East meets West
Broadway Market & Deli is the place to go for real-deal Chinese food
Chico, CA 95928
If I have learned anything from hanging out in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood with my brother, Greg, and his Vietnamese wife, it’s that you can tell how good a restaurant is by the number of Asian patrons inside. Going by this useful tidbit of wisdom, the deceptively named Broadway Market & Deli—a Chinese restaurant on Broadway in downtown Chico—fares well. Practically every single time I have eaten lunch there, I have been the only Caucasian among a crowd of Asians, most of them Chinese.
Broadway Market & Deli (a name left over from the previous market/Middle Eastern deli) is owned by Bay Area transplants Jason and Jody Wu, who are not from mainland China but rather from the island nation of Taiwan. Accordingly, the restaurant serves a variety of Taiwanese food—such as Taiwanese Pork Chop Over Rice ($6.95) and Wine Glutinous Rice Ball Soup ($5.50)—as well as a number of other Chinese dishes, such as Kung Pao Chicken ($6.75) and Szechuan eggplant ($6.25). The menu, in fact, is filled with vegetarian options, such as Vegetarian Tangerine Beef ($7.95) and Vegetarian Fish Fillet ($6.95). Next to both, as well as other veggie dishes (made from tofu) with meat-sounding names, the menu helpfully advises: “not a meat.”
My lunchtime visits to Broadway Market & Deli have always been pleasant—from the outgoing cheerfulness of Wu and his sister Yi Hu, to the many delicious, sweet “bubble teas” (aka “boba tea”) I have consumed, to the tasty meals I have eaten there. The availability of bubble tea—yummy black, green, almond-milk or Thai teas often flavored with a fruit syrup and loaded up with a hefty helping of giant black tapioca balls that one happily sucks through a fat straw ($2.75)—is one of the things that drew me to the restaurant in the first place.
The restaurant offers a fairly extensive list of appetizers, perfect for pre-lunch sharing or for a solo lunch. The shrimp gow (steamed shrimp dumplings, six for $3), served in a little bamboo steamer, makes a delightful lunch, as does the surprisingly large, crisp, savory green-onion pancake ($3.25). Among the other possibilities are egg rolls (five for $4.80), steamed pork buns (two for $3) and sesame balls (six for $3).
Hungrier folks might want to go for the daily lunch special—two entrée items from the steam table (recently I chose a delicious, garlicky bok choy and “general” chicken, which had a flavorful, spicy sauce), plus fried rice and chow mein, plus either hot-and-sour or sweet-corn soup, all for $5.10. It’s an amazing deal, and more than I could finish.
I gave in to curiosity recently and ordered from the eatery’s wall menu that consists only of photographs of food with names written in Chinese characters.
“What is that?” I asked Wu, pointing to one picture.
“Taiwanese Spicy Beef Noodle Soup,” he answered. It was the same thing a couple sitting near me were eating. Another customer piped up: “It’s good!”
So I ordered the soup ($6.95 for a gigantic bowl).
Those not accustomed to eating the real-deal Chinese food one finds in the Chinatowns of big cities like Oakland and San Francisco may be taken aback by pieces of organ meat floating alongside chunks of beef and bok choy in their soup, which give the spicy broth a somewhat gamey taste.
Broadway Market & Deli is a fascinating place where familiar American Chinese restaurant fare—fried rice, chow mein and egg rolls—coexists alongside the somewhat exotic (such as the organ meats in my rustic soup) and less-familiar big-city items like Taiwan-style Ice Crush ($3.70), a dessert featuring a pile of shaved ice topped with sauces made from sweet potato, taro or red bean, for instance, or with “popping boba,” which taste like tapioca filled with orange juice and explode pleasantly in the mouth when chewed.