Saturday, July 26th, 2008...12:07 am

King Dong Memories

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I had a Star Wars moment this week when my good friend Lee asked if I wanted to go to King Dong Restaurant in Berkeley. Actually a Ben Kenobi moment: I thought to myself, “King Dong, now that is a name I have not heard in a long, long time.” I don’t think I have been to The Dong for dinner in at least 12 years.

Lee was one of my freshman-year roommates at Cal. He and I used to go to King D multiple times a month all through college. Sometimes just the two of us. Sometimes with four, six, eight or eighteen people. Sometimes with the Cal Rugby team. We went before finals and after finals. Before, during and after Cal games. Winter, spring, summer and fall. I took family there. I took international visitors there. I took dates there. We were convinced that KING Dong was, hands-down, the best Chinese food in Berkeley.

No single restaurant in Berkeley has so many memories for me. My all-time favorite dishes were Hunan Chicken, Mongolian Lamb, Sechuan Beef, and Dry-Fried String Beans. The waiters knew what we would order before we sat down. Going to dinner and eating their butt-kicking spicy dishes was a great treasure of life in those days. I loved sitting around the table seeing grown men weeping at the amazing tastes. And laughing at each other’s faces as we ate.

It was also a great place to get take out back then. They served huge portions of those same dishes we enjoyed dining in. I survived my first year in grad school relying on king-dong-to-go.

And then things changed. Real fast and real bad. King Dong was sold. Twice. The menu stayed the same, but the food was totally different. The magic was gone. I remember being served rotten green beens. It was over in an instant. I have driven by the restaurant countless times over the years. So sad and tragic. I heard someone on the street talking about King Dong take out about a year ago. The Yelp reviews were OK. Not sure what it would take to get me back inside.

Alas, great restaurants don’t last forever. But great memories do. My current vote for best Chinese in Berkeley is The Great China on Kittredge.

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1 Comment

  • I was 13 at the time and I had gone with my dad to a local department store to buy ctoehls for school when it was announced on the radio (broadcast throughout the store) about his death (it was some time in the late afternoon I believe). My dad and I were shocked and I remember that I saw someone outside of the store that I knew so i ran down the aisle of the store and ran outside to tell that person.One week later we came back to buy more ctoehls for school when we found out that the owner of the department store had died soon after Elvis had died (eerie!). I still remmember that day very well.So, falling in love with Fiona in memphis in Graceland would definately make up for all the sadness and suffering thoroughout childhood and into adulthood. I think Elvis would approve and I miss yhim very much. I have been to Gracleland once, seven years ago and it was quite an experience, but an experience with Fiona at Graceland would top everything good and bad that has happened in my life. Waiting for time!RainbowRay

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