Review: Lucy’s is the place for Chinese food in Fargo
FARGO – For over 100 years, Jews have gathered in Chinese restaurants on Christmas to, well, eat Chinese food. And then, maybe, they would go to the movies.
The tradition dates back to New York at the turn of the last century, when most ethnic groups pretty much stayed for themselves. Italians ate in Italian restaurants, Germans ate at what passed for beer gardens and Gasthäuser, and Jews, who were not welcome in either one or many others. places, shopped at delicatessens and ate at home.
The only people who didn’t harbor anti-Semitic sentiments, either deep down or directly on their sleeves, were other Jews and Chinese, whose Chinatown was just off the predominantly Jewish Lower East Side. As an added bonus, they hardly ever mixed their meat with dairy, among the worst violations of Jewish food laws. Most of the other meats that don’t quite meet Kashrut’s standards were barely noticeable in the exotic dishes served in Chinese restaurants.
And many modern Jews of the day viewed Chinese restaurants as a sure first step towards a more cosmopolitan America than one in which they and their new Chinese friends were simply not welcome.
So a trip to Lucy’s North China Cuisine during those mistletoe and holly days is much more seasonal than it first appears. This has been my favorite place for Chinese food in Fargo since its days on 32nd Street where the Mandarin Kitchen Express is today.
The South Fargo restaurant is much (much) bigger and maybe a little impersonal. And the staff have been affected by the shortage of service personnel, so the service can be a bit spotty.
But the food is as good as it always has been, and at any time of the year, and it’s one of the few Chinese places in town to sit and eat from a real plate that doesn’t is not a buffet. Historically, Chinese food in America has come from southern China, and the colder north produces a different type of dish, so it’s important to have an open mind.
Starting with steamed pork dumplings and chives ($ 7.50), which might be the most important dish in northern Chinese cuisine, and taking a plate of sweet and sour pork ( $ 13), admittedly far off the list of anything that could come close to a theme that resembles a Jewish Christmas tradition, is still a good introduction to Nordic-style Chinese cuisine.
Nordic-style sweet and sour pork is lighter in color but crispier. The pork is thinly sliced and breaded rather than breaded and fried pieces.
Beef in Garlic Sauce ($ 8.75) is a more recognizable dish, again, spiced up with substantial portions of fresh veggies. The very complex and light flavors of the south are lacking in Nordic-style cuisine, which favors heavier flavors and dishes. The exception can be fried rice, which is light on soy and heated in a wok rather than deep-fried as found in American-style fried rice, giving it a much lighter color and texture. An order of kimchi ($ 3) on the side is a must.
The menu is huge as are the portions and the dining area. And while Fargo’s Jewish population is unlike many other urban centers in America, and you might not see them flooding the city’s Chinese restaurants, it’s an interesting tradition that makes you feel like you. ask how cuisine and cultures blend together.
There is a bloc in America today that seems to believe that removing what is unfamiliar is the best way to keep the peace. The particular tradition of Jews dining in Chinese restaurants on Christmas suggests that perhaps adding the unknown rather than removing it might be a better solution.
These culinary coalitions, and Fargo is a backdrop for many more, are interesting metaphors for showing how attaining something new bears better fruit than walking away.
Lucy may be open over Christmas, but call ahead to be sure.
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at [email protected]
Lucy’s North Chinese cuisine
Or: 4323 45th St. S., Fargo
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Reservations accepted: no
Food: 3 stars
A service: 3 stars
Atmosphere: 2.5 stars