Monday, November 18, 2013

Chin's Place in West Akron

Akron Empire would like to welcome guest blogger Dominic Caruso for this article about Chin’s Place, a classical Cantonese restaurant near Highland Square.  Dominic has written about music for Akron Empire in the recent past, with articles about Dolly Rocker Ragdoll, Travelogue, and the UltraSpinx/Bad Trouble split 7", and most recently, ShiSho.  He is also an artist with a piece in Clever Little Devils, an exhibition at the Box Gallery, which was featured last week on Akron Empire, click here to read that post. If you're interested in guest blogging, please email us at AkronEmpire [at] gmail dot com.

474 West Market St., Akron OH 44302--catty-corner from the Red Cross Building

Chin’s Place
by Dominic Caruso

I’ve been kicking around Akron for a few years now, and have lived nearby to Chin’s Place for a little over a year, but never gotten around to trying the food there until last weekend. In fact, numerous friends have recommended Chin’s to me, and my girlfriend eats there all the time.  All I can say is I’ve been missing out.  Luckily, when we are wrong, we can do things to make our mistakes right--we can change course. Which I intend to do by eating at Chin’s a lot more in the future.

The restaurant is a Highland Square fixture and enriches the neighborhood in more ways than one. Proprietor Elaine Chin was nice enough to spend a few minutes to talk to me about the restaurant's history and food. It’s a 3rd generation Chinese restaurant that serves what Elaine describes as classical Cantonese cuisine. The Chins craft their dishes using their grandfather’s recipes.  After starting a successful restaurant in Hong Kong, he came to Akron in the 1950s to work as a chef and to bring his family to the United States. The Chins' stewardship of their grandfather’s recipes extends to the use of fresh ingredients: everything is made from scratch, down to the duck sauce, which, when the apples are in season, they make using fruit from their friend’s local orchard. None of the restaurant's sauces are pre-made. They even peel and mince ginger every day to use in their flavorful dishes. Elaine told me that whenever they can, they use locally grown organic vegetables. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a particularly cultivated palate, but you don’t need to be a gourmand to appreciate and enjoy food that is prepared with care and quality ingredients.

In the spring and summer, vegetables like baby bok choy and green beans often come from Chin’s own garden, an impressive and lovely space which you can visit behind the restaurant. The garden is in hibernation now, but you can view photos of it on Chin’s Facebook page. In the spring and summer, you can eat outdoors on nice days.

I had the black bean - ginger tofu vegetables, which I immediately started eating and then had to rearrange to take this photo.

Don’t wait for spring and summer to stop in. It was a gloomy day on Saturday in November, when I visited.  And although it wasn’t particularly cold outside, the overcast day made me feel especially hungry for some good, filling winter food.  I ordered the black bean - ginger tofu vegetables, and it was delightful. The ginger in the sauce made the dish especially delicious and satisfying, the perfect comfort food for cold gray winter days.

In addition to cultivating their garden, Chin’s hosts a Plant Swap each spring, where friends and neighbors can meet to exchange perennials, annuals, herbs, vegetable starts, and other plants.

The dining room is small, but comfortable and bright.
The dining room is sparingly decorated with beautiful images like this embroidered picture.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner every day except Sunday. They serve a nice variety of vegetarian and vegan selections, including black bean - ginger tofu vegetables.  They also serve meat dishes like Cantonese chicken chow mein, and seafood meals like traditional Cantonese shrimp and black bean sauce, along with popular favorites like egg rolls, moo shu pork, and kung pau chicken. You can dine in--the restaurant has a small, but comfortable dining room--or take out, or have them deliver. They also cater.  One additional thing that I noticed while I was there: Elaine knew each person who came in to pick up orders and spent a minute or two chatting with each one to see how they were doing. It’s the kind of place that is a real asset to a community, and I’ll be back. Maybe, we can meet there soon!

Visit Chin’s  Facebook page.
Here’s a link to their menu--call for seasonal specials.

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