Friday, April 29, 2011

Remember to bring quarters.

I live in Oak Ridge, TN. Yup the 'secret' city. Well if any of you know anything about this tiny area, you would know that it offers next to nothing when it comes to food. Sure we have our Mc D's, Royalty Burger man, and some fireman sub joint. There is however one little place that I had the extreme pleasure of finding: Magic Wok.

Let me just be clear, this was not my idea. My fiance had been BUGGING me to go there for weeks. So finally I decided to humor him when both of us hopped in the car to go to 'Magic Wok' for lunch. This place was literally hidden, for those that do not know what you're looking for, most likely you'll drive past it a couple of times, but if you are lucky enough to be guided by a 'local' you'll see it spot on. Magic Wok is located behind some laundry facility in a very tiny shack-like building. As soon as you step into this place you think 'damn this is small' and it is. Probably the size of your first dorm room, or possibly first shared-bathroom from college. Anyway: As soon as we walked in we were greeted with a very cheerful face: Miss Betty. Her first question of the day "What I cook for you? What I cook for you?" Do not be shy, Miss Betty is harmless and actually very curious about her customers. But lets get to the food first....

My fiance suggested the Cashew Chicken to split so I obliged. Miss Betty then threw something in the fryer and scraped something out of a wok (Oh yes they actually used woks here unlike that fickle chain that keeps popping up in this area) once something was done in the fryer, Miss  Betty plopped it all into a to go container with triumph and handed me a fork.

Oh this dish was wonderful, full of flavor and growing heat from the hidden spices in the sauce. The rice was fried but sticky, the cashews carried this amazing smoky-like flavor throughout the whole meal. The chicken was juicy and that sauce, oh god that sauce. The portions were huge, enough for me and my man-sized-fiance to share. All for under FIVE DOLLARS. We also ordered an egg roll which was fried right there for us. (If you wait around you can see Miss Betty prep a whole mess of these bad boys by hand.) But the meal was simple and delicious, no bells and whistles, no menu explaining the Wok's culture or some stupid Chinese proverb about the spirit of cooking. Just a woman making a living cooking up food she knows best.

While we were eating Miss Betty took interest into us, asking questions like 'Oh you two together eh? You two take care of each other?' My fiance replied that we recently got engaged and Miss Betty had a fit. 'Ohhh you two!! So cute, she is very pretty very pretty for you!' Then Miss Betty decided to show us her quarter collection. Why yes I said quarter collection. Turns out Miss Betty has been teaching herself English, geography and history by keeping up with this strange hobby. "Oh look at Colorado very ugly ya? Idaho too, it has stupid bird, it should have potato ya?' So we sat there, me gobbling up my egg roll, sauce running down my eager face, while my Fiance and Miss Betty pick out quarters from her stash.

This place is friendly, small, and sometimes questionable to health codes. But it has a heart, and it is obvious in the food that Miss Betty gives you. Yes I said give. Even though I paid for my meal I still felt humbled that this woman made my food for me, grateful even. To get such care from an eating establishment is well, unheard of. Anyone will tell you, if you go to Magic Wok you will always leave happy and certainly full. And you will always be reminded to bring quarters. Miss Betty said so.

Magic Wok Enterprises on Urbanspoon

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