There’s a late-night Chinese restaurant in my former home that my friends and I would hit up after a harsh barhopping sesh. Open well after 2 am, the joint became our official afterparty—chopsticks replaced glow sticks, and MSG did the same for MDMA.

I have yet to find a proper Santa Fe replacement, but with our limited nightlife scene, the fact that it’s open till 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays—and, gasp!, 9 pm on Sundays—

Double Dragon II

(3005 St. Francis Drive, Ste. 3D, 989-8880) does the trick.

A go-to to-go destination,

is also the home of the $5.45 lunch special; “healthy style” meals that feature “80% less oil, 50% less fat” and “100% same great taste,” and crab Rangoon so delectable ($3.55 for six) that if it were legal in our fine state, I’d marry it.

The walls are a deep crimson. Pleather-covered booths line the dining room, paper lantern light fixtures supply mood lighting, and a soft erhu-centric soundtrack fills the air along with the clickety-clack of plates being stacked in the open kitchen.

On a recent weekend visit, I asked my server which of the chef’s specialties she recommends. “Teriyaki chicken!” she responds effusively. Based on enthusiasm alone, I take her recommendation on board. I add the “house special” egg foo young ($7.95), which includes shrimp, beef and chicken—all the basic food groups—and round out the order with a side of vegetable spring rolls ($2.20 for two).

The latter arrives lightning fast, just three minutes after I place my order. They’re superbly stuffed, piping hot, and come accompanied by a Jolly Rancher-hued sweet & sour sauce. The rest of the food arrives soon after.

Thanks to the skin being left on, the chicken bits are delightfully crispy. They have a hint of cinnamon, and the fact that they weren’t drowned in thick sauce is a welcome surprise. The entrée is stacked on a heaping bed of broccoli, mushrooms, sliced celery, carrots and summer squash, and is paired with a hearty bowl of fluffy white rice.

“Smooth?” the waitress asks as I’m munching down. “You like it?”

The foo young is surprisingly bland, considering its symphonic components, but even though it didn’t meet the requirements to get past the velvet rope of my Styrofoam leftovers box, it got the job done.

Two years into its run, the restaurant made headlines when owners Wen Ping Chen and Wen Qiu Chen

in late August for allegedly harboring illegal aliens who worked at both its Santa Fe and Rio Rancho locations.

“We never closed,” Ping Chen tells me as he finishes washing a steaming pot. “I got into trouble, but we never closed.”

As I make my way through the chicken, my server starts schooling a neighboring table on the ins and outs of Buddhism. “In Chinese philosophy, everything is empty,” she explains. Halfway through my meal, I was feeling anything but.

Far from gourmet, DD2 is the perfect culinary escape for a quick and cheap meal. Zen is just an added bonus.

The check comes with the prerequisite fortune cookie and, perhaps, the most fitting fortune ever: “You’ll accomplish more later if you have a little fun this weekend.”

Oh, I will. See you next Friday, Double Dragon II. Perhaps next time, I’ll order soy sauce bottle service.


Seven days a week until 9 pm or later


Garden-variety Chinese comfort grub with a smile

Order up:

Faster than you can say “moo goo gai pan”

Best bet:

The put a ring on it-worthy crab Rangoon