Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Do Gooders

My daughter Alexis got hooked on the Backyardigans a couple of years ago. It’s an insufferable cartoon done in computer animation that features a socially awkward Penguin named Pablo, a moose named Tyrone, and three animals I’ve never been able to identity named Uniqua, Tasha, and Austin. Alexis somehow suckered me into getting her a collection of these God awful shows on DVD.

Her favorite episode is called “The Do Gooders,” where the kids pretend to be members of a rough and tough gang, but they’ve traded in the stereotypical gang behavior for a happier, more productive cause: helping others. And of course they sing a song called “We are the Do Gooders" which, because my daughter has watched the episode a hundred plus times, is forever etched in my brain. There’s barely room with all of the Sixties and Seventies sitcom jingles, but it’s in there.

I caught myself singing this stupid Backyardigans song in the truck today on the way to work. In a desperate attempt to get it out of my head, I started thinking about what I might do for my next blog post. And then in a perfect storm of brilliant notion and stupid cartoon song, I hatched an idea. Why not be a do gooder myself. I remember taking issue in my last post with this either/or mentality and challenging everyone to think in terms of solving problems and not just critiquing, or worse denying, them.

There are so many restaurants in the area that some of them are getting lost in the shuffle, and as a result are suffering in one way or another. Most of our Mexican restaurants are doing pretty well, at least the ones Stephanie and I have visited, but other local eateries are not. Others still are fairly new and need the support of our community to ensure their survival.

So here’s my plan: I’m going to periodically write about a restaurant that I think needs help in some way, and I am going to share the story with you. I’m also going to go eat there because that’s about the best thing we can do to support our local restaurant owners. I would challenge you to try these places out as well, since strength in numbers can equate to a big boost for our brothers and sisters in the restaurant industry who are already doing their part to make Flint a strong and stable place.

If you go to one of the restaurants that I profile, and if you send me some words of testimonial/critique/review, I’ll create a collective review reflecting as many of your voices as possible and post it on the blog. I’ll also ask fellow bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, and others to link the reviews to their sites and pages to give each restaurant maximum exposure.
By the way, Matt Bach from the Flint Area Convention & Visitors Bureau included Eating Flint in his Changing Perceptions of Flint report, which he updates ever day. Thanks Matt. I would urge you to contact Matt and get on his list so that you can receive his daily report on what’s happening in Flint, what conversations are happening that involve Flint, and what media coverage Flint is getting. It’s a great way to stay informed. Send your request to Matt at mbach@flint.travel.

So the first restaurant that I’m going to visit and then write about is House of Hunan. It’s a sit- down Chinese place with a really classy décor and very good menu. The food is consistently good, and the prices are quite reasonable. House of Hunan is fairly new, but it’s every bit as good as the King of Chinese restaurants in Flint, The Empress of China. As I see it, though, House of Hunan is facing two challenges.

First, they are located on South Dort Highway, where the restaurant failure rate, it seems, is higher than anywhere else in the county. They opened in the old Big Boy building, and after Big Boy closed at least three other restaurants moved in, and eventually closed. So Hunan has the jinx factor working against it.

The other challenge is that they are located just down the road from Empress of China. It’s unfortunate that two restaurants of this quality—and I believe they are the best two Chinese restaurants we have—are competing with each other in such close proximity. I’m sure that’s not helping Hunan's cause either. I cannot say whether House of Hunan is struggling for survival or not, but whenever I’ve been there, the cars in the parking lot have been few in number.

If you haven’t been there before, try them for lunch first. You can get some good combination specials and try multiple menu items in one visit. If I have enough feedback from you by the end of next week, I’ll write a review and try to get it widely circulated. If not, I’ll record the Do Gooders song and attach it to every blog post I write so it gets stuck in your gray matter the way it’s stuck in mine. “We are the Dooooooo Gooders. We rumble and ro-o-ar.”


  1. I have eaten at House of Hunan several times. For vegetarians, they have the best basket of steamed vegetables in town. Please try them out
    all you Chinese food lovers. I worry about them, too. The service is great and the food is just right.

  2. When the Flint Journal used to have weekly reviews of eateries by (gag) Cy Leder, I begged and begged to have just a simple listing of whether it was vegetarian friendly next to ambiance or price-something more than a tossed salad or french fries. Never happened. The Detroit papers took that simple wording out especially after Molly Abraham got jerked from paper to paper. My daughter for years kept a blog of Detroit metro area eateries and since I was with her, she always mentioned it as my meals were always non-animal. She now does the Lansing area but has a husband/carnivore with her. I have a small journal of every place I have ever eaten, both local and outstate. I also have the menus of them and many are now gone. I rate them based on veggie friendliness and enjoyment in general. I think its time for me to make that list available.

  3. Jan,

    I think making that list available is a great idea. Let me know how I can help. And you're right, too often we forget our vegetarian friends when we engage in conversations about food. I don't find very many vegetarian options on the Mexican menus, but I'll start looking a little closer.

  4. Is it where El Portraro's used to be?

  5. Is what where El Potrero used to be? House of Hunan? No. It's where Big Boy used to be, right next to where Bill Knapps used to be.

  6. Yes, I meant is House of Hunan where El Portraro used to be. Now I know. Thanks!

  7. Hi Bob!

    I think your blog is great! I found out about it on Matt Bach's "Changing Perceptions of Flint", which I also think is great! I publish Travelhost of Flint and the Thumb Magazine. I think we all have the same goal of trying to tell people how much Flint has to offer and helping local businesses. Please let me know how I can help you!

  8. I went there on a date a few days ago, I found the service and the lunch prices to be very impressive, better than Empress of China actually. As far as the food however, while well above average for local Chinese cuisine, It didn't hold up against Empress. I agree, if House of Hunan were located nearer to where I live downtown, and their dinner prices were slighly lower I would find it to be a great alternative to good ol' Empress of China. However, I don't know of anyone who would choose H.O.H.'s General Tso's or Crab Rangoons over those served at E.O.C.

  9. Shwat?! Thanks for sharing your feedback. It's been awhile since I've eaten at Empress, but considering your comparison, I'm going to have to pay them a visit and see for myself.

  10. House of Hunan has a really good (and vegetarian) eggplant dish, with a fantastic barbecue flavor. They are really nice to our kids, too.

    Bob, here's something about Backyardigans: most of their songs are quite clever takeoffs on pop songs. Trying to figure out which one can be a great way to pull your hair out for an afternoon. The tune to a song is one of the few things you can't Google.