“L21 with Hot and Sour Soup, Please” – Main Kwong

Main Kwong Chinese Restaurant – East End, Charleston, WV

Ron Says…

Well today I thought I needed something more substantial than Ramen Noodles for lunch.  But in deciding to stay with the Asian cuisine, I told some co-workers we were going to put an order in for what is in my opinion the best Chinese Food in the Charleston Area – “nuff said”.

I’m talking about Main Kwong on Washington Street in Charleston.  This little joint is within walking distance from work.  So at about 11am, I rounded up some co-workers, delegated one to make the actual call.  (I hate making the call because I can never really grasp what it is that I’m ordering or being told yet when I have to do this, they still manage to get my order correct – amazing)

Nevertheless at 11:45 we begin our walk and arrive there about five minutes later.  Once entering this place you are bombarded with the hustle and bustle of a real Chinese environment I think… (Hey I live in the sticks, the only foreign country I’ve been to is Canada and the most foreign place I’ve been is Boone County WV.)  The phone is ringing, people are yelling and somehow work is being done.  Makes you wonder how a large construction project runs over there?

Normally the small seating area ~ approx eight small booths ~ are packed with students from Charleston Catholic – so if you’re wanting to eat in, you have to beat that lunch crowd.  However during the summer months, there’s usually a table to be had.  But it’s cramped and I enjoy going back to my office for a nice relaxing meal.  Plus the walk helps me justify what I’m about to do to my recently departed $4.85.

I almost always get L21 – Kung Pao Chicken, and for the previously mentioned $4.85 I get about 2lbs of this concoction and rice along with a bowl (not cup but a bowl) of Hot & Sour Soup.  Best deal going.  I should and could easily split this up into two meals, but who the heck want’s to do that????   Binge Baby Binge (can purge later).  I also get this extra spicy but today, I think I forgot to have the order procurement specialist order it that way.

For those that don’t know, or most likely do not even care, Kung Pao Chicken (or is it Poa??) is chicken with veggie chunks in some sauce but the special ingredient is “Peanuts”.  yummy…  whatever it is, this meal makes my day.  Hot and Sour Soup is also my favorite.  The Hotter the better.

Typically Main Kwong’s lunches are right around the $5 mark, and you get plenty of food.  As I said, I enjoy stuffing my face so I go against my better judgement and eat all of mine – hey after all mom told me to clean my plate… but this meal and most others are easily enough for two servings… leftovers for dinner?

There’s about 7000 different items on the menu, I won’t even pretend to say I’ve tried them all or for that matter even read them all.

Again, it’s the best there is in my opinion, especially for Chinese – very unlike that other Main place in South Charleston.   BTW, and this is a rumor that was told to me so I have no clue if it’s true or not… But someone told me that these two Mains used to be one in the same but had some irreconcilable differences?  Anyone clear that up?

I could easily give Main Kwong’s 5 forks.  I like to think that I would hold out for a real exceptional place before doing so.  But for a take out lunch at such a cheap price and such a massive quantity of excellent tasting food…

I have to give Main Kwong’s the much deserved (and I’m sure to be debated) FIVE FORKS!!!!!

They busted my cherry on the five fork award.  (But Dan and Susan didn’t post this until after we went to shmc.  Editors are a pain.)

Main Kwong
1407 Washington Street East
Charleston, WV
Main Kwong Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

16 responses to ““L21 with Hot and Sour Soup, Please” – Main Kwong

  1. I wonder if we’ll hear a rebuttle from demosthenes, defending the honor of Main Tin in response to this obvious example of Ron’s lack of culinary credibility. I mean, c’mon…they serve coke in a can (see photo above) and there are only 4 seats in the joint. I have had one of the plastic forks they provide give way under the pressure of trying to cut a hunk of their General Tso’s chicken. (Notice in the photo above that Ron is using a premium plastic fork of his own instead of the one that came in the little plastic baggie. I’ll bet the one they gave him broke on a peanut.)

    And after all the whining he did regarding mustard in packets?? To refresh everyone’s memory, here is an excerpt from Ron’s brief but cutting review of Main Tin (please do not attribute the misspellings you are about to see to me. I simply copied/pasted his words exactly as they appeared in the original review):

    “Main Tins ~ This place stunk. The food Stunk. The service Stunk. Heck the pictures on the wall even stunk. For Example – The HOT MUSTARD IS SERVED OUT OF A PACKET – like you’d recieve for takeout – and of course – It stunk. Heck I felt like I was getting gasoline at a convience store because there was even a PRE-PAY Sign.”

    If mustard in a packet is no good at Main Tin, why is it five fork-worthy at Main Kwong? Do you think they order the packets from different suppliers? Not likely. I think all the menus come from a DIY site where you just type in the name of your restaurant and they send you the ready-made menus. And aren’t you pre-paying for Main Kwong also? I am sure you handed over your $4.85 before you received your bag of aluminum and styrofoam containers, right? And what about the fact that Main Kwong only accepts cash…soda machines will accept debit cards before this little Chinese place does.

    I think Ron’s judgment was clouded by his thriftiness. Sometimes it’s all about CHEAP for Ronald.

    Chinese food rocks IMO – and I think Main Kwong’s food is good. I had trouble sleeping last night knowing this review would post this morning, trying to formulate what I might write in this rather lengthy comment. Mostly, I just want to give Ron a hard time and it’s all in good fun.

    I caught a lot of heat for giving The China Buffet five forks…I am just going to sit back and enjoy the grief Ron is about to endure over this review.

    Friends out there in cyberspace…don’t let me down!

  2. Ron give extra forks for cheap food and beer. Susan deducts forks for expensive wine and appetizers. Sounds like a match made in heaven. Rest assured if you go to any Fork You 5 fork establishment you will very likely leave satisfied.

    I want Chinese for lunch.

  3. Susen is wrng, lest bout da Coak can. I pruch$d dat from CVS with 3 dolars. iT come ina 12Pak.

    Mi mass Qnty of food onlee costs I $4.50 Dolars. Chinees Bufett costs me $6.98. I’s eats ’bout equle bits.

    Plus I cans get L21 at Mane Quongs, cannt get that at cHineese Bufett. But I’s eat the saim amuont.

    Taists Guud.

  4. I absolutely LOVE Main Kwong! My favorite is the Garlic Shrimp. The name may scare some people, but it’s not any garlickier than many of the other dishes. It’s shrimp with a sweet and spicy brown sauce and a yummy mix of Chinese veggies.

    FYI, Charleston Catholic’s lunch is 11:26- 12:06, so noontime lunchgoers should be good-to-go.

  5. Havent had the Kwong in a while. Are their Rangoons any good ? (meaning not filled with celery and onion)

  6. best short ribs ANYWHERE…

  7. Mike-

    I haven’t ever tried the rangoons at Main Kwong. You have to get an “order” of them, and I really only want to eat one or two. Maybe I can talk my work friends into sharing an order with me sometime, but I haven’t been successful at that endeavor in the past.

    Ron doesn’t like them so he doesn’t know how they are, either.

    Maybe another reader can give us some insight?

  8. sweet ever-loving five fork jeebus i LOVE that place.

    i’ve gone through a pretty big chunk of the menu by now (used to live around the block on bradford).

    the rangoon are my favorite in town, the owner/manager recognizes faces after about 3 take out visits, and the food is CHEAP.

    as for Ron’s Main problems, i have always felt there were two universes of chinese restaurants. the take-out place (whether they have chairs or n0t), and the sit down restaurant.

    in my mind comparing them is like comparing a big ed burger at swiftwater to a mid-rare filet at the chop house.

    while many of the flavors are the same, and even the dishes may cross over menus, i expect very different things from the two universes (universii?).

    packets at main tin should be for carry out only. every table should have a little pot of mustard on it. duck sauce too.

  9. well said Dan.

  10. demosthenes.or.locke

    [insert snide comments here]

    Seriously though, the main kwong I had was so swimming in oil you couldn’t even taste the ingredients. Did I catch them on a bad night?

  11. It took you a few days, but you did not disappoint, demosthenes.

  12. Main Kwong is easily the best TAKE-OUT Chinese in the Valley and probably the best I’ve had anywhere.

  13. The best thing to order at main knowing is the chicken and broccoli. The sauce on the chicken and broccoli is one of the best I have tried so far. Atleast my first to second favorite in charleston.

  14. The Massey Family

    Main Kwong is easily the best Chinese I’ve had – I’d even put it up against Suzies on Bleaker St. in NYC and Suzies makes some mean Chinese. We live over two hours from Chas. and we make it a point whenever we come in to see the family we have there to NEVER leave w/o getting Main Kwong on the way out. The taste is amazing and the food stays hot the entire 2hr.+ drive home – just right for eating when we unpack it. The owner always remembers us and always puts a treat in the bag for our daughter. Our favorite is the Crispy Chicken with Chicken Fried Rice and just to clear up the mystery – the Rangoon is AMAZING. I’ve never had it like theirs. All other Rangoon pales in comparison. You think you want just one or two – but believe me – an entire order quickly goes from a side dish to a meal – it is that good. Forget the duck sauce and mustard too folks – Main Kwong’s homemade sweet and sour red sauce is where it’s at for dipping anything and everything.

  15. Yes, there is a family connection between Main Kwong and Main Tin. I don’t think there’s a quarrel between them, though, as they really don’t have time for such nonsense. About Ron’s Main Tin criticisms, I have to say that the buffet is only OK at Main Tin while the food cooked to order from the menu is just about as good as Main Kwong’s similar offerings. For my money, Main Kwong offers the best hot & sour soup of any I’ve ever had; Main Tin’s recipe is just a little off for my taste, but still better than most.

    Carina has run this place from the start, sometime back in the 1990s, and that’s when I started eating there. She not only remembers my name (as she does MANY others), but recalls my usual order. When I worked nearby, she knew my phone number. I need only say one word on the phone, and she knows my voice! A very astute businesswoman, and a sweetheart.

    Above all, though, the quality of the food is as good as Chinese food gets in America. I know. I lived in Asia for more than a decade. When my kids come to visit, Main Kwong is always high on our agenda.

  16. Carina is amazing with her recall. She knew me from I think my second order and I’m pretty sure it’s by the voice because over the years I’ve called from home, 2 work numbers and 2 different cell phones and she always recognizes me immediately and knows my usual order so well I only have to tell her if it’s something different (and my usual order includes soup, 3 appetizers, and 3 entrees, one sub of fried for white rice and one with a special request). I’d have felt special if I didn’t know she can do it with everyone.

    Everything I’ve ever tried has been excellent and the prices can’t be beat for the quality or quantity. If I were ranking all the restaurants around based on how well they do what they aim to do, Main Kwong would be #1.

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