Introducing a new generation to authentic Chinese-Polynesian food.
There is a place that we are lucky to have in the Lake area, not only because it serves up delicious Chinese, but because these types of restaurants are becoming a rarity nationwide. With the closing of Yen Ching in Jefferson City, China Town in Camdenton remains one of the truly American Chinese dining experiences in Mid-Missouri.
This is the Chinese food of my generation. Yes, there was a time when there was not a Chinese restaurant in every town, on every corner. The 1950s and 60s were considered the heyday of the American Chinese Restaurant, where there was always a pot of hot tea and the egg rolls were a meal in itself. These were the Americanized/Polynesian versions created in California in the 1930s to the 1960s, and a few still carry on today.
China Town, located southwest of the Camdenton Square, is a small restaurant with around 20 tables. It’s the kind of restaurant that’s easily overlooked by those traveling along Hwy. 54, in a hurry to get from one place to another. Getting there at noon will probably mean a wait for seating but the food and service is hustled through, so any wait is not long, and totally worth it. The big draw is the daily lunch special, costing around $5 or $6 and comes with your choice of hot and sour or egg drop soup, rice, the entrée, and a pot of hot tea. It’s a welcome treat on a cold day. Quick service makes it a favorite for local workers.
Things We Love
Set out at each seat, Chinese Zodiac placemats (I’m a dog and therefore classified as loyal, honest, responsible, courageous and warm-hearted) are always fun to compare with others dining with you. The other thing on the table that makes this restaurant feel authentic are the clear containers of real hot mustard and duck sauce for quick and easy self-service.
Some dishes come in silver metal covered pedestal service domes. These always make a meal fancier, like whoever is putting it out actually cares about the presentation. A pot of hot tea is included upon request with every meal.
Something special you will always find on the menu is the hibachi beef skewers, or Beef Cho Cho. A self-contained heating unit, akin to a s'mores maker, is delivered to the table in a wooden dish along with steak skewered on sticks that you cook yourself to your likened doneness. This is the dish to order to impress your friends and at $5.25 for eight skewers, it's a bargain.
The famous lunch special is available from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday, with American favorites like Egg Foo Young (one of the biggest I’ve ever seen) and Cashew Chicken or Sweat and Sour Chicken. Authentic dishes like Tung Cho Chicken and Mandarin Combination fill the menu so that there are plenty of options to try something different.
The family meal menu, is great for catering, or on those nights you just don’t want to cook, and is priced by the head.
Another unusual feature of China Town are the Polynesian or tiki drinks, served in beautifully-corny ceramic cups, or glassware adorned with a garden of mint sprigs. Share a Scorpion or Hurricane bowl, or sip a Mai Tai on your own. Many of these drinks pack a punch and come at Happy Hour prices.
China Town Chinese Restaurant is owned and operated by Kee Long and Mei Khor. They have been in business since 2009.
With the popularity and dizzying selection of Chinese buffets, it is refreshing to find hot, fresh, made-to-order American-Chinese cuisine right here at the Lake.
About the restaurant
Where: 465 W. Highway 54, Camdenton
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.