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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Review Mon Dec 21 2009

Mon Lung: Old-School American-Chinese in East Village

Mon Lung Mao Po Tofu
American-Chinese restaurants are as much a part of the modern American city as bus stops and currency exchanges. Chicago has no shortage of these neighborhood fixtures offering dishes like egg foo young and Kung Pao chicken for dine-in, take-out and sometimes delivery. With food prepared quickly and entrees often under $10, these establishments seem as relevant as ever.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Mon Lung Restaurant in East Village filled a steady stream of dine-in and take-out orders of crab rangoon and fried rice. Add the murky tank of giant goldfish, television above the doorway silently broadcasting football, packets of sweet-and-sour sauce on the tables and neighborhood "regulars" seated in the cozy, vinyl-upholstered booths, and Mon Lung felt like the quintessential American-Chinese restaurant. Only the food was better than this mise-en-scène.

The Egg Drop Soup was a standard rendition though it was a served piping hot, with a restrained saltiness that I appreciated for the leeway it left us to add soy sauce or sriracha. A mélange of thin rice noodles, small pieces of shrimp and pork, thickly-cut onions and a yellow curry sauce, the Singapore Noodles lacked textural contrast but was made to order with a medium spiciness that crept up on the palate. Finally, the Ma Po Tofu appeared bland with its silken tofu, ground pork and shrimp covered with a pale brown gravy and a heaping of green onions, but the mild sweetness of the sauce and fattiness of the pork served as a surprisingly satisfying counterpoint to the unabashed heat of this dish.

Mon Lung is as clear a statement as any of why American-Chinese restaurants have stayed the course in this country since the beginning of the twentieth century. In a neighborhood where other casual, inexpensive ethnic fare is relatively plentiful, Mon Lung more than competently fills an important niche.

Mon Lung Restaurant
1009 N. Ashland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
No delivery

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Alan Lake / December 29, 2009 10:35 AM

For old school Cantonese American in that hood, I prefer Eat First 2 at 1289 N Milwaukee. A guilty pleasure of roast pork egg foo yong is my go to. Good smoothies as well. I've found it to have better food all around than Mon Lung. Of course, Chinatown is only 10 mins from here.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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