Back in another life I actually lived in the apartments that back up to China Moon Chinese Restaurant in Stoneham MA. Many a night we’d come home from a rock show, inhale deeply the smell of Chinese food, and immediately place an order to pick up.
Times have changed for your hostess (for the better, I assure you) but I am tickled to report that time has not changed China Moon much. Owned by the same people who opened it in 1953 it pretty much looks the same as it did back then, with its authentic retro yellow Formica, red Naugahyde, faux wood paneling and tasty Americanized Chinese food.
The outside of the low slung building doesn’t really give a clue to the retro decor delights waiting inside, having been painted a conservative white, with just the bright red sign on the roof brightening the dark night. But as soon as you open the door, all of that changes.
As you enter you know you’re in for a treat visually when you see the counter with its vintage diner style swivel stools. Off to your right is a room that is used for Kiwanis meetings and the like.
Peeking ( ha!) past the host you can catch a glimpse of a wonderfully maintained original soda fountain unit, used when the place first opened up.
The dining room can accommodate large gatherings at the buffet style tables, but I prefer the rounded banquettes if I can get one. There are oriental style lanterns in the screen wall that separates the dining room, and along the walls. The lighting is low and I always think it would be great to hear some Combustible Edison on the soundtrack as you slide into your booth.
Once you are seated you feel like you’ve stepped back in time (my fave feeling) as the older gentleman in his classic waiter uniform pours your water. He then serves the Italian/French bread with butter that seems to always come with Chinese in Mass, and that wonderful duck sauce that bears little resemblance to the goop you get in the packets with takeout. Then comes the stainless steel teapot, and after pouring some tea in the restaurantware teacups, you are ready to turn your thoughts to food.
There has been a nod to the current day in that they do set up a Chinese buffet for dinner and lunch, and the food is hot and well stocked.You can also order off of the menu, having your entrees served in those great old fashioned metal serving dishes with lids.
Some people miss the point about the food in places like China Moon and my other local fave Kowloon. The food isn’t supposed to be Authentic Chinese Chinese from China, it’s Authentic Chinese American food from the 1950′s. The food that seems lame to people now was actually considered exotic back then. It still is tasty even though it bears little resemblance to the food found in China. To me it’s like comparing a can of Pringles to a bag of Cape Cod potato chips. Both are tasty, just different interpretations.
China Moon, my life has changed since we were neighbors, but I hope you never do!
China Moon Chinese Restaurant
170 Main St
Stoneham, MA 02180
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