Bite of the Week: Chicken Fried Rice at Cheng’s Garden

Photo by Tj Turner

Bite of the Week is a weekly feature showcasing an exceptional meal or dish, curated by The Growler.

If all you’re looking for is good, old-fashioned, slightly greasy, workaday delicious fried rice, get ready to be disappointed. A lot. We’ve ordered it (with chicken) dozens of times over the past decade or so, and the dish has increasingly become a desultory mess—miserable little shreds of chicken, rice that was never actually fried, seasoning that’s nonexistent or inedibly salty.

The stupid thing about old-school chicken fried rice is that very little is required to produce it—some old rice, a hot wok, some bits of onion and chicken (and maybe cubes of carrot and peas), and you’re off to the races. Still, most everybody screws it up, and how.

What you need to find is a place that does it the old-fashioned way, with no frills and no ceremony. I posted a thread on Twitter about the search (after eating a particularly bad order of chicken fried rice from a spot in Northeast Minneapolis) and Eater Twin Cities editor Joy Summers chimed in with a recommendation for Cheng’s Garden in Minneapolis, noting that it’s “my number one fried rice spot and you will love the family that runs it.”

Sure enough: there appeared to be three generations working behind the counter, and the fried rice was exactly what we were looking for: a minimalist dish consisting of leftover rice fried to order, studded with big pieces of onion and irregular, tender pieces of chicken, boxed up while piping hot. Nothing fancy. A little bit of greasy richness. And, overall: delicious. Would we have enjoyed some little cubic carrot bits, and a handful of green peas? Sure. But even in their absence, the simple, honest execution of this dish made us fans of the thoroughly unpretentious Cheng’s Garden.

Photo by Tj Turner

THE DISH: Chicken Fried Rice, $5.50

THE PLACE: Cheng’s Garden, 3023 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, MN

THE REASON: Old-fashioned chicken fried rice is a dying breed, but it lives on at Cheng’s.