Home > Restaurants > Golden City Chinese Restaurant– 10/22/11

Golden City Chinese Restaurant– 10/22/11

No Website

Location: 5518 20th Ave NW


Daily: 10:30-2

Golden City Chinese Restaurant sits between Market Street and 56th on 20th Avenue. The front spans three doorways underneath a fading red awning. Door number one leads to Golden City, the restaurant. Door number two, goes to Golden City, the dive bar that was picked out of all the Chinese restaurant dive bars in the city to be mentioned in the Seattle’s Best Dive Bars book. The third door, where once there was a Scream barbershop, opens to a gaming off-shoot of the bar, a long room with ping pong tables and video games.

To be honest, we’d heard tales of Golden City that made us leery of eating there for the project. Bad service. Stabbings. The type of place taken right out of a John Woo movie. With this in mind, we chickened out, by-passing the bar for dinner in the slightly less sketchy restaurant that looks like every Chinese restaurant ever depicted in movies or on TV. Bright white walls with dark wood accents. Red vinyl booths and Formica tables. Wall decorations straight out of whatever restaurant store caters exclusively to Chinese restaurants across the US.

The menu has all the usual cheap Chinese restaurant suspects. Chow Mein. Pot stickers. Egg rolls. General Tso’s chicken. Sweet and sour pork. All available in various permutations of combos. You could go to virtually any cheap Chinese restaurant west of Mississippi (barring San Francisco) and find exactly the same menu.

The Service:

Our server was super friendly, answering questions and making suggestions. Our order came out at a pretty good pace.

The Drink:

We both just drank from the large pot of hot Green Tea. It didn’t taste as grassy as some green tea I’ve had. Kind of a generic green tea.

The Food:

J ordered Pot Stickers as an appetizer. The plate arrived with six large pork pot stickers. After taking one bite, J said they reminded him of the traditional pot stickers he’d gotten on the East coast. The exterior dumpling had a nice contrast between the doughier top and a nicely seared, crispy bottom. The pork filling wasn’t too greasy and actually tasted like pork.

For my meal, I ordered the Garlic Chicken Individual Combo which included egg drop soup, an egg roll, BBQ pork, pork fried rice, and chicken and vegetables in a garlic sauce. The Egg Drop Soup tasted like it had come from a can with a heavy, salty broth, strings of egg white, and translucent, flavorless, orange-colored chunks of what I assume were carrots. J and I split the small Egg Roll. It was greasy and over fried to the color of cardboard. The filling consisted of limp, hot cabbage or lettuce … couldn’t tell which … and some unidentifiable meat. It came with a large bowl of red, sweet sauce that was oddly bland. With the egg roll came four pieces of BBQ Pork that was actually okay. The red rimmed and moist slices looked and tasted like pork.

My main dish was Garlic Chicken, chunks of chicken breast, carrot, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, and dried chips of garlic in a brown sauce. Initially, the dish tasted okay but after a few bites, the overly sweet tomato base turned me off. The thick, syrupy sauce overwhelmed everything it touched to the point that I could barely distinguish the other elements, except for the garlic chips, which tasted spoiled and funky. The chunks of chicken were moist and the vegetables weren’t overcooked which is pretty much the only good thing I can say about this entrée.

My garlic chicken came with a huge scoop of Pork Fried Rice. Terrible. Awful. I took one bite and left the rest because it was musty, dry, and two minutes away from being spoiled. J tasted it and declared, “Tastes like it was cooked in an old shoe. How can you screw up fried rice? This is an abomination.”

J chose the Chef’s Special Lo Mein, chicken, pork, and shrimp over noodles. He has been searching for good Lo Mein ever since moving to Seattle from Pittsburgh … and continues his search. This dish tasted as if they had cooked our two entrees together, added pork, shrimp, and broccoli to half and called it the Chef’s Special Lo Mein. The worst part was, instead of using actual lo mein noodles, they merely poured the meat, vegetables, and sauce over spaghetti noodles. He hated it.

The Price:

Pot Stickers: 6.50

Garlic Chicken Individual Combo: 10.50

Chef’s Special Lo Mein: 8.25

The Verdict:

J made an interesting observation after we left Golden City, “It’s almost worse when a restaurant does one or two things well and the rest is horrible than when a place is overall bad. It means they just don’t care enough to try to do everything well.” Golden City didn’t even try. The horrible pork fried rice. The “garlic” sauce that was interchangeable. The over fried egg roll. The spaghetti lo mein. This place made Louie’s seem amazing. Needless to say, we won’t ever go back.

Frankly, Ballard just doesn’t have a good Chinese restaurant. Louie’s is clean and has okay food. Ballard Mandarin had good food but was not particularly clean and Golden City was terrible. Since clean trumps good food, whenever we’re too lazy to take the bus down to the International District, we’ll probably end up at Louie’s when the craving for Chinese food hits.

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