#38: Pork Burger, Xi’an Famous Foods

68 down. 33 to go.

When I was ten years old I got mono and it was the best week of my life. The Legend of Zelda had just come out on Nintendo. Instead of going to school, I spent the week playing video games, and problem solving took on new meaning. My homework was deciphering the maze to find the fifth dungeon or discovering where to blow the whistle to find the seventh. It was knowing what weapon to fight with, when to use my potion and where to bomb a wall. Put simply: after getting mono, I couldn’t wait to get the chicken pox, get my wisdom teeth pulled or break my leg.

With Zelda, it was love at first sight, but unfortunately things change with time. Twenty years later, I’m now forced to focus more on my career, my school work and my relationships, and less time on rescuing the Princess. Tonight, it was time I got my priorities straight. With the recent release of a new Zelda, I canceled all other plans and went over to the leader of the leaderboard, Ajay’s, apartment to track down the Princess and kick some Ganon ass.

And what makes every night better? Well…yes, beer. But what also makes every night better??? A sandwich. After leaving work, I hopped on the subway to Chinatown to pick up dinner from Xi’an Famous Foods. Let’s just say, I’ve never felt less Asian in my entire life. I was in the real Chinatown, not just walking down Canal Street or eating at Joe’s Shanghai. People at Xi’an Famous Foods looked at me like they’d seen a ghost and seemed confused as to what I was even doing there. There wasn’t a non-Asian person in site…except me.

Xi’an Famous Foods was by far the smallest, most unassuming restaurant I’ve ever been in. I’ve seen food trucks bigger than this place. You know how photos of new apartments are taken from the farthest corner of the room so they appear bigger? Well, the photo you see below is taken with my back pressed up against the wall. It’s that small. There’s enough room in this place for a counter, two stoves, two chefs, and me. That’s it. Regardless, the food smelled embarrassingly good the entire subway ride back to Ajay’s.

Everything we tried was amazing. It was some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in a long time – and cheap. The sandwich that made its way onto the list was a Pork Burger. For a modest $2.50, you get chopped pork served on a warm bun that looks like an larger English muffin. The bread is crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and the pork is sweet, moist and flavorful. While this sandwich alone could easily fill you up, don’t leave without trying some of their perfectly stretched handmade noodles – just be careful of how spicy you ask for it.

Chinese food and Zelda made for quite a night. Though the triforce may be far from recovered and the Princess is still in quite a bit of danger, this time playing Nintendo was the type of fun only a careless ten year old could have. And our mission to knock off a sandwich was a huge success. Xi’an Famous Foods is permanently marked on my map. Now, if only I could find the whistle to take me there whenever I wanted.

Xi’an Famous Foods | 88 East Broadway

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