When I try out a new place that I don’t know much about I usually go into what I call Vague Mode. This is where I don’t go into it anticipating any particular experience and I don’t decide beforehand what I’m going to eat. I just waltz in and make a vague statement to the server and whatever happens with my meal happens.

Vague Mode can be surprisingly exciting.

So when I went to Dragon Cafe in La Vista and the waitress asked me what I wanted to eat, I waved at the menu vaguely and said, “Well, I like chicken…” and waited to see what would happen. She suggested the General Tao’s Chicken, which I went ahead and ordered accompanied by fried rice and egg drop soup. Then I sat and waited to be dazzled.

Word on the street

I’d heard from a few people that Dragon Cafe is really tasty, authentic, cheap and not very well-known. It’s certainly not in a trendy area; there’s an empty building where an ill-fated Blockbuster used to stand right across from Dragon Cafe and then up the way a bit there’s a huge empty building that used to be a grocery store. This is not a place that has a slick marketing team or happens to be located in an area where people want to be seen. This is just a place that I keep hearing I need to try out, and that’s how I wound up visiting for lunch.

The meal started with the egg drop soup, which had a thick consistency and plenty of egg whites. As I sipped on the soup I had a look around the restaurant and got a kick out of the décor. Chinese lanterns hang from the ceilings and a big smiling Buddha statue in the corner added to the ambiance. This place isn’t fancy, but it’s fun to look at.

I solemnly swear to be hungry

I also noticed “The Dragon Cafe’s Oath,” which is printed on the menus and displayed in the restaurant. It’s a rather long oath, but the gist of it is that they acknowledge customers are hungry and expect good food at reasonable prices. But really, it’s a paragraph long. I pictured the kitchen staff solemnly reciting this oath before opening every day, but then my mind wandered to the scene in Fight Club where they’re in the basement reciting the rules, and then I thought about Brad Pitt without a shirt on and I forgot all about the funny kitchen scenario.

Back to the food.

Let me just say that the portions are quite large. They aren’t large in a ridiculous way, but it was more than I could eat in one sitting on my own. My entrée arrived at the table on one plate and the rice was in a separate bowl, so I was able to control my rice-to-entrée ratio. The chicken was served with broccoli and featured a tangy, spicy Hunan sauce. Right away I noticed that everything tasted freshly made. If you’ve ever eaten Chinese food that has spent some time sitting under a heat lamp, you’ll appreciate it when I say that I don’t think this food spent any time under a heat lamp whatsoever. It was fresh, it was tasty, and it was substantial.

It was cheap, too

Yes, it was incredibly inexpensive, especially considering I had enough to box up and take home for lunch the next day. I wound up spending less than $8 for the whole meal. Granted I would have probably spent a lot more if I had indulged in a mixed drink or tried some of their sushi, but after seeing the portion size I knew I couldn’t order anything else.

I got into a conversation with a couple who were sitting in the booth next to mine. They said they come here all the time, the food is always good, and the service is great. On my way out, the guy at the register told me that I need to come back and try the sushi, and let’s face it, he’s right. I’ll be back – so sayeth my oath.

Dragon Cafe

8078 South 84th Street, La Vista


Mon – Thurs: 11:00 AM – 9:30 PM

Fri – Sat: 11:00 AM – 10:30 PM

Sun: 11:30 AM – 9:30 PM

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