Is It Any Good?

Great Hong Kong style eating in Alhambra.

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Pardon me, while I stand here, a little amazed.

I’m at Baccali, which admittedly does not sound like the most interesting of Chinese Rotisserie places. Heck, it doesn’t sound like a Chinese place at all.

And yet…the lines. The lines.

This place is always crowded.

My first attempt to come here was yesterday, a Sunday. Admittedly a mistake, because Sundays are all about going out in this community. (Privately, I was hoping everyone in San Gabriel was going to be saving up room to hit the 626 Night Market that evening…which tells you all you need to know about how I think). When I got to the restaurant, I saw a mass of people outside. It told me two things. One, this place is way popular. And two, I needed to make alternate plans for my lunch.

I came back again the next day, this time determined to get in, and…damn still crowded. There are even people waiting outside to get in.

I ain’t gonna slow my roll now. In I go, and…

…oh wow.

I mean, really oh wow. Do you smell this place. Can you feel all the–

Oh, that’s right. You’re reading this. So…you kinda…well..can’t.

Anyway, the place smells amazing. I find the Manager working the front and get a number. I’m 27. The first number I hear called is 21, so…not too bad. I spend the time wisely, perusing the lunch menu, making my decisions.

Putting a finger on this place is no easy task. It’s described by the wider Foodie world as a Hong Kong Cafe. Here’s how Merrill Shindler of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune described it back in April:

What I refer to as Hong Kong-style cafes are restaurants, often open from early morning until late night, that split the difference between Chinese and Western fare, with a strong edge of old-school continental. What that translates into is everything from a Spam and egg sandwich to grilled salmon with caper-lemon sauce and roast chicken with Hainan-style rice to shredded pork chow mein. The places tend to have bright-eyed names like the Sunday Cafe, the Happy Cafe, the Good Times Cafe — or, in this case, Baccali.

Late at night — after midnight — the crowd at Baccali is young, hip, dressed up and out for fun. But go during the day, and it’s their folks or their grand-folks, ordering oversized dishes from a oversized series of menus. Trying to figure out what to order at Baccali can be an exercise in both culture shock and the simple problem of too many choices.

Gotta say, Merrill kinda nailed it.

It is a place where the line between Chinese and Western gets blurry. Kinda like Tasty Garden, but with a slightly different focus on the menu.

Man, I like this place.

I wonder if this place was like Savoy Kitchen not too far away from here, in that it was an old-school Alhambra joint taken over by Chinese Ownership. In this case, they kept the name, and made everything else Asian, especially the menu.

Works for me.

You’ll be sitting in a large, noisy dining room, not unlike a Denny’s, but remodeled beautifully with all the wood exposed, frames hanging above your head. The place is deceptively large. It looks…well…one size when you walk up to it, and another from the outside.

Trust me, wait out the lines. Get yourself in there. Enjoy yourself.

 

WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Okay, so was it wrong for me to go for the Spam, Egg and Ramen in Soup?

The Spam, Egg and Ramen in Soup at Baccali.

Yeah, I don’t care. I’d totally have this again.

Yeah, you are looking at that right. That is a perfectly fried up egg, sunny-side up, along three beautiful pieces of Spam (and yes, Spam can be beautiful) fresh off the grill.

This is as good as it looks. Well, actually, I should say almost as good as it looks. Because while the egg was fantastic (make sure to break up the yolk and mix it in with the noodles), while the Spam was delicious, the broth is a little so-so. It’s a vegetable/mushroom broth that’s not going to have any Ramen shaking in it’s boots. It’s light, which is a good thing, and not as flavorful as you were hoping. At least not as flavorful as I was hoping.

But still…totally having this again.

I had the Chinese Broccoli and Sausage Fried Rice on a second visit.  I was a bit disappointed in that was…well…just fried rice.  I wish there was more Broccoli the mix, but still it was good, even though it was just fried rice.  Still, you can taste the Chinese Sausage, and that’s really all I needed.

The Sausage Fried Rice at Baccali.

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Try not to be too intimidated by the line outside. Baccali is huge, huge I says! On further reflection, I probably should have stayed on my first attempt. Just walk in, get a number, and be a little patient.

 

PARKING: Now here is the real trick. Baccali’s has a lot, a pretty big lot. A pretty big and free lot.

Doesn’t mean there are a lot of spaces in that lot.

Frankly, I got stupid lucky on my second visit, and got a space. But be careful. The Lot is walled in, so if you go for a space at the far end of a line, you may have to do an uncomfortable U-turn around because if there is not a space there, you will be a little trapped.

You can try to see what’s what along Valley, but that’s going to depend on the time of day you’re at.

Baccali in Alhambra.

MAP DIRECTIONS:
Baccali
245 W. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801

Tel: (626) 293-3300

Hours:
Sunday-Thursday: 8:00 am – 1:00 am
Friday-Saturday: 8:00 am – 2:00 am