Thursday, July 3, 2008
Let's get this out of the way...you don't go to the Prince Cafe for delicious food. Oh sure, it's totally acceptable Chinese food....if you live in Arkansas. Given the plethora of nearby Asian options on Geary Blvd, you'd be insane to declare Prince Cafe the monarch of Asian eats. However, it is cheap as all get out. Incredibly cheap. That's the main attraction here. You'll eat the food and wonder (especially at happy hour) how the hell they turn a profit. It's an intellectual exercise mixed with a bit of physical sustenance. Go for the experience, NOT the food.
I first went to Prince Cafe for breakfast...it is one of the few places in my neighborhood which serves congee aka jook aka rice porridge aka Chinese gruel. I ordered the classic preserved egg & salted pork. It's fair, not great. Certainly no Hing Lung. Needed salt. The side order of Chinese donut was pretty crappy. Coffee is acceptable. Milk tea is somewhat poor. Toast with butter is acceptable. On subsequent visits, I tried the side order chow fun and chow mein. Chow mein is great but it is a horribly greasy start to your day. Chow fun is a little better. Tried a few other porridges...assorted giblet is good...lots of fun bits of offal in there.
Lunch rice bowls are a pretty good deal. Soup and a rice bowl for a little under 5 bucks. Soup is vegetable beef. Sounds strange but it's a Hong Kong style Chinese joint...they do spaghetti with ketchup and things like that. Fusion. My rice bowl, though, was pure Chinese. Soy-braised pork belly with mustard greens and ground fish meatballs. FANTASTIC. Easily the best thing that I have ever eaten at Prince Cafe. Pork belly is richly flavorful without being greasy. A delight. Sparerib and pepper with black bean sauce rice bowl is okay...be prepared for lots of bony bits.
Happy hour ($2.88 per plate!) is a mixed bag. I get the feeling that you need to know what to order. Some of the stuff we ordered was pretty good...most of it fell flat.
Same with dinner. The dinner menu deal is rice, soup, 3 main plates and dessert for 18 bucks. Again, I feel that you need to know what to order to maximize your experience. However, for 18 bucks, it is a hell of a deal.
Anyhow, I will end with this...the Prince Cafe is one of the few Chinese restaurants where I get decent service. I dunno...the servers are friendly. Not the surly bunch you find in most other Chinese.
5423 Geary Blvd
(between 18th Ave & 19th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121