So many of you requested the back-story on the “House of Roy” (or at least one of you), that I feel obliged to explain. You’ll be sorry you asked.
“House of Roy” was THE Chinese restaurant of my childhood. This was way before the days of Mandarin and Szechwan cuisine, when all Chinese food came swimming in a brown oyster-style sauce. My Dad would regale us with tales of him going there when he was younger, when the menus were chiseled on tablets. (Really, who would of thought my father…telling stories? Hi Dad, just kidding…). We all have these places; I know someone that always went to Moon Palace and ordered Hong Sue Guy…
This place defined “craphole”. The place was a few steps up literally, but several steps down, figuratively. It was separated into two dining rooms, shaped like a “U”. You walked in at the top left, then through one dining room down and around into the other. The floor was collapsing, so you were always leaning left when you walked in. The bathroom floors weren’t much better, and if you’ve ever been in a bathroom in an old Chinatown building…well, you don’t need any further information.
Well, for years, at least twice a month, we’d truck into Boston’s Chinatown, and dine at the “House of Roy” on Tyler Street. We were hooked. We were addicted to that place, like Drago to those injections from Bridgette Nielson. Sometimes we’d meet other families, sometimes just us, but two things never changed: the greatest fortune cookie joke ever (“Help, I’m being held prisoner in a Chinese fortune-cookie factory.” Flip it over: “Never mind, I escaped.” I still use this joke to this day.) Second, the House of Roy Special, and boy, was this special.
Long before I avoided foods that were biblically not kosher (shellfish and pork, for you fans keeping score at home), the “Special” was the apex of gastronomical pleasures. I only wish I had an old menu so I could explain everything in this bucket of food. It was a mélange of beef, chicken, shrimp, peapods, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots tossed in the brown sauce. Poured onto a platter, it was surrounded by fried wontons, and covered with pork strips. Here me now and believe me later…this was an orgiastic feast for the senses.
My parents promised me that I could have my own Special, the week before my bar mitzvah, as my ticket to manhood. My Dad said I could never finish it off, as it was really made for 14 people. Well, I was determined to show him…I went deep into training. I ate light that whole weekend, and didn’t eat at all on Sunday, preparing for Sunday night’s repast. Well, we ordered two, one for the rest of the table, and one for me.
The anticipation was more than I could bear…I dug into that thing like John Henry, swinging his mighty hammer. I ate, and ate, and ate some more, and I didn’t make a frigging dent! It’s like the thing was haunted, regenerating itself after every bite I took. I vaguely recall my father taking the rest, after I passed out into my food coma. I ate so much; I still think I have some left in me, over 30 years later.
When we left, I don’t think I made it 10 feet from the steps, but I’m sure Roy appreciated it when I decided to decorate the parking lot instead of his rest room. It was immense, intense, and a fine “how do you do” into the landscape of bingeing, and apparently purging. Unlike my father, who can consume and immense amount of food, and ate 19 lobsters in a sitting once, I am a mere amateur.
Roy’s is gone now, and Roy himself, who was probably a classmate of Confucious, is gone as well.
Viva House of Roy!
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