OK –I’m overdue on this installment of Lori’s world tour of food-court cuisine at the Great Lakes Mall. But, it’s for a good reason. Sirius Alpacas has been slammed busy stocking two locations with two-and-a-half workers. Eating has devolved into a steady diet of Cliff Bars, apples and candy canes – furtively consumed between customers. But, in the interest of exploring just how much grease and MSG one body can handle in concentrated doses before requiring gastronomic intervention, I have been attempting to consume mall “chicken” in all grades, shapes and sauces when I can sneak a few minutes to get some food.
Most of the grades have been suspicious. You know those toothpick-wielding mall foodservice employees anxious to share morsels of meat drenched in bourbon sauce? I walk by them several times a day on my mall shifts, and for the first couple weeks, it was kind of fun to be treated to a mini kebob of spongy meat on my trips to the bathroom. After a while, though, I started wondering about the actual contents of whatever they’ve speared. Do they make the sauce themselves? Do they know what’s in it? Can they verify beyond the shadow of a doubt that whatever is on their toothpick is actually chicken? Honestly, I’d have no idea if it were guinea pig.
Asian Chao in the Great Lakes Mall probably gives away the equivalent every day of a few quarts of bourbon sauce and a couple chickens to passersby. Whether they actually stop and buy a meal is another story. I ponied up and ordered a bourbon chicken dinner last week. I’m happy to report that I survived the meal, but I couldn’t finish it. A meal at Asian Chao consists of one main food (meat) and two sides. I ordered the bourbon chicken ($6.99) with vegetables and rice.
Here’s the thing. When low-cost food sellers keep their prices low, you can be assured you’re not getting free-range, grain- or grass-fed poultry or livestock. And, they’re not concerned with serving choice cuts. Every other chicken piece I tried was mainly gristle or fatty. I’m sorry, but all the bourbon sauce in China can’t make me enjoy that. Perhaps if the bourbon were real and served in massive quantities, I’d eat more. Of course, opting for breaded and deep-fried chicken would probably mask the texture, making it easier to swallow. Vlad the Destroyer would approve. (See the comments section of the previous food blog.)
However, the veggies, a mixture of cabbage, baby corn and carrots, was pretty good. I was surprised they had a little crunch in them. The rice was nothing special, but non-offensive. I ate most of the vegetables and rice.
If you’re in a hurry, this place will get you on your way quickly. The workers are pleasant and efficient. To-go orders are packaged in Styrofoam containers. I didn’t see chopsticks next to the plastic forks, but that’s a good thing since I can’t stand using them. I was in a huge hurry to get back to my kiosk and share my food with my husband. I gave him my chicken.
Rating* (out of five stars): 2.5
*I am not comparing food-court establishments to sit-down chain restaurants, mom-and-pop diners, fine-dining restaurants or other places that wouldn’t be found at a mall. Ratings are inclusive of food quality, service, speed, presentation and order accuracy / completeness within the context of mall food-court fare.
Sirius Alpacas is a family farm in Chardon, Ohio that raises and boards alpacas for fun, therapy and profit. The farm uses its fleeces in the production of high-quality yarns and felted goods. Sirius Alpacas also imports fair-trade Andean items including socks, scarves, hats, gloves and more from Peru and Bolivia, offering the style and culture of South American goods while helping the farmers, artists and craftsmen of that region.