There are two Chinese restaurants in Grinnell, IA: Chuong Garden and China Sea. I’m surprised that there are enough Chinese people in this town (pop. 9,369) to sustain two Chinese restaurants, but it illustrates an interesting dichotomy that I tended to overlook in New York: every somewhat classy restaurant needs a sketchtastic counterpart. China Sea, with its all-you-can-fit-into-a-plastic-container buffet and mystery meatstuffs, is the goatee-adorned evil twin of Chuong Garden. I like the Garden a lot because they have those holographic displays of pandas and waterfalls, and one of those percolating fountains that emits dry ice-smoke near the register. If I didn’t like their food so much, I’d totally steal the fountain and install it in my room. It’d really improve the ambience, I think.
Lunch at Chuong Garden is a steal: for about 5 or 6 dollars, you can get an entree, fried rice, soup and either a deep-fried crab rangoon or an eggroll. For vegans and omnivores alike, the crispy fried tofu (pictured above) is absolutely amazing. It doesn’t come as a lunch special, but get that shit anyway and share it with the whole table. Bite-sized blocks of tofu are covered in rice flour, spices and green onions and lightly fried, served with a hoisin/chili sauce mixture on the side.
There are lots of other options if you’re looking for variety; above is my favorite, sweet and sour shrimp. What can I say? I’m mad about seafood, just mad! Also handy is the maple syrup-container full of sweet and sour sauce at every table, just in case you can’t get enough of the stuff. The soup isn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it’s decent enough on a cold day. One of their greatest dishes is the sesame shrimp, which I’m pretty sure is still off-menu. It only comes in dinner-sized portions, but it’s definitely something to look out for.
Chuong Garden (915 Broad Street Grinnell, IA 50112)