The problem with driving around a city is that the world zooms by at breakneck speed. I’ve probably driven past Fortune Cookies on Santa Monica Boulevard dozens of times over the years, but never really noticed it until congestion forced me to cruise down the street at a snail’s pace twice in two weeks.
Sharing a particularly rundown block with 7 Days Swap Meet, the restaurant looked like a complete disaster from the outside. The sun had clearly taken its toll on both the roof and signage, while the bold promises of chow mein and chop suey seemed dated and out of touch. Honestly, I was a bit frightened by the joint, but also deeply intrigued. Truly, this was the perfect place to take Zach of Midtown Lunch for a “Cheap Chinese Food Challenge.” I prayed we wouldn’t get sick.
Fortune Cookies is like no place I’ve ever eaten at in Los Angeles. With absolutely no press, buzz, or even a single Yelp review to speak of, the restaurant is completely off the radar. Stepping inside, I was surprised that the space and furnishings were not the least bit shoddy. A handful of tables were occupied by regular lunchers, mostly Mexican men taking a break from the grind.
When my lunch date arrived, we headed to the steam tables to scope out the wares. The drill at Fortune Cookies is very much the same as at Panda Express—choose a combo (one, two, or three items) and then select from the available options.
Zach chose a three item combo ($6.47). His flimsy Styrofoam plate was piled high with chow mein, fried rice, fried chicken, fried shrimp, and orange chicken. He found the slew of dishes pleasant and palatable, but his favorite was the “crispy and well seasoned” fried chicken.
I was planning on choosing the two item combo ($5.30), but Zach gently peer pressured me into getting three. I selected chow mein, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, kung pao chicken, and chop suey.
My expectations were lower than low coming into the restaurant, so I was seriously impressed to find that everything tasted exactly as it should. The rice and noodles were in fine form, while the sweet and sour chicken and kung pao chicken were solid B students.
I was most pleased with the chop suey; the seasonings were just right and both the vegetables and shrimp weren’t overcooked. [By the way, I asked for the chop suey on a separate plate because it looked kind of watery on the steam table.]
The absolute best part of lunching at Fortune Cookies was the pleasure of enjoying a cold cup of horchata ($.97) with my combo meal. Greasy Chinese food pairs tremendously with this cinnamony beverage.
Fortune Cookies was neither groundbreaking nor stomach aching, just an average place to indulge in Chinese American food. It passed the Cheap Chinese Food Challenge with flying colors.
5547 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90038