Din Ho lives up to its name with the Chinese fast food you crave
Din Ho Chinese Fast Food2065 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy.
Chico, CA 95928
From the outside, Din Ho Chinese Fast Food, a small restaurant sitting along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway at an entrance to the Food Maxx shopping center, looks fairly nondescript.
Inside, aside from a few Chinese-themed pictures on the walls, and some plants, there aren’t too many frills. Even one of the pictures—a large, blue-and-white, pastoral one near the cash register—is missing a piece of its frame, and the plastic plant (some are plastic, some are real) above the garbage can is minus a number of leaves.
Yellow, Formica, bench-style table seating, linoleum flooring and hanging halogen lighting speak practicality, not fanciness.
Nevertheless, this basic, no-frills restaurant in south Chico gets my return business on a regular basis. I’ll confess: I have a weakness for Din Ho’s sweet-and-sour chicken, or Sweet Sour Chicken, as it is called on the menu. Theirs is about as basic as this American-Chinese dish gets: small, battered pieces of chicken deep-fried and covered with a syrupy, sweet, red sauce. No bell pepper or pineapple or onion. Ditto for their Sweet Sour Pork. Sometimes I just crave its crispy-hot crunch, which it keeps in part due to the sinfully sweet sauce being added at the last second.
I order Din Ho’s Sweet Sour Chicken as part of the special for the day ($7.35), even though it can be ordered on its own (with steamed or fried rice, for $5.95). It is always, in my experience, one of the four items included in the daily special. On a recent visit, for instance, “Today’s special” consisted of Sweet Sour Chicken, Zucchini Chicken, Chicken Chow Mein and fried rice. My 8-year-old daughter and I usually split the special, with her taking the rice, the chow mein and maybe part of the non-sweet-and-sour meat dish (she doesn’t like sweet stuff).
Whether I share a special or eat it alone, I feel like a kid with a TV dinner diving into the brownie first, only in my case it’s that Sweet Sour Chicken.
There is, besides “Today’s special,” a lengthy list of other three- and four-item specials as well, ranging in price from $5.95 to $7.35.
Din Ho has a considerable number of other items on its menu, including Garlic Fried Chicken Wings (six for $4.50), Beef Chow Fun ($6.95), Hot and Sour Soup ($5.95) and Beef Broccoli (with rice, $5.95)—the broccoli is always cooked to a desirable bright-green, never overcooked.
The “Hot & Spicy” section of the menu includes Szechwan Shrimp ($7.35) and General Chicken ($6.35). Combination plates ($7.35, all served with Sweet Sour Pork and fried rice) include Mushroom Chicken and Mongolian Beef.
As the restaurant’s name suggests, Din Ho Chinese Fast Food doesn’t serve gourmet meals; it’s Chinese fast food. I know that I can go there to satisfy my periodic desire for a little deep-fried mouth candy. I also love their garlicky Zucchini Chicken. The General Tofu, however, that I had as a special there one day, was swimming in too much sauce (as has been the case with the sweet-and-sour chicken on occasion).
Finally, it must be said that, despite what may be seen by some as drawbacks—the plain décor, the occasional over-saucing, the simple food—the service given by owners Cha W. Wen and Linda Zhu (Wen cooks, Zhu serves the customers) is attentive, friendly and warm. Wen, who once in a while has to work the register when Zhu steps out for a bit, makes up for his less-than-fluent command of English with his beaming smile and agreeable attitude. And the owners’ cute, young daughters, Cynthia and Keelia, can often be seen sitting after school at one of the tables doing their homework. Linda will join them sometimes between customers.
All in all, a cozy, local, family business that makes me feel welcome every time I visit … and satisfies my jones for you-know-what.