First the bad news. Beijing Café is smack-dab in the middle of Boston University, surrounded by hordes of students; parking is a nightmare; the yellow-and-gray color scheme is a downer; and one of the two waitresses tends to be grumpy.
It doesn’t matter. For Chinese-food aficionados operating on a budget, Beijing Café is a hidden treasure — a reliable destination for quick, tasty lunches that cost about six clams, tip included. The batter on the General Gau’s chicken (the best in town, the proprietors claim) was crisp and unusually light, and the sauce — which featured plenty of red pepper — was scalp-tinglingly hot. At lunch, it’s yours for all of $4.95, along with white or fried rice, an egg roll or a couple of crab rangoons, and a pot of tea. (Ordered as a stand-alone entrée, it’ll set you back $8.95.)
The restaurant also has a knack for tofu. The sesame tofu ($4.95/lunch special; $6.95/entree), was flat-out terrific: crispy outside, gooey inside, bathed in a better-than-usual sauce that finished sour after starting sweet. The twice-cooked pork ($4.95) wasn’t bad, either: the meat was lean and tender, the brown-bean sauce simple but flavorful, and the veggies — crisp, not overcooked — tasted like they’d been prepared just a few minutes earlier.
In fact, freshness is something of a Beijing Café trademark. Every dish I ordered arrived piping hot, and both the appetizers and main dishes tasted like they’d been cooked in fresh oil. (If you dig cheap Chinese food, you know this is a rarity.) Don’t bring your parents to Beijing Café on their first visit to Boston, and definitely don’t drop in on your anniversary. But if you feel like Chinese, and only have a few bucks in your wallet, you could do much, much worse.
Beijing Café, 728 Comm Ave, Boston | Open Mon - Fri, 11 am - 11 pm; Sat and Sun, noon - 11 pm |617.536.1616.