Food / Restaurants

Lunch for One, Please!

Chinese-500pix

“Are you here for pick-up?” asked the nice young lady as I approached the hostess stand.

“Nope. Lunch for one please,” I beamed as her eyebrows shot up involuntarily.

She slipped out from behind the counter, skirted the half dozen or so single people hovering waiting for their take-out orders as well as several Door-Dash delivery people, and led me into the dining area. I had been craving  Chinese food for weeks. I had been craving good Chinese food for months — maybe years. Having grown up in New York I simply couldn’t find the right Chinese restaurant, just as I am still searching for the good New York-style pizza and real bagels.

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Last August I went to New York to attend a Writers Conference and the first thing I did after checking into the Midtown Hilton was grab a knish from a corner cart. The next day I took the subway to Brooklyn to see Grandma’s old house and grab a bagel. I held my breath as I entered the bakery hoping they still had the bagels I savored as a child. As soon as the smell of freshly baked bagels hit my nostrils I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes! I hadn’t made it up. The guys behind the counter were laughing as I swooned and giggled like a maniac as I bit into the lightly toasted bagel with a schmear. If the bagels were still as I remembered — then the Chinese food must be too. 

I didn’t make it to Chinatown on that trip. Surely there must be good Chinese near my home in California, what with San Francisco being nearby. I tried and tried. I went to dozens of places friends recommended. There was not a decent Chinese restaurant around. There had been one a few years ago which was my go-to until they got busted for gun-running and money laundering. New owners took over the spot, but it went downhill and I stopped going there. I lost hope. 

While visiting a friend in Watsonville, a predominantly Mexican community, I saw a refrigerator magnet advertising the Golden China, whose menu touted lunch specials that sounded too good to be true considering the prices. I have always enjoyed the best tacos and enchiladas in Watsonville no matter if I went to a taco truck or fancy restaurant, but Chinese? Nope, never Chinese. 

“What do you think of Golden China?” I asked my friend with the refrigerator magnet.

“Huh? What’s the Golden China?”

“The restaurant. The Chinese restaurant on your fridge…the magnet,” as I ticked my head in the direction of the magnet-covered door.

“Oh, that. No idea. It came in the mail and I needed the magnet to hold up Maria’s school picture. Never been there.”

I took note of it after reading the Yelp reviews and the idea surfaced about a week later when a friend canceled our lunch date at the last minute. I was dressed, hungry, and only fifteen minutes from Golden China. For a mere $10.95 I could have soup, spring rolls, fried wontons, Szechuan combo of shrimp, chicken, and beef, plus fried rice and tea. Watsonville, here I come!

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As the hostess led me to the dining room she greeted several seated guests in Spanish. The place was almost full and it wasn’t even noon yet — a good sign. When she asked if I wanted a table or booth, I opted for the cushy-looking red booth with the perfect view of the kitchen. I was poised to inspect the dishes as they came out.

A smiling man carrying two glasses of ice water approached me. “Two?” he asked with an East Indian accent.

“No, just me — party of one,” I grinned. 

He snatched up one of the glasses of water and backed away. I took a few moments to peruse the menu and then looked around the bustling restaurant wondering why I appeared to be such an oddity. There were tables full of Spanish speakers and a few tables of people speaking Chinese. I was the only single white woman in the place — blonde, no less. I placed my order and spread out some papers to work on while I waited. I barely got situated when a bowl of steaming soup appeared.

It looked and smelled wonderful. The hot and sour was loaded with perfectly cut vegetables and tofu. I devoured it and would have been satisfied to call it a meal when the smiling Indian man whisked away the empty bowl and placed a piping-hot plate laden with delicious-looking food before me. I stopped him before he could disappear. “May I have chopsticks and hot mustard, please?”

He looked surprised but nodded and scurried off to get the items. Eureka! I have found it. I finally found the good Chinese. After just a few bites with nose running and eyes watering I was so thrilled, I almost ordered a second lunch to take home for dinner but decided to box up my leftovers instead with a note-to-self to come back real soon.

I wonder if Watsonville has the good pizza or the real bagels…I might have to brush up on my Spanish and go on the hunt to find out.

 

 

 

24 thoughts on “Lunch for One, Please!

  1. You made me smile, then laugh, then hungry for some good Chinese which you know for a fact I cannot get in Atenas! It is wonderful to have you back sharing your wonderful adventures. Keep writing, BG2!

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  2. A referral from a refrigerator magnet! Eureka indeed! We realtors need to up our supply of magnets. Problem is, those new fancy fridges don’t let magnets stick to ’em.
    Living just 15 minutes from Golden Buddha myself, I think I will have to check it out, minus the hot mustard!

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      • I have tried many – it changes, of course. Dynasty in Live Oak used to be good. Canton was good in the old location. Not now – at least for me. A lot of folks love it. Not me. Ming’s? Eh. Maybe Kwok’s in Aptos for shrimp in lobster sauce. I’ll keep searching. Thanks for writing!

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  3. Oh my gosh Carole!!!! I lived 13 years around the corner from Golden China! We ate there every week. Parker was raised on Golden China food…haha. Chinese food in anta Cruz sucks ! Golden China is the best. Any time you want to go back call me and I’ll pick you up and take you!!!

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  4. I know the feeling! I was searching for a good Chinese Restaurant the entire time Ilived in Santa Cruz … to no avail. Too bad I hadn’t discovered Golden China. One of my favorite places in the bay area was Ming’s in Palo Alto which I frequented often while working there. Before leaving California I called Ming’s and discovered they left the business five years ago. Boo hoo. Now I’m on the search here in Hayden and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho! Wish me luck!

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    • Good to hear from you, Connie! And, of course, the problem is…you find a good one and then they change hands and it starts all over again. The never-ending search is all part of the fun! Kinda like the never-ending battle of the bulge. But it sure is fun getting there.

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  5. Hi! How are you?

    On Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 9:54 AM Carole Jean’s Capers wrote:

    > CaroleJean’sCapers@wordpress.com posted: ” “Are you here for pick-up?” > asked the nice young lady as I approached the hostess stand. “Nope. Lunch > for one please,” I beamed as her eyebrows shot up involuntarily. She > slipped out from behind the counter, skirted the half dozen or so single > people ” >

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  6. Hola from Puriscal,
    I am so glad to hear from you! Wondered what happened, missed your blog. Sometimes reread your old ones. Here we have 2 Chinese restaurant but not even close to what you are talking about. 😢 It would be nice to hear from you more often, how are you doing. Are you writing a new book?
    Love and cheers!
    Susanna

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    • Thanks so much, Nancy! Let’s hope they are still good when you go. It seems to change quickly. Went to a different one in Watsonville at the recommendation of a friend. Terrible! Sheesh! But it’s still fun trying. Thanks for writing. It helps to keep me writing!

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  7. The Golden China was my favorite Chinese restaurant while still living in Soquel. It’s good to know it’s still as good as.

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    • Hi Victoria! I only WISH the Golden China was in Soquel. The Golden Buddha used to be there, but that’s where the gun-running took place and shut it down. There is still a restaurant there, but, alas – not good. I’m still on the hunt for something closer in than Watsonville. Sawasdee in Soquel is FAB! Thai restaurant. Love it. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  8. Thats hysterical! So glad you found a good Chinese restaurant close to Capitola.. Forget bagels & pizza.. Try Noahs bagels and Extreme Pizza.. Whats a . gorgeous intelligent fun loving blonde girl like you doing alone? Try the docks and sail away to the Caribbean with the Flamingos.. Thats where you had more fun than a bottle of bacardi rum during sunset……Youre a symphony of beauty & love CJ! 🌹🐼🌹

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