We Have Found the Strangest, Most Magical Chinese Buffet in Houston

Categories: Off the Wall

pekingbo1.JPG
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The weirdest (and most badass?) Chinese buffet in Houston.
When I crave Chinese food, I go to Chinatown.

When I crave Americanized Chinese food served out of a chafing dish, I talk to Joshua Martinez of The Modular food truck. He shares an affinity for what he calls "dirty Chinese" with the owner of the Rice Box food truck, John Peterson. They share tips and new discoveries with each other, eager to try out the greasiest of the greasy spoon Chinese buffets in town. Recently, Martinez let me in on one of his new finds.

It started with a photo he sent me of intricately painted china sitting in a buffet under heat lamps. On top of the plates, there was...

"What is that?" was the only logical response to that photo. "Is that...are those..."

His reply was swift.

"Yes, those are Hot Cheetos."

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The usual Americanized Chinese buffet offerings.
At Peking Bo, a rather spacious Chinese American restaurant with quite possibly the most unique buffet in town, you can pay an even $7 for the oddest assortment of Chinese and vending machine food around.

The main buffet is fairly standard. It's nostalgic Chinese American food--spring rolls glistening with MSG crystals, limp lo mein noodles, General Tso's chicken. It's also American food like chicken nuggets and french fries and the slightly more buffet-obscure creamed corn. There's a small salad bar with iceberg lettuce, pickles, carrot sticks and canned pineapple that tastes like the fruit cups you might remember from elementary school. It's strange and lovely.

The strangest part of all, though, is the dessert cart. Separated from the main buffet of steaming hotel pans and the ever-present aroma of deep fried dough is a small section where you find the obvious chocolate pudding and Jell-O Jigglers, the less obvious arroz con leche and the utterly bizarre plate of mini marshmallows.

Next to the mini marshmallows, piled high like a slightly stale gelatin cloud, are animal crackers. Nearby are the Hot Cheetos, and next to those, a plate of mini rice cakes. On another dessert cart in the same area, you'll find mini powdered doughnuts and rice crispy treats.

"This is what you get when Chinese buffets go completely wrong," Martinez says. "Or right. Maybe they understand their demographic better than anyone else."

pekingbo3.JPG
Nothing settles the stomach after heavy Chinese food like a powdered doughnut.
I think he's on to something. At 3 p.m. on a weekday, I ventured out to Peking Bo, fearing that, like most incredible wonders of the world, it would be a chimera, a bit of culinary cryptozoology, something you hear about but never actually get to experience. Instead, I wandered into a bustling buffet in a strip center just off the East Freeway. Rarely do I see such a range of ages, races and walks of life communing in a single restaurant, but here we all were, united over a love of crab rangoons and MSG.

The actual Americanized Chinese food portion of the buffet contained some meats I feared to touch, but other items like the garlic green beans and spicy lo mein were actually quite good. The egg rolls are crisp and wonderfully greasy, and the beef and broccoli surprisingly flavorful.

And then there's the weird stuff--the marshmallows and Cheetos and the random chafing dish filled with sliced cucumbers swimming in Ranch dressing, located confusingly close to the dessert options. Still, when I saw child after child (and even several adults) stack their plates high with doughnuts, marshmallows and animal crackers, I realized that maybe I'm what's weird here, not the seemingly random assortment of items glowing under yellow lights.

Most restaurants fall somewhat short of giving the customer what they want because they're so focused on maintaining a sense of character and uniqueness.

Peking Bo gives its customers exactly what they want, even when what they want are slightly warmed Cheetos.

Location Info

Peking Bo

12160 E. Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Modular

, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Rice Box Truck

, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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22 comments
markie19
markie19 topcommenter

markie19

4 days ago

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Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

Thanks for the warning.

Antonio Silva
Antonio Silva

Love the food here. Been going here for about 20years.

Betty Jarvis
Betty Jarvis

Nick and Andrew I found y'all's next daaaaaate!!!

rlr4818
rlr4818

Sounds like pure dreck, but then, aren't most "Chinese" buffets?

lacyj63
lacyj63

Well, considering they have been in business for around 20-25 years, along with a sister location a few miles away, they must be doing something right to keep the place going like that!! And if you decide to check it out, be forewarned, they are a cash only business. No cards, no checks. At either location. But I would take their $7 buffet over China Ko or Cafe Ko any day of the week. Food is just as good at half the price.

twaynewren
twaynewren

This sounds truly awful.  But, a nicely written, interesting article.  Well, maybe I will try the Cheetos...were they good?

Sivært Død
Sivært Død

Seems like they're just shoveling shit into our fat American faces lol you know they laugh about it.

Barack_Scahub
Barack_Scahub

this is what happens when you take dining advice from the hipster who runs the modular

Zach Lopez
Zach Lopez

That Place is completely awful!!!!

veronica_carr
veronica_carr

It just sounds like a restaurant that is struggling and does not have the capacity to produce desserts in house. It seems endearing but if I want dirty Chinese I think I will stick with Hibachi Grill on I-10. Huge selection, great deserts made in house.

Wilton
Wilton

Can't wait to try it.

Sarita Garay
Sarita Garay

My son and husband love this place! Its always bz! always!

Nicki Stacy
Nicki Stacy

This is hilarious! Our favorite place was Dragon Seafood on Richmond. It's egg rolls are legendary at our house and we have yet to find an equal. If I knew the guy (Marathon Man, as we called him) who cooked was whipping up dishes elsewhere, I would go. This was a weekly meal for us. So. Good.

ekhilton
ekhilton

gross. Not for all the tea in China.

Anse
Anse

It's like a Chinese buffet after marijuana legalization. They only lack pizza, and there are other Chinese buffets that have the pizza and the crispy tacos. 

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