There's nothing that I love more than an "old school" diner, located in an older, shabby part of a neglected downtown, as much of the time, you'll be enjoying a "diamond in the rough." When you find such a restaurant, especially when it serves delicious Chinese food, along with a smattering of American "comfort food," you know you've found a "keeper" of a restaurant. Such is the case with China Cafe, located in downtown Porterville, CA.
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: It's late in the afternoon on Friday, September 13, 2019, and I've arrived at China Cafe, located in downtown Porterville, CA to enjoy a fine dinner.
By the looks of the outside of the restaurant, China Cafe started out as a diner, many years ago, and the somewhat shabby building is located in a run down part of downtown, which adds to the charm of the restaurant.
Photo: As I entered the restaurant, I was immediately transported back in time to the early 1960's, as the interior is definitely "1960's diner-esque" and hasn't been updated since. Yes, you have a large counter, complete with leather-covered stools, and booths covered in leather as well. There's even an antique cash register, which I suspect isn't used, as there is a 1980's electronic cash register next to it. The window to the kitchen can be seen in the center of the photo. Yes, I love the decor!
Photo: Another view of the counter, as the chef walks back towards the kitchen. Note the vintage chrome rack that holds the menu... definitely 1960's diner vintage. There are a few Chinese-oriented decorations hung on the wall, and sitting on shelves, but the decor of the restaurant looks largely untouched since the 1960's.
Photo: A portion of the menu, featuring lunch and dinner combination plates, family dinner, "Chef Specials," along with a small section of American, "comfort food." The other side features all of your Chinese favorites, and practically every Chinese dish you can imagine. After carefully looking over the menu, I went with the "Asia Platter," which could be described as a "sampler plate."
Photo: My server, Mi, holds the plate and bowl high, and the bowl of "Sweet and Sour" sauce low, as she brings my appetizer to my place at the counter.
Photo: My delicious dinner really got started with the appetizers of "Cantonese Cream Corn Soup," deep fried "Won Tons," along with a bowl of "Sweet and Sour" sauce. The Tsingtao beer certainly made a fine companion for my meal too. The menu didn't mention anything about an appetizer, so when Mi brought it out, I was pleasantly surprised.
Photo: The "old school" cash register sits behind the counter, I suspect as a decoration, as it doesn't appear to be in use. Next to it sits a 1980's vintage electronic cash register, which the restaurant uses.
Photo: The chef seems a little surprised as I peek through the window to the kitchen and snap his photo. Notice the large range, and the "old school" order wheel. Truly a diner kitchen from the 1960's...
Photo: Meet Mi, my camera shy server, who covers her face for my camera, as she delivers my "Asia Plate" go me. She was friendly, but very reserved, and provided efficient service. Actually, her antics were quite amusing, as every time I got out my camera, she'd run, hide, or perform a "duck and cover" drill.
As I always do, when I visit a restaurant, I present a business card, and explain that I'll be taking photos, in order to do a write-up on this web site, or Yelp, as I'm a huge "Yelper." I explained my "mission" to Mi, but it just didn't seem to make a connection to her, and she just didn't seem to "get it." I guess not many other "Yelpers" visit this fine restaurant...
Photo: Thanks Mi, for snapping my photo, as I get ready to enjoy my amazing "Asia Platter" dinner, along with a Tsingtao beer. Despite my server being very "camera shy" I left her a very generous tip, which she seemed to appreciate.
Photo: From the "Combination Plates For Lunch or Dinner" section of the menu, I ordered the "Asia Platter," which is shown, along with my bowl of "Cantonese Cream Corn Soup," which my server brought as an appetizer.
The "Asia Platter" could be described as a "sampler" of the fine food that China Cafe has to offer, and makes an absolutely perfect dinner for one person, especially when you add the soup and the deep fried won ton appetizer. "Asia Platter" includes fried won ton, fried shrimp, egg roll, chicken wings, BBQ spareribs and a helping of pork fried rice. If you love fried Chinese food as much as I do, this platter is for you!
Every item on this platter was fried, or in the case of the spareribs, barbecued to absolute perfection, and melted in my mouth. If the chef ever decided he wanted to switch over to southern cooking, he'd be right at home, as the deep fried, crispy battered chicken drumsticks reminded me of fried chicken you'd enjoy in Memphis, and would have made Elvis proud. With each bite, I was transported into Cantonese heaven... and a savored my amazing meal. If you love outstanding Cantonese cuisine, you'll absolutely adore the "Asia Platter" and the fine food served at China Cafe.
Perhaps the dining room is a little shabby, dated, and "old school" in every way, and my server played the "duck and cover" drill every time I brought out my camera, but the food was amazing, the beer was cold, and I enjoyed an absolutely wonderful meal, and dining experience. I loved the "old school" atmosphere, as this diner reminded me in many ways of restaurants I used to visit when I was a kid. For great Cantonese cuisine, and a trip into downtown Porterville's past glory, visit China Cafe. You'll love this fine restaurant!
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