Ever since It Came In The Mail back in April, the menu from Kenny’s Sub Shop (11210 Georgia) has lain dormant in the menu drawer, biding its time until I could resist no longer the siren song of Chinese & American Foods. I’ve been intrigued but apprehensive. How good could it be? How bad could it be? What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out: very good, not bad, and essentially nothing. How’s that for a shocker?
Expectations suitably low for a strip mall Chinese-American combo whose menu includes over 100 Chinese dishes, a bunch of subs, sandwiches, salads, sides, plus five types of wings, including with the vaunted Mumbo Sauce. It just seems like too much, right? How could they possibly do any of these things well?
I ordered a couple of American and Chinese items to get a sense of the place. Delivery took maybe 20-25 minutes, no ordering difficulties. The subs were good; the closest thing to a problem was that the insubstantial roll (which steamed inside its foil wrapper a bit too much in transit) nearly couldn’t hold the enormous mass of chopped beef and cheese — but it held! The “House Steak” sub reminded me of the cheesesteaks I used to get for lunch at a tiny dive at North Calvert Street in Baltimore when I was working up there: gooey, beefy, plenty of hot pepper spread, insanely unhealthy and really really good. Only the Kenny’s version contains even more beef. It’s definitely Baltimore style, not Philly style. BLT sub is also good, fresh L and T and lots of crisp B. Onion rings are heavy on the breading and light on the onion, but not awful, better as bar food than as a dinner side dish.
On the Chinese side, I opted for lo mein, which is easy to do decently but difficult to do really well, and Crispy Orange Beef, my personal Chinese food obsession that almost no restaurant does even decently (Hunan Garden of Palo Alto is our reigning orange beef champion). Kenny’s pork lo mein is decent, kind of greasy, mostly noodles, some pork and scallion and possibly carrot shards, but tastes fine, about as expected, and a solid value at $7.50 for a large container so stuffed they couldn’t close the lid and had to rubberband the takeout box shut.
And the Crispy Orange Beef?
My jaw is still on the floor, but who needs it as long as I have my tastebuds. It isn’t quite Hunan Garden, but it is close, and easily the best version I’ve had outside of California. At Kenny’s Sub Shop! In Wheaton! Words nearly fail. In fact, Kenny’s COB texture is like how HG’s OPB used to be back in the day, as crisp as it could be given its spicy orange bath and its self-steaming journey to my house. Many restaurants fail by having too-large beef chunks, but Kenny’s are smallish, just right. I could tell by looking at it that it had potential, the sauce was the right deep orange-brown color, the right viscosity, the right orange (possibly tangerine) slivers mixed among the beef. If anything, my primary criticism is that the taste profile has too much orange and not enough fire, thus missing the perfect balance of orange-sweet-spice (plus sour pickled onion/carrot, which Kenny’s does not include) that sets Hunan Garden above the rest, but it isn’t far off. All in all, a shockingly successful dish that I still cannot believe came from Kenny’s, but I guess that will teach me yet again never to judge a restaurant by its facade, or menu.
So this discovery could be dangerous to our waistlines, given that Kenny’s food is both well-portioned and inexpensive (Kenny’s COB is $9.25, HG’s OPB is $9.95 for about the same amount of food). Doesn’t matter. We are so down with COB. Thank you, Kenny. Thank you.