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Posts Tagged ‘Yin Yue’

Yin Yue and the Lunch Bunch

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 24, 2018

Looking at the title, I expect some of you think I may be writing a review of a forgotten 1970’s movie or sitcom. Alas, while I am sure it would have been a great show, this is the story of a small under the radar American Chinese Restaurant with a large and loyal customer base. One of my missions this year has been to find a low-budget lunch spot. In this I have succeeded. That is good, most of my other missions have been dismal failures. I was first told about this place when I was given a name of Yin Yuey’s with a 17th Ave location. That did not pan out but it gave me enough information to sleuth that what the person meant to advocate was Yin Yue on East Hudson Street. I was surprised in my many adventures I had never noticed this Linden institution. The restaurant has been at the same location for at least forty years and the extended family that runs it may have a local restaurant tradition going back decades before that. Information on Yin Yue is a bit spotty from the owners, while their English is poor, my Mandarin is even worse as in non-existent. Long time customers are unsure of many of the facts themselves and after years of trying to determine the origins of the restaurant they have become content to just enjoy the food. We know the original owner created all of the paintings in the space and the current owners are either nieces, nephews by marriage, grandchildren or some distant connection to the founder. Nearly everything else is legend and lore, except for a guy named Gary. Gary has been dead for decades and no one I have spoken to recalls meeting him, however he warranted at least three menu specials in his honor that remain to this day (Gary Special, Gary Special Shrimp and Gary Special Beef). Let me digress to the food then I’ll tell you about the lunch bunch.

The typical Columbus Foodarazzi would quickly and decisively turn their noses up at Yin Yue. This is unequivocally Americanized Chinese food made by folks that have not yet been Americanized. Anyone that enjoyed Chinese food in 1970’s Columbus would find all of their Chinese comfort food classics here including Wor Sue Gai, Chow Mein and Chop Suey. The restaurant is small, with seating for under forty yet the menu features well over one hundred items including a few Pat Thai dishes.

Looking at Yelp and other reviews for guidance prior to my first exploratory mission, I tried frequently cited “sure things” such as Wonton soup, an egg roll and Wor Sue Gai. All items met my expectations and the bill was about $12.

On this first exploratory mission I was pleased with the short commute time from my house to the restaurant and then my son’s school, I had to hit all three destinations in under one hour or the world would literally end, I was able to run this route with minutes to spare. Other things that did not suck: a good portion size to value ratio, big squirt bottles of several sauces, a fast order to plate of food in front of me time and efficient staffing. I get one lunch out per week and I have a limited budget so it is important to not have a horrible lunch experience. During my first trip I was surprised to see so many cars in the lot and so many people all crowded together at one table. I overheard bits of their conversation and became intrigued by what seemed to be a very diverse and disparate band of brothers that were able to discuss a broad range of topics without coming to blows. I felt this group warranted some more anthropological research, so I decided at least one more trip to Yin Yue was in order to study this tribe.

On my next lunch at Yin Yue I ordered Egg Drop Soup, Crab Rangoon and Chicken Curry Chow Foon. I ordered the last dish mainly because I had never heard of such a thing and it sounded vaguely healthy. Chicken Curry Chow Foon consists of thick, dense and slightly chewy rice noodles, sliced chicken, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bok choy, celery and bean sprouts and of course a healthy dosage of curry powder. This was a good entrée and caught the eye of some diners next to me who decided that might break with tradition and try this dish next time. The soup and Crab Rangoon met my expectations as well.

I was now two for two for meals but this time an early arrival and some bad news for a member of the lunch bunch cut attendance down to two guests and I did not want to disturb the two members in residence since one was helping the other with a family crisis. I decided my questions about their confederation could wait for a better day. I was content with a bill totaling all of $12.36 for a big lunch.

On my third mission, I ordered Wonton Mein (what the heck is that I thought) and the Happy Family: chicken, shrimp and beef cooked with broccoli, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts and baby corn in a brown sauce. I asked my server what the wonton mein was but the explanation provided was a bit vague. I understood the noodles part. When I ordered it she was shocked that I wanted the Happy Family too. The Wonton Mein is only $5 so I did not understand that it apparently is a full meal for most normal people. When it arrived this was more clear to me the instant it made contact with the table. When I clean plated all of my items my server gave a slight bow of respect.

I soon found out that Wonton Mein is a giant bowl of Wonton Soup with a brick sized block of Ramen rammed into it. Bazinga! The Happy Family did not disappoint either.

By the time I finally finished my meal(s) a large number of the lunch bunch arrived and thus I felt ready to pester them with questions. They were glad to divulge their group history and mores. The founder of the group starting coming to Yin Yun for lunch thirty-eight years ago. The most senior member present during my interrogation has been dining there for thirty-seven years. Most people in the group have been coming for at least a decade and there are a handful that have been assimilated over the last year. Many come in for lunch up to six days per week. Some just come a handful of times during the week. The size of the group varies from two to twenty-five depending on the day. The largest number come on Saturdays at 1 pm. Many are older but some are young. A few are retired but many work nearby. Topics of conversation range from but are not limited to: how the UPS delivery system works, how to better set your contacts in a smart phone, the mechanics of garage door spring repair without lethal injury and how to make the world a better place. I was invited to come anytime and it was made clear that all are welcome. In our present state of community affairs nationally and living in a highly polarized state of society it was pleasant to see that old school ad hoc communities can exist and sustain over time.

I made a few other observations. The art work is diverse and shows a shift in subject matter over time with the older art reflecting traditional Chinese themes and the newer art reflecting the character of the neighborhood.

There is a very modern clock, with the Yin Yue name on it which only tells time with electronic laser dots, it is both out of place and appropriate for the decor here. I like that Yin Yun is somewhat quiet. Although there is their is a constant but muffled chatter in the kitchen and sometimes guests there are no other sounds to disrupt my digestion. No Fox News. No music. There are two small TV’s mounted on the wall but there just show the feeds from the 6-8 security cameras inside and outside the restaurant. On a final note, there is a very clearly marked pick up spot in the front of the building.

If you are looking for value priced, fast and better than average American Chinese food and you would not mind some company and conversation, Yin Yue is a fine choice. One final note, while the Lunch Bunch does not have an official name, it is their understanding the kitchen staff refers to them as the Friends of the Long Table.

Yin Yue
1236 East Hudson St, Linden (just west of Cleveland Ave.)
Yin Yue website

Yin Yue's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Posted in culinary misadventure, Gastronomic Stimulus, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »