Last night, Chris pulled together a light dinner for two of chicken salad, multigrain toast, and bruschetta topping. Though I was initally skeptical of eating a mayonnaise-based dish that came from a dumpster, I am still indigestion-free and kickin’ it new school. Admittedly, I have been pondering the pros and cons of dumpster diving ever since I got to Minneapolis.
Fortunately for me, it was Chris who took the first step. He and his friends drove out to a particularly welcoming dumpster (location withheld to preserve the sanctity of the hoard) in the middle of the night and grabbed around $50-$80 worth of groceries, including tangerines, lamb, tons of bread, tomatoes, and convenience food.
One of our acquaintances — Chris’s dumpster field guide — boasts that he hasn’t had to buy groceries for a year now. The prospect is pretty tempting, especially now that Snowmageddon 2009 has already hit the Upper Midwest and the outside temperature isn’t even close to the danger zone for food (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, last I checked). I’m also living paycheck to paycheck, so the added savings are a pretty big draw. As I’m writing this post, however, I’m chomping on a slice of dumpstered Asiago bread, so I think I’m dancing around a foregone conclusion: snobbery is overrated.
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)