Lu’s Garden: Soul-Stirring Chinese in San Gabriel
24 Tuesday Jul 2012
When I’m hungry and craving the heart-warming goodness that only Chinese food gives me, I won’t settle. Some might be satisfied by a sad little salad, burger, sandwich, etc., but if time allows, I’ll drive the 15 miles from Los Feliz (30 mi. roundtrip!) to get the goodies offered at Lu’s Garden in San Gabriel. Lu’s is in my Top 3 favorite Chinese eateries.
I was introduced to Lu’s as a teenager by my Chinese aunt who married a Taiwanese man. One summer, she brought back a 12-pack of Lu’s favorites for all us cousins to nosh on. We looked and sniveled at the thought of having to eat anything other than Cantonese food. Then I heard my aunt say, “it’s tofu–you’ll like it.” To my disbelief, it was harp-strumming love at first bite!
Located in an unassuming and rather grimy strip mall, Lu’s could be another anonymous, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant if it wasn’t for 3 things: 1) it’s almost always packed 2) English is severely limited here and 3) they have a 20-items deep selection of vibrant, flavorful dishes fresh from the wok–no pitiful heat lamps here.
When you go in, especially if you’re non-Asian, you’ll need to resort to smiling and pointing. The ladies here are native Taiwanese and I’ve never heard a word of English spoken here.
The cafeteria-style buffet features mostly vegetarian soy bean, string bean and tofu dishes. Take it from a fan of meat, every vegetarian item served here is shockingly delicious. I dare you to order any veggie-based dish and prepare to pick your chin up from the floor. It’s amazing. For those adverse to veggies, there’s also pork, Chinese sausage and a few very tasty chicken dishes.
They have a 3-item lunch special with generous portions and a vat of steamed rice for $6.95. My favorites are the crack-like braised tofu skins, minced pork with garlic, house greens and diced tofu with lima beans. I know what you’re thinking, “lima beans?” But I swear, it’s drool worthy–I know because I’m drooling as I type this and preparing to drive to San Gabriel to pick up lunch.
Lu’s Garden, 534 E. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, 91776, 626-280-5883