Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chi Cafe

Location: 2160 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL 60616
Chi Cafe on Urbanspoon
A Quick Word:
When late night rolls around, an urge for Chinese food is met by limited options in Chicago.  Yes, you have the typical fast food, Panda express-style restaurants, but for more authentic dishes, you have to make a trek to Chinatown.  Luckily, Chi Cafe is open late and definitely the place to go after a long night of drinking, studying, or just wanting a second dinner.  Located in the newer strip mall side of Chinatown, Chi Cafe is frequented by locals and tourists.  They offer a more limited menu, when compared to other establishments, but they definitely do not lack the variety needed to please just about anyone.  The flavors are very traditional and their dishes very reasonably priced, making this place popular among college students.  The atmosphere is more modern with a couple of flat screen TVs and booth-style seating.  You can definitely tell the younger crowd is who they try to attract.  Each dish we tried had a minor flaw to it, but because of the great prices, huge portions, late night options, and of course the cleaner, modern atmosphere... I can safely give them a 4 mile rating.

What We Ate:

Mixed Vegetable Chow Mein

When it comes to noodle dishes, the crispy chow mein noodles is always a must.  Here, we ordered the mixed vegetable chow mein which consisted of broccoli, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, green peppers, and more.  The egg noodles were stir fried with the vegetables and soy sauce until the noodles had both a soft and crispy texture.  The dish was huge... it easily served our table of four with leftovers for the next day meal.  The dish itself wasn't too salty.  The vegetables were plentiful, but were cut extremely large.  I mean, who wants to eat half of a bell pepper in one bite?  And, with chopsticks, what are we supposed to do with such large pieces of vegetable.  I know this may be a little picky, but it did make the dish a little harder to eat.

Orange Chicken

One of my friends loves the Panda Express entree -- orange chicken, so we opted to try the more authentic or should I say less Americanized version of this dish.  The chicken is lightly fried before being tossed in an orange glaze.  It is served with a side of broccoli and a cup of white rice.  The orange glaze reminds me of a sweet and sour sauce with a hint of orange.  The generous coating may overwhelm the palate so I suggest rolling it around a few times on your plate to rid the chicken of excess sauce.  The white rice also cuts the orange flavor.  I actually enjoyed this dish.  The chicken had a nice crispy texture and after minimizing sauce intake, the orange flavor was quite pleasing.  The dish came with a couple dozen pieces of meat, so definitely enough to share!

Garlic Chicken Fried Rice

We stuck with the more safe option of fried rice... their garlic chicken version.  This group of friends shies away from seafood and other meat options, so I was completely fine getting this classic filler dish. The rice was cooked very lightly in soy sauce before a medley of chopped chicken, carrots, peas, garlic, and scallions were added.  In my opinion, the dish lacked some flavor (garlic was prominent), but my friends compensated with hot sauce.  I added some of the orange glaze from the chicken and enjoyed it very much.  One of my friends even added some of the chow mein to their rice and mixed it all together.  You can't really mess up fried rice, and here, they did just fine.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
- Great late night spot!  Definitely come here after 9pm for easy parking and amazing food.
- SHARE each dish... they are good sized portions

- Don't expect to sit and talk here... the atmosphere is quick paced food with people always waiting for next available table.

How far would I walk for this food?

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