1974 We lived in Detroit. Bill’s brother Bob and his wife lived in Bloomington, IL. We met one weekend in Chicago. Bob, a college math professor, had a colleague’s recommendation for a restaurant in Chinatown, up a long flight of stairs above a gift shop. Moon Palace. We’d had our first Mandarin food in Vancouver a couple of years before, and even owned a copy of Joyce Chen’s first book, but when we went out for Chinese in Detroit, sophistication was marked by almond chicken instead of egg foo yung and by shrimp chow mein instead of pork chop suey.
Bill or Bob may remember what we ate (Betsy would for sure, but she wasn’t born yet), but all I remember is chopsticks, Chinese families, and jasmine tea. And that I loved it.
1978. We move to Oak Park with Betsy, aged two, the same day that Bob and his wife move to Chicago with their own two year old daughter. Moon Palace becomes the family restaurant. Orange chicken, Mongolian beef, scallion pancakes, chicken mu shu, hot and sour soup–always the hot and sour soup. Birthdays, visiting family, Friday “cooks night out.”
Early 80's. My parents, up in the U.P. are boarding a young Chinese student. She takes the bus down for her first visit to Chicago. We’re walking through Chinatown when she gets all excited. She explains that the Chinese characters on the restaurant’s sign say “Shanghai Restaurant”. It’s our familiar Moon Palace, of course. She orders noodle soup with pork and Chinese pickle. I can’t believe how much food she’s getting for $3.75. She orders eels, dried shrimp, jellyfish. She speaks Shanghaiese with the staff, including many who come out from the kitchen. She explains, through tears, that it’s the first time she’s heard Shanghaiese since she came to the U.S.
1987. Bill’s 40th birthday party. Mu shu, combination pan fried noodles, hot and sour soup, potstickers, orange chicken, etc etc.
1996? Sometime after the move to their current space on Cermak. Betsy is home from college. Her new boyfriend is in town with his parents for an Indian doctors’ convention. We meet at Moon Palace. Rish’s parents explain that during their first winter in America, they were so happy when they saw a sign in a Chinese restaurant that said “chicken fried rice” that they convinced themselves the chicken was really something other than meat. They hadn’t seen rice served on this side of the ocean until then.
July 1999. Betsy and Rish’s rehearsal dinner. We take over the entire restaurant. 120 people (yes, that’s more than they can seat comfortably–but they did it). Rish’s brother is doing a residency at U of C so we’ve also been educated in the joys of salt and pepper fish and pea pod sprouts with garlic. We’re grateful. So are the guests.
March 2005. Chowhound/LTH Shanghai dinner. Lots of Shanghai specialities that were new to me. Loved the squab–or was it baby chickens?
The truth is that this year I did my birthday dinner
at LSC, and these days I’m more likely to go there than to Moon Palace. Someone else can nominate LSC and I’ll chime in with my appreciation. But for my one “Great Neighborhood Restaurant” nomination, Moon Palace is our Chicago restaurant home.
Mike G’s EVER MORE UNOFFICIAL (NOT TO MENTION NON-CONTROVERSIAL AND MUCH BELOVED) CHICAGO VISITOR TIP SHEET AND SORT-OF FAQ.
GWiv from January 2003
Amata recalls eating there with the famed late Jim McCawley
Vital Information talks about negotiating the Shanghai dinner
Moon Palace Recommendations (with G Wiv’s seductive photos
gleam gives a so-so review of their Peking duck
More recommendations, this time specifically for the unadventurous.
216 W Cermak Rd,
Chicago, 60616 -
* What I can’t find, but I hope someone else can, are the write-ups of the Shanghai dinner itself.
Aha, Ed took on the challenge. here is the lengthy chowhound thread reporting on the dinner