Saturday, February 23, 2013

Out and About: Chan's Dragon Inn

Out and About is an irregular feature in Bermtopia, highlighting some of the weird, wacky and generally fabulous aspects of living in the self-annointed Jewel of the Inland Northwest.

And so the countdown began this week. The kitchen and the foot surgery.

Since Wednesday, my date has been wrangling with installation of a new kitchen floor, molding and several unexpected plumbing issues -- most the result of pulling the downstairs toilet in anticipation of said floor. I, on the other hand, was in a foot race (literally) with the productivity- and deadline-hungry maw of The Chamber of Horrors work, trying to clear the decks somewhat before I hunkered, down left foot elevated over heart, for the next 10 to 14 days.

And so it was Wednesday night, I did not argue for minute when my date said, "Let's go out for dinner. Someplace quiet. Someplace where we won't run into anyone."

Please, my Bermtopian friends, do not take this personally. You would not have wanted to meet up with us Wednesday night. We were the Zombie Apocalypse of Home Improvement Meets OMG-I'm-Going-To-Be-Off-My-Feet-AND-Work-for-Two-Weeks.

And so we headed toward Tacos Tumbras, a Mexican joint in a marginally sketchy part of Bermtopia, which just happens to dish up the finest, most authentic, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping Mexican food in town. On the surface, it's a dive -- as are most places on West Second and Third Streets in Bermtopia -- but once you're in the door, look out. (OK, it's still kind of dicey inside but you really won't notice after that first bite of pork carnitas. You'll be too busy rolling on the floor -- well, on second thought, maybe you'll want to avoid the floor -- in ecstasy.)

But this is not about Tacos Tumbras.

This is about Chan's Dragon Inn, just about a block south of TT.

So, a bit of history. . .

Back in the day, Bermtopia had a horse racing venue known as Playfair. Sadly, the track closed in 2000, and was razed in 2004. For some reason, I think a water treatment plant was involved. Ugh. 

As college students at Gonzaga -- AND when we moved back to Bermtopia in the late 1980s -- my date and I loved to make an occasional junket to Playfair. It was in the 80s when one of the track's all-time favorites, Chan's Dragon, and his jockey Jerry Pruitt ruled the course. Oh, he was a beautiful creature: A big, bay gelding owned by the Chan family, well-known Chinese restaurateurs in Bermtopia since the mid-1940s. 

Maybe it was the "Belly dancing Friday night" sign -- or the memories of standing at the rail, bringing Chan's Dragon across the finish line at Playfair with our shouts and programs flapping in the air -- but we turned toward Chan's Dragon Inn instead.

The restaurant is bright, warm and intimate. The decor, Asian Hipster Meets Grandfather Chan.

In portraits scattered throughout the restaurant, generations of Chans join their patriarch, sharing a silent testimony of family pride and dedication.

This is Grandfather Chan. We sat with him at dinner.

The service is quietly congenial, the food a reminder as to why most of us fell in love with Chinese food as kids: Warm, salty, sweet, tangy, herbaceous flavors mingling in mysterious combinations of meat, veggies, noodles or rice. The honey wine chicken is special.

Still on the prowl for a dive? Just step into the restaurant's bar, The Red Lantern Room, and I think you'll be satisfied. But before you hunker down in one of the bar's dark-stained captain's chairs, order up that PBR and take in your favorite team on one of the establishment's numerous flat screens, be sure to check out the small corner shrine honoring the Chan family's champion thoroughbred -- and Playfair Race Course.

My date and I will be back to Chan's Dragon Inn. 

For the food. 

And the memories.

1 comment:

  1. Yum yum. I don't know why almost all the Chinese eateries in our neighbourhood have disappeared. Now we mostly have Vietnamese and Japanese. Maybe everyone's learnt how to cook their own Chinese LOL. Honey wine chicken sounds delicious!

    Your poor toes. Tell us what it's all about soon. My own looks dead. I have rubbed with arnica, iced and elevated and still can't walk properly and Wednesday is looming. Sigh.