For Good Friends itís Location!
By Antoinette May Herndon
The building has an imposing stance, looming as it does, over the bend of the road at a major intersection. I canít quite go so far as to call the corner of highway 12 and 26, the crossroads of a million private lives.
But if youíve ever sat at rush hour in a car line five or six deep, say on eastbound 26, and waited for cars coming or going in the three other directions to navigate their stop-and-go ballet through the four- way crossing, youíre well aware of the imposing building that dominates both the thoroughfare and the tiny town of Valley Springs.
It used to be even more eye-catching. A few years back the building was decorated in a desert motif. Think prickly cactus and a very long rattlesnake coiling its way around the edifice. It was eye catching to say least.
The sign outside read: The Good Friends. I just had to investigate. Inside, I discovered to my delightóit happened to b lunch timeóan inviting Chinese restaurant.
I never did discover what the snake and cactus theme had to do with anything. When asked today, members of the Wong family who own the restaurant just laugh a little and shake their heads. Guess weíre all entitled to do something wild once in awhile but donít have to live with our caprices forever.
Today the building is painted a discreet monotone but is still large enough to look imposing to motorists inching their way through the intersection. Location! Location! Location! Who doesnít want to stop there? One day I did.
Once inside, I stepped into a Shanghai 1930s ambience
thatís pleasant and inviting. And maybe just a little bit mysterious. The Exotic East, etc. No one rang an ear -splitting brass gong and there were no dragon dancers present, but I did enjoy a rock waterfall in the corner with several colorful goldfish flitting about and a couple resident turtles.
The 70-year-old building has a decided art deco look with inverted pyramid crystal chandeliers and Egyptian columns. Thereís a mustard ceiling, dark maroon walls and loden green booths and chairs. It works very well. If Charlie Chan hadnít slipped somehow into the politically incorrect category, heíd be right at home here.
Probably Iím the only one who misses him. The other evening when Charles and I had dinner at Good Friends, the large building was nearly filled. No disputing, the corners of Highway 12 and 26 is always a great place to stop for lunch or dinner.
The menus at Good Friends are a tad complex. The more people, the more food, as in many Chinese restaurants.
Two people ordering Dinner A (thereís a minimum of two required for the dinner specials) would have soup of the day, two cheese wontons, two egg rolls, sweet and sour pork, almond chicken, BBQ pork and fried rice for $10.95 per person. Add three people and assorted vegetables are included, add four and get beef with broccoli as well, five people would receive additional portions of prawns. The price remains $10.95 per person.
Dinner B, at $11.95, adds cashew chicken to the basic fair for two with additional tantalizing dishes allowed per additional person.
Dinner C, for $12.95, offers beef with broccoli to the basic mix with still more enticements
such as walnut prawns and a mystery dish called dragon & phoenix for the more the merrier crowd.
It all looks good and the price is surely right. The Good Friends Restaurant has to make it on volume because thereís no skimping on food. Whatever chef Michael V. Wong is doing, heís doing right. The Good Friends is family runóand run they do. The wait staff is fast, friendly and very efficient. The Wongs have doing a good thing better than right for more than 16 years.
Charles and I being alone the other night decided to opt for the buffet. We love to make the rounds, checking out all the exotic offerings, then invariably piling up our plates with old favorites.
Charles especially digs the crab legs. They are enormous, not too difficult to crack and very succulent. I love the tender fresh shrimp; and, though not very exotic, the fried chicken.
The buffet is $7.60 for lunch, $11.75 for dinner. The other night we had glasses of the house white wine. ($4.50) It was the best chardonnay Iíve had in a long timeónot too dry, not to sweet.
Some people will tell you that thereís something a little dark about Chinese restaurants, a little odd or mystifying. Along with the colors, the symbols, the strange language, they pick up a sense of oriental intrigue.
I couldnít tell you about that. Iím always too busy picking up on the food.
VITALS: Everybody knows Good Friends Restaurant is at the corners of highways 12 and 26, but the official address is 9 California St., Valley Springs. Phone: 772-0888. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Definitely a kid friendly eatery, but nice for grown-ups too. Credit cards are accepted.