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Shine On, China Moon Chinese Restaurant in Stoneham, MA Stoneham, MA

Posted on: August 20, 2009

  • Phone: (781) 438-0732

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.

China Moon Exterior Sign

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.

China Moon Counter Stools

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.

China Moon Soda Fountain
Just across from that is the bar which  no longer has the tiny television with foil on the antennae, but does have a nice little assortment of umbrellas and ceramic mugs for your tiki cocktails.

China Moon Parasols At The Ready

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.

China Moon Rounded Banquette

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.

China Moon Divider And Lantern

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!


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  • Bill

    Ah, memories of Stoneham & China Moon. I grew up in Ashland and Chi-Am was THE spot for great Chinese food. In fact, my childhood revolved around Chinese food and it is still my comfort food. Wherever I’ve lived it’s always been my goal to find the nearest good, retro-styled Chinese place. The food varies, especially here in the west, but I always like to find the most funky, retro place to eat. Here in Phoenix, we had Autumn Court, which was in an old German restaurant that they neglected to redesign. So it still had Hummel figurines, pictures of the Alps, etc and yet it still had great food. The staff was a bunch of college girls with attitude and the bar had The Smiths blaring from the speakers. Odd, quirky & good food. Unfortunately, the place burned down several years ago.

    • modbetty

      Bill, I so know what you mean about Chinese being a comfort food when you’re away from Mass. I didn’t realize how lucky we had it until I moved away to the land of no tiki cocktails and Chinese food! I’m afraid however that I may be turning the Retro Roadkids off of this delicacy since I want to eat it every time I come home to visit. Along with Brigham’s ice cream, Regina pizza, penuche- I think I better try and find some Retro Roadmap worthy places that aren’t food related 🙂

  • Br. Cleve

    I can’t believe I’ve never been in China Moon, even though I grew up in Medford in the 60’s (my grandparents lived in Stoneham) and I golfed at Hugo Harrington regularly. Now I realize what I missed! I guess because I always gravitated to the bigger ‘spectacular’ places like Kowloon and Diamond Head and Bali Hai and Boston joints like Bob Lee’s, The South Seas and Aku Aku. I’ll go check this out asap. Thanks for the Combustible Edison shout out, too.

    • Brother Cleve, it is an honor sir to have you swing by the Retro Roadmap! I’m a longtime Combustible Fan, and still listen to your platters regularly. I think you will enjoy the vibe at China Moon, I am picturing you in one of those rounded corner booths right now, drinking a mai tai, and hopefully appreciating what I see in the place.