Rice is nice

Tops for Chinese takeout in East Dayton

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: Cold noodles with sesame sauce at Rice

The stretch between downtown Dayton and Beavercreek is dotted with family-owned ethnic restaurants worth making a trip for, such as Taqueria Mixteca and Linh’s Bistro. Add to that list Rice Chinese Restaurant on East Third Street, tucked in an unassuming building not far west of Smithville. It might not be on your way, but it’s worth a minor detour to get these fresh, made-from-scratch Chinese victuals.

Look lively when driving down East Third Street so as not to miss Rice’s storefront, which stands on the south side of the street between Irwin and Harbine. A small lot that runs along the east side of the building and wraps around to the back offers plenty of parking space for the pocket-sized restaurant. Upon walking in, my husband and I ordered at the counter and then took a seat at one of a handful of tables in the dining area. While sparse on niceties such as music, the ambiance is nonetheless pleasant and homey. A well-maintained fish tank lines one wall and offers a mild distraction from hot food anticipation.

While there is no bar or soda fountain, Rice does offer a basic assortment of sodas. But what you really want is one of their smoothies ($2.99). Available in an array of fruit combinations, Rice’s fresh smoothies alone are worth the trip. We got one mango and one pineapple. Thoroughly blended, both were sweet without being overpowering. Rather, they were so refreshing, we finished them before our entrées arrived. I could have gotten another, but I refrained. But at the first hint of warm weather, it’s on.

For appetizers, we ordered the cold noodles with sesame sauce ($3.50) and the chicken balls ($3.95). The cold noodles were presented beautifully, topped with sliced celery, carrots, green onions and sesame seeds. And the portion was huge, easily big enough for a meal. The chicken balls are aptly named balls of chicken mixture that come 16 to an order. Deep-fried and served on skewers, they reminded me of the hush puppies my grandma used to make in her cast iron skillet. I enjoyed the reminiscence, but my dining companion found them a touch on the salty side.

Next came our seafood soup ($4.95) and house special soup ($5.70). While both contained what you’d expect to find in comparable restaurants, what was outstanding was how much they packed into the bowls. The seafood soup could not possibly have had more shrimp, imitation crab and veggies in its egg drop base, and the brothy house special soup was simply loaded with beef, shrimp, chicken, bok choy, snap peas, mushrooms and carrots.

Obviously made from scratch, these soups could surely cure (or at least put a dent in) any cold or influenza that you might come across this winter.

For the main event, we opted for the house special mee fun ($8.50) and the bean curd home style ($5.75). Was I glad I saved some room! The house special mee fun had all manner of items: rice noodles tossed with shrimp, beef, chicken, eggs, green onions, carrots and celery. At some Chinese restaurants, this kind of dish could come out bland or with indistinguishable proteins. This was fresh and lovely. The same was true of the bean curd home style – cubes of fried tofu sautéed in brown sauce with broccoli, snap peas, bok choy and celery. While other restaurants might not shy away from serving you something congealed or chewy, Rice has honed their craft and mastered the preparation of tofu to where it’s crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. If there’s one thing I would like to improve with my own cooking, it’s the preparation of tofu, and I would want it to come out like Rice’s.

There are several points that would bring me back to Rice: the rockstar parking, the reasonably priced menu items that are made to order and full of flavor and the friendly and speedy service. However, is there such a thing as “too casual”? I felt like I was in the living room of my childhood best friend who had three older brothers. The phone was ringing off the hook, people were bustling around me speaking quickly, I had a clear view to the precarious storage capacity of their utility room and the solitary bathroom had clearly just been used by one of the less-than-hygienic siblings. It was kind of thrilling to be in the middle of someone else’s family, but that’s not what I’m always looking for when I go out to eat.

When it comes down to it, Rice may not be the place to take a date or the family. But if you’re looking for a quick bite or some economical and delicious takeout, you have found a new go-to. You could easily get your fill for less than $10, and that could include leftovers and a smoothie!

Rice is located at 3100 E. Third St. in Dayton. It is open 10:30 a.m.-11:00 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. on Sundays. Call 937.252.2999 for pickup or delivery. To view their full menu or to order online, visit ricechinesedayton.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at JenniferHanauerLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com. To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at jennerlumpkin.com.

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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at JenniferHanauerLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com or through her website at jennerlumpkin.com.

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