Mission Chinese Food
Why Come Here? Fun, underground atmosphere, unique Chinese on the cheap, free beer while you wait
If you’re familiar with Mission Chinese Food, you’ve probably heard that it’s twists on American Chinese Food and low prices have led to some serious waits for a table. We came a little before 8 on a Saturday and they refused to put our name on the list and told us to “come back after 11.” We declined, but returned last Monday (Rosh Hashanah) at 7, expecting a more reasonable wait. “2 hours” we were told. This appears to be the unavoidable minimum, as even when we returned around 8:30 the waits remained that long. So expect to grab a drink at your favorite LES watering hole and still have time to sip a few beers from the free keg Mission kindly provides those waiting in the narrow hallway to be seated.
At one point during our wait, one patron was told of the wait remarked “is this the world’s slowest chef or the world’s best restaurant?” The answer turned out to be neither. The food (which did come out pretty quickly) was very good and certainly unique, although nothing the will blow your mind. So what are these people waiting hours for? For one, it’s incredibly cheap for the quality with most entrees (and these are full sized entrees) under $13. Second is the atmosphere. Mission Chinese is just a fun place to eat. The tiny basement space feels like you’ve snuck in to an awesome underground dinner party with red lights, faux-Chinese decorations and a solid playlist of 90s rap. It’s probably the most fun you’ll have eating a good meal under $20 in New York, just keep in mind that is what you’re waiting for.
Below is a rundown of what we ate. For more recommendation and to see my red-tinted photos or share your own, head over to DishEnvy.
Red Braised Pig Tails These are nothing like what you would expect. The tails are actually thick and meaty, sort of like a spare rib with more meat. The sauce is on the sweet and tangy side, which is a nice compliment to the many spicy dishes here.