earliest memories was of his dad taking him for Chinese food when he was four years old (possibly Ernie’s). I enjoyed his story. I should’ve paid more attention. I would’ve but I was pressed for time (not to mention equally pressed for brains). I was also hungry.
I ordered Beef with Tomato Chow Mein with pan-fried noodles ($5.30) and, at the counter guy’s suggestion because I wanted a lot of vegetables, Pork Chop Suey ($5.55). I watched as a chúshī assembled the ingredients for the Beef with Tomato in a large bowl. I watched him expertly slicing two Roma tomatoes in half, in eights, in sixteenths. I watched the ingredients hit the wok. Yum.
When he was done with his magic I watched as he put the contents in a to-go box, nursing every bit of sauce from the wok. He then slid the box across the table to a woman who went to some freakin’ steamer thing and, with a food-service-grade gloved hand, grabbed a handful of pre-cooked noodles and threw them in.
I’m not an authority on Chinese cooking but I’ll bet someone (perhaps the Baby-faced Chinese-Elvis-meets-Danzig son of Floridian restaurateurs Jason Lam) may have seen this technique once or twice and can back me up on this: Pan-fried noodles are fried/heated in the pan, perhaps a wok! And then the contents are, shall we say, combined.
The Beef with Tomato tasted great. Unfortunately it was buried under the impenetrable mass of noodles suitable for Great Wall repairs, at best. The essence of the dish being so good made it doubly disappointing. I don’t have a large bowl or a wok to re-mix it in. I don’t have a NucroWave® with which to to heat it. In short, I don’t have a sink with running water to clean the utensils I don’t have to mix and then nuke the noodles to a level of resuscitation that resembles pan-fried noodles.
Again, I’m not an authority on Chinese cooking.
By then I was very sad. Then it got worse. The Pork Chop Suey was equally disappointing. It wasn’t even worth taking a picture of. The vegetables I so desired tasted like … flavorless celery-crunchy stuff. Bland. Nothing.
This isn’t right. There are many, many people taking food out of the place. And they’re happy, as I once was. A bad day? Bad ordering?
Bummed out. Next time I’ll get …?
And so we roll.
The Chop Stick, 1304 N. El Dorado, Stockton, California
Oh. One more thing ….
Greetings from Slickpoo, Idaho
N 46° 19’ 01” W 116° 42’ 40” Elev. 1749 feet
I’ve wandered around a bit since the very first Tio Wally Eats America post appeared on the Me So Hungry food blog, on the 8th of August 2011. In nearly 150 posts from the Southeast to the Northwest and the Northeast to the Southwest, with a stop or two in between, I’ve been very blessed to’ve eaten some great food and even more blessed to have the privilege of sharing my experiences with you.
But all things must pass. Thus, this is the last Tio Wally Eats America post … unless I run across something really interesting, of course. While this news may mildly disappoint some, like my frequent commenter-pal Thistle, it will surely elate others, like the blessedly long gone world-class ass-troll Stinky Goldberg.
The reason for this sadly bidden farewell is, quite simply, that I am no longer sailing the cement seas of America. This is not because I don’t want to; it’s that I can’t physically do it any longer. Long-haul yachting catches up with the best of us eventually. And no matter how smooth the ride may seem, the constant vibration eventually wreaks havoc on one’s musculoskeletal architecture. Moreover, the repetitive stress of simply holding a steering wheel for 60-70 hours a week takes its toll as well. In short, it’s too painful for me to continue.
That said, I want to thank everyone who ever read my posts. More so, I want to thank Jason for his generosity in letting me contribute to his Me So Hungry food blog over the last few years.
Here’s hoping that all your dining experiences will be fun and that you live long, happy, healthy and delightfully demented lives. Keep it interesting.
Until then … muito felicidades e bom saude. Grande abraços.
And so we roll … to a complete stop. (You may now unfasten your seat belt. Please exit to the left.)
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.