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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Restaurant review: Golden Lily **

The Golden Lily serves Chinese and American food.
The Golden Lily serves Chinese and American food.

In 1912, the Titanic sank in the Atlantic after striking an iceberg, Woodrow Wilson was elected 28th president of the United States, and Edgar Rice Burroughs published his first Tarzan book.

And closer to home, it's probable that in 1912 the Golden Lily opened its doors in downtown Toledo. It was one of nine Chinese restaurants operating in the city back then, and the only one that survives.

A jumble of sources - old city directories, newspaper clips, matchbook covers, and memories passed down by three generations of family ownership -give conflicting information regarding the lineage of the venerable eatery.

But the best evidence points to 1912, or possibly 1916, as the likely origin of the place that ultimately became the Golden Lily, making it among the oldest in Toledo - a remarkable run for any business.

As the precursor of, and possible inspiration for, the many dozens of Chinese restaurants that have set down stakes here over the years, the Golden Lily continues to offer nearly 200 dishes, from pressed duck to moo goo gai pan, chow mein to egg foo yong. The menu also devotes a page to American fare such as burgers, breaded veal cutlet, ham steak, and the like.

The red and gold walls and ceiling of the Superior Street establishment still dazzle the eye with gilded dragons, birds, and gorgeous Oriental paintings. But closer inspection reveals an otherwise ordinary interior that looks a bit long in the tooth, appearing drawn under the bright lights.

If the comfort factor is far from grand, nevertheless the food, plainly prepared and matter-of-factly presented, gave us no real cause for complaint. Proprietor David Loo, the son and grandson of the previous owners, seems to take a hands-on approach concerning what comes out of the kitchen, with fair to good results.

For example, at a lunch delivered by one of the restaurant's longtime servers, we dined on three chicken courses, all of them satisfying: chicken fried rice ($3.95), moist and flavorful; a cup of chicken noodle soup ($1.75), and General Tso ($10.50) with breaded breast slices stir-fried in a tingly sauce.

Dinner brought pork war mein ($7.95), a mild dish resembling chop suey, with soft spaghetti noodles vying with crisp chow mein noodles for texture and attention. Preceding that was an appetizer order of breaded chicken wing dings ($3.50) that were large and spicy-hot.

Also ordered was Chinese fried shrimp ($9.95), ensconced in puff pastry, which were somewhat dry but still tasty, and moo goo gai pan ($9.95), combining chicken slices and vegetables with an innocuous white sauce.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com.

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