Chinese food can really be a mixed bag. There are some restaurants that have mastered numerous dishes of this cuisine, where others leave you shaking your head in disgust. I’ve been fortunate to have been to some establishments that have hit home runs for their food quality and service, but one that is to be avoided is Eastern Cafe. It is cheap, and college students who don’t seem to know better, have allowed this restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia to stay in business. They offer a wide variety of “specials” to George Mason University students, and you can either eat there, or choose from carryout or delivery options. Their open from the early morning to late night hours, and their large amount of items is impressive. However, I’m waiting to see a fortune cookie from them that says “That wasn’t what you thought it was.”
I have ordered delivery a couple of times from Eastern Cafe. To their credit, the Chicken Szeuchan was really good. You’d get a generous portion of sliced up chicken, that was mixed up with water sprouts and carrots, along with a hot sauce that could raise your temperature a bit. I liked this zesty treat, and the rice that was served with it. Unfortunately their eggrolls were a disappointment always. They are a soggy mess, that’s sloppily assembled, with no meat but plenty of cheap, dated vegetables that lack any flavor. I was able to overlook that, and just order the entree by itself after that, along with their Beef Lo Mein. That was a bit salty, but provided for a full meal, that wouldn’t leave me hungry later in the day.
The final straw that broke the camel’s back, was when I actually went inside this restaurant. Its nothing fancy, with a few paintings from China, and tables that appeared to have been bought at a yard sale. Yet what really turned my stomach inside out, after I had called my order and arrived, was how filthy it was. Thankfully I had consumed my lackluster Chicken with Broccoli, before coming to this realization that the restaurant was below my “fairly low standards.” I’ve eaten at plenty of “greasy spoons,” but I’ve never seen dust and grime all over entire surfaces of a restaurant. In addition, the chicken was bland, and the broccoli cut sloppily. It didn’t take long for my order to arrive, but I was glad to leave.
Since that experience, I haven’t eaten anything from the Eastern Cafe. There are times you judge a book by its cover, and sadly in the case of this restaurant, I have to make that judgement call. My visit to their establishment sealed the deal for me. It might remain popular with the college crowd, but I wonder if they’d select another spot if they have been there as well. You can get a meal for around $6-$8, but this is an example of “you get what you pay for.” They are located at 10256 Main Street Fairfax, VA 22030. If you are a daredevil, give them a call at 703-877-2077.