NJ Dining: Chan's Dragon Inn


Chan’s Dragon Inn
630 Broad Ave, Ridgefield, NJ
(201) 943-1276

I’d like to think that since getting married 11 years ago, and then later on forming eGullet, my tastes in Asian cuisine and particularly Chinese food have matured. I love great regional Chinese food, particularly real Sichuan, Hunan and Shanghainese food when I can get it, and I’m a frequent customer of several the local Hong Kong-Style Dim Sum haunts in the area as well. Still, at the end of the day you sometimes want the Chinese food of your youth, that your parents and grandparents introduced you to. For me, its the sort of Chinese food that was (and still is) served at places like King Yum in Fresh Meadows, Queens (and long-gone venues like Trader Vic’s and Don The Beachcomber) a totally American style of Chinese food that never, ever existed in Asia and is served in such kitschy atmospheres, you’d think you’d died gone to to Tiki hell.

Chan’s Dragon Inn is such a place. True to my own memories of King Yum while growing up in Queens, Chan’s is totally bad-ass old-school Polynesian Chinese, and they’ve been proudly serving knock-you-flat-on-your-ass umbrella drinks and Egg Foo Young since 1965. Walking into this restaurant throws you right into a time warp, where life was simpler back then, as were tastes in food. People wanted to escape a bit in their dining experience, even if it was in a totally faux atmosphere, and the food really wasn’t truly Polynesian. It doesn’t matter — I’m a complete sucker for this type of place.

To fully appreciate it, you really need to be immersed in the atmosphere itself (click for video, uploaded to Google).

The storefront on Broad Ave.

If you’re not old enough to remember what Master Charge, Carte Blanche and BankAmericard is, you’re likely going to be somewhat traumatized by what lies inside.

Abandon all hope, ye who orders from this drink menu. You might not be able to find your way back home afterwards.

That drink is most definitely on fire.

Wonton soup, in a classic American-Chinese preparation with peices of bright red roast pork in it..

Shrimp with Lobster Sauce and Roast Pork Fried Rice. This and Egg Foo Young (below) are the benchmark dishes of any Amercian-Chinese restaurant. Chan’s versions are excellent and retro-tastic.

Egg Roll — with both pork and shrimp in it, fried to golden brown perfection.

27 Responses to NJ Dining: Chan's Dragon Inn

  1. Booklyn says:

    So nu, where are the spare ribs?

  2. Stash says:

    How does this compare with that place in Queens that you posted about on eG a while back?

  3. I like King Yum’s food a little bit better. But that requires that I go over two bridges and pay a bunch of tolls!

  4. Stash says:

    Or you could always get a pied-a-tierre here in the city. =P

    Now I have a craving for a pu-pu platter. Haven’t had one of those since the early 1980s.

    Yes, I’m dating myself.

  5. [...] So, for lack of a better description, I didn’t get enough umbrella drinks and expertly prepared bad American Chinese food this week, so Sunday night we went to North Jersey’s other Polynesian throwback, Lee’s Hawaiian Islander in Rutherford. [...]

  6. AR says:

    Wow, I’d never thought I’d see my aunt’s restaurant in electronic print. I never understood that whole Polynesian theme when I was growing up and I still don’t. The restaurant serves Chinese American food, nothing remotely Polynesian about it. I visted the restaurant two years ago, on an invitation from my aunt, with my husband and he got a huge kick over the decor. It was still the same place I remember as a kid, nothing had changed other than a few members on the staff.

  7. Barbara says:

    This is so true! When Chans Waikiki in Paramus closed, my husband and I were distraught. We couldn’t find the delicious Chinese food we adored as children growing up in NYC; nothing compared. Then, we stumbled upon Chans Dragon Inn and were shocked to see it was the same great food (and people) as the original. Now we’re happy and go there every week. Bennie is the best waiter in the planet!! Ask for the shrimp with lobster sauce with black bean sauce – it’s amazing. So is the chicken chow mein cantonese style (with crispy noodles). Best dishes ever.

  8. Michelle says:

    I have been going to Chan’s since I was born. My parents went on their first date there. It is so nice to hear the rave reviews about it. I love the place it brings me back to my childhood every time I walk in. The drinks really do knock you on your ass! There the BEST!

  9. Joy Willinger says:

    I have been looking for a place like this. Last weekend we enjoyed a great “old school” meal! Looking forward to going back again.

  10. billy sal says:

    My grandparents went there on opening night in the 60′s I believe. Chan’s is fantastic and it hasn’t changed in my 29 years on this planet.

  11. Phil says:

    Is this the same Chan’s that was on RT 4 in Paramus? Same Owners?

  12. Tom Mazza says:

    Please !!!! I need to know too if this is the same as Chan’s on Rt 4 in Paramus. I was sick when that place closed down. I lived in Garfield and used to order take out from there. The food was that great, it was worth the trip. When I ate there, the drinks were the best I ever had in my life. Mai Tai especially. If this place is one half of what Chan’s Waikiki , please e-mail me and let me know. I have not found a better place than Chan’s. Please tell me this is the place I need to go. E-mail me at tommazzaprint@optonline.net

  13. ss66 says:

    I dont believe its the same owners as the chan’s on rt 4, “chan” is a relatively common name. This chan’s, however, is really really good so it’s worth a try!

  14. Polly says:

    Planning a trip back to NJ. We often went to Chan’s in the 1970′s. Glad to know it is still there. We are going to let our son “experience” the best food in NNJ we remember! My husband loved the war bor steak! I loved their Wintermelon Soup. Thanks for the pictures – it brought happy tears to my eyes. :)

  15. Lisa says:

    We absolutely LOVE Chan’s Dragon Inn. They have the best (and biggest!) egg rolls. I wish it was closer to my house though. Takes us 30+ minutes to get there, but it’s so worth it! The Pu Pu Platter is pretty awesome too. In fact, I’ve never had a bad meal there.

  16. Charlieman says:

    I was one of the main contributers to the listing for Chan’s in the Tiki Road Trip book. I am so glad that they are still thriving. OMG, I am about to order Chinese again from the local takeout where I now live. I miss Chan’s and the South Pacific in Fords, which closed down 10 years ago. I will have to take the 1.5 hour drive one of these days just to get over there, and show my kids how cool the place is. Thanks to all of you patrons who are keeping it alive for the day I return.

  17. Ona Albert says:

    Thanks for the memory. I remember Chan’s in Paramus, next to the Ford Motor Plant. We went there on many Sundays in the early and mid seventies.

    We lived in BROOKLYN, and enjoyed the drive over the G. Washington bridge, and the wonderful food that they dished out, tableside.

    Thanks for the memories

    Ona Albert

  18. Joe C says:

    my wife and i ate here yesterday. we never had such bad food in our lives. either the people who eat here have no idea of what chinese food is or the owner of this establishment decided to play a joke on us. the place is so dark we could hardly see we had to move to another table where there was more light. the place is also decorated with christmas trees and a neon santa claus sled over a wooden hut tiki bar along with photos of hawaii and /or polynesia. no windows anywhere. the wonton soup came right out of the dishwasher with 2 wontons floating in a clear broth that was really water , but that was the good part. the lo mein my wife orderd was unedible, all chopped up in small pieces , no taste at all and it sat next to a gooey lump of blackend fried rice that also had no taste . she refused to eat it. the waiter offerd her to have another meal but of course she said no. my double cooked pork was either undercooked pork or rubber cooked pork chewy very hard to swallow and the fried rice was unedible. to the owners credit he didnt charge for my wifes meal i took mine out and dumped it in the trash . some poor cat will probably die from eating it. enough said.

  19. Pat says:

    I’ve never found another restaurant that compares with Chan’s Waikiki in Paramus or the Chan’s restaurant in Mahwah! One of my favorite things about them both was the amazing Mai Tai they made in the cool ceramic Tiki glasses! I have never been able to recreate that recipe. Does anyone know their particular recipe?

  20. Rich says:

    In response to some earlier comments, Chans’s Dragon Inn was most definately related to Chan’s Waikiki on Route 4 East in Paramus and Chan’s Hawaii right off of Route 17 on Route 202 in Mahwah. Dragon Inn opened first. I grew up in Cliffside Park and was 11 when the Dragon Inn opened in 1965. Paramus opened about seven years later and lasted until the mid nineties. Chan’s Hawaii opened in the Seventies and actually had the shortest run. It closed about 1983.
    Having eaten in many a Chinese restaurant over the years with different styles of influence added to their menus, they are vastly different than the food still served today at Chan’s Dragon Inn. This was the Chinese food of my youth. Prior to Chan’s opening in 1965 my family would frequent Chinatown at least once a month. Although this Polynesian theme to the Dragon Inn made it unique, the food was equally delicious and the same as what we had in Chinatown.
    Unfortunately there are few restaurants like this around today. Chan’s is still the best. If you have never been there, it is worth the trip just to experience the decor, which has changed very little since it opened. It feels like there is a party going on. The background music is purely American standards, done with a Polynesian accent. The drinks come in tall glasses with umbrellas, and the food is always the same, DELICIOUS. The menu has changed little in the past 45 years, but I guess you stick with what works.
    Thanks Chan’s for all the wonderful food and great memories you have provided over the years. Keep it up.

  21. Michael says:

    Update, July 2010. Chan’s is still there and still great. The food, from Pu Pu Platters to Wor Shu Duck, Egg Foo Young, Subgum Wonton, you name it, it is great. Chuck the bartender has long since retired, but from Thomas to now Bob, they are top notch. A must go!!

  22. nick says:

    Wow, I was just posting some really old vintage photos of Garden State Plaza to my FB page, including the big Santa that went up for the holidays in the parking lot…one memorable evening after dinner at Chans WaiKiKi on Route 4, when clearly the adults had partaken in their share of ZOMBIES, we all took a ride over to the empty parking lot to say HELLO to Santa!!!!!!! It was great growing up in the 70s, but looking back, kinda crazy!!! Chans was always the best place we ever ate out, at least once a month…I live very close to the Ridgefield circle location now, and can’t believe I haven’t been there…it’s definitely going on my things-to-do list, thanks to all above for the updates and fond memories!!!!!!

  23. Tom Mazza says:

    Rick,

    Thanks for the great memories of The Garden State Plaza (A great place I used to cut high school) Also loved the old Bergen Mall. I was sick seeing it torn apart. Another piece of Bergen County history lost to change.

    And of course the Great Chan’s Waikiki will always be my favorite and best loved Chinese restaurant bar non. Back in the 70′s I downed many a Mai Tai. Their spare ribs were heavenly, wonton soup with medallion sized pork, sweet & sour robs, chicken or pork were beyond words.

    I took Jason’s advice on Chan’s Dragon Inn several times and thought I was in a time warp. Everything in that place including the great waiters and the food is as close if not exact to Chan’s on Rt. 4. Since I left New Jersey for the Midwest, I will never experience that kind of food unless I come back to NJ for a visit. It will be on my “to do” list. I think you will enjoy it. If I lived as close as you, I’d be there every Saturday night. This is as close as you will get to the Chan’s Waikiki of Paramus.

  24. William Rini says:

    Question for Joe C (Apri 21, 2009) – What local (Bergen County) restaurants do you like?

    Bill R.l

  25. Ken L says:

    Thanks for this post! I fondly remember the Chan’s on Rt. 4. I loved that place! Hope to get to try the Dragon soon. Do you by chance remember THE ORIENTAL LUAU in Old Tappan? Loved that place as well…

    http://justshootitphotography.blogspot.com/2010/11/oriental-luau-old-tappan-nj.html

    Kenny from Wanaque

  26. brett.ludy@gmail.com says:

    never have i had fried rice like Chans for over 20 years… only order from there now

  27. Ambrose T. Wolfinger says:

    I just “re-discovered” Chans about a year and half ago. My father used to take us there in the 1960s. Pu-Pu platter & Char Shu Ding were the favorites although I was known to ask for the occasional “chinese” hot dog.

    I was visiting Jersey and a friend recommended we go there. I thought he was crazy… but took the plunge. Boy am I glad I did!

    The interesting thing about Chan’s is it actually hasn’t changed very much at all. The interior is exactly the same as it was 40 years ago. The owners decided to just have it all refurbished… brilliant. And the food… as incredible as I remember it. My friends and I go in there and order about a dozen different dishes. Spare Ribs and Egg rolls of course. Not many places still use the tiny shrimp in their egg
    rolls. Too expensive. But Chan’s doesn’t skimp! The Lemon Chicken is superb and the Mooshu pork Sublime. And the topper, oddly enough, was the Chocolate ice cream with pineapple. Served in the metal cup, it has a unique metallic tang to it that thrust me back to my childhood.

    I will grant you… this is mostly American Style Chinese food. A little greasy at times but oh so full of flavor. I am a big fan of the the more authentic little holes in the wall in Chinatown, but for retro, nostalgia Chinese… Chan’s is the bomb!

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