Showing posts with label Butte. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Butte. Show all posts

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Pekin Noodle Parlor in Butte, MT - The Worst Meal Experienced

Every once in awhile, there’s a restaurant trip you need to take just for the experience. For years, I had read about the Pekin Noodle Parlor in Butte, MT as it was the oldest Chinese-American restaurant in the US as well as the Western Hemisphere. The assumption is that if a restaurant has been open since 1916, they must be doing something right.


The Pekin Noodle Parlor was originally a brothel and opium den. So as an avid fan of history, I looked forward to one day making a visit.

As I was goIng to be just 50 minutes away in Georgetown Lake, so saw the opportunity to make the visit to see how a restaurant could be open so long as the world changed greatly in regards to the brothel and opium business.

Turns out that the only reason the Pekin Noodle House was still open is because it’s a Chinese restaurant in Butte, MT.


When I arrived at the hotel this morning to check-in, the hotel clerk asked what I was looking n town for when he saw my Chilean ID. I told him that I was in the area and wanted to try the Pekin Noodle Parlor. He then proceeded to tell me a story of how it’s horrible now and not worth going to for even a meal. He told me a story of how the last owner in the nearly 100-year family-run business died  and that the son from New York took over. He said the son has a drug problem and it’s been poor quality ever since. This is just why was told to me, I have no way of knowing if this is the local myth of reality.

Despite that, I made the trip to Pekin Noodle Parlor.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the bright neon lights, seemingly better suited for Times Square in New York. I approached the door, admired all the nostalgia and historical records for m the windows and and saw the long staircase to my destination beyond me the front door. 





Turn to the right and open the door and you’re in the lounge. It might be a brothel theme based on the women coming out in makeup, but I’m confused as it’s been all parents and kids exiting.




My destination is to the left, the restaurant. 

I looked inside the window of the door and saw 3 people in two groups waiting, so I stayed outside to social distance rather than crowd the area. But when more people entered down below and came up the stairs, I was forced to go inside. Waiting inside, whom I didn’t see, were many other people. Turns out almost everyone was waiting for takeout. But there was no way to differentiate, so it was just a mess. 

There were (2) women working, responsible for all of the seated patrons and take-out deliveries. They were clearly overworked as one women was doing a good 90% of the visible work of being the hostess, seating people, taking orders, bringing the food to tables, and bringing all take-out food via a trolley to the front of the long line. She might be the hardest working waitress I’ve ever seen. She’s been running around, non-stop since I arrived.

Due to the lack of staffing, during my 30-minute wait, nobody came to seat anyone. When you looked down the hallway with the same individual booths, it was clear that a third of the restaurant booths/tables were empty, but hadn’t been cleared yet, covered in the plates. Hence no seating, as there were only 2 people covering the entire front of the house.

While waiting, I met a gentleman who was explaining his story. He was told that his food would be ready for pickup at 5pm, when the restaurant opened. It was now 6pm and he had been waiting for the hour.

After a 30 minute wait for me, I sat down.

The first sight was an unused table cubicle being used for storage. It was nice to see, as it brought back memories of growing up in a small rural town where this site was common as there were no medium-to-high end restaurants.




Upon reviewing the menu online earlier in the week, I originally had planned on ordering the Pork Wor Mein noodles, with Wonton Soup and the (3) Egg Rolls. But when I saw the dinner options, I thought it might be a better option than ordering larger individual portions of each. 




I opted for the #2 dinner: Pork Chow Mein with sweet and sour pork “ribs” and mushroom fried rice along with soup, tea and a fortune cookie. The soup of the day was Egg Drop Soup, so I passed on that and instead ordered wonton soup.  I still wanted an American-style egg roll, so I ordered them as well.



The egg rolls arrived quite quickly. I took a photo, placed it on my plate and took a bite. I don’t know what it was. There is  clearly something inside, and it was fried, but the only flavor was black pepper. That’s it. Not spIcy, just as if 1 part powdered black pepper was mixed with 1 part of random translucent white goop, wrapped and fried. 

It was not fit for human consumption. 




I took a bite of each to see if it was just (1) bad roll. They were all the same. I let the waitress know she could take them away when she delivered the #2 dinner, saying they were inedible. She said there would be no charge.

So now I had my wonton soup and the dinner plate. 

Wonton Soup is a basic Chinese-American dish that you really can’t do wrong if you’re using quality pork that isn’t rancid. I assume the wonton soup they serve at the Pekin Noodle House is vegetarian as it was just empty wonton noodles with no filling.





I then turned to the dinner plate. 




I started with the Pork Chow Mein and noticed it was just vegetable chow mein  with cold and dry shredded pork on top.

But wait, there’s more!

I dug below and saw that these weren’t chow mein noodles at all, but instead just the typical cracker-like appetizer chow mein with the consistency of thin bread sticks. You could pick them up and crack them, but couldn’t cut through them with a knife.





I ate the cold celery, onion and pork as sustenance. I was hungry and it was in-par with military rations.

I then turned to the Mushroom Fried Rice. Note that  is was just plain fried rice topped with canned mushrooms. The sliced scallion was the only thing fresh. 

But once getting over the canned mushrooms, the rice seemed to follow in the footsteps of the egg rolls as it was inedible, and if you squint in the right light, you could almost see the crystallized salt. It was as if the rice was cooked and then soaked overnight in pure salt water. 

Last chance for a full stomach was to try the pork “ribs”. The small morels arrived, tender in their sweet and sour sauce. They were quite tasty, although they were well below room temperature as if they were already made, microwaved on low, and then mixed in warm sauce. So the sauce was warm while the meat was cold. That wasn’t their intention. 

Now the meal was over and they still hadn’t brought the tea that comes with the dinner. 

I had to ask for it. 

After they brought the check.



Pekin Noodle Parlor is by far the worst Chinese or Chinese-American restaurant I have every visited. 

My order was arguably the worst meal I’ve ever eaten and that includes those that tasted great but gave me eColi poisoning. 


If you’re in Butte, MT, drive by and take a photo. It’s a historical landmark. But do not eat there. Save yourself. But consider walking in and donating cash to the waitress. She deserves more.

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