BILLERICA -- The buffet had long closed when we arrived at Chung King Rick's Café but it wasn't difficult to picture each metal dish filled to the brim with fresh Chinese food, as it is for lunch six days a week.
Among the 40 or so dishes often found on the buffet line are String Beans Szechuan-Style, General Gau's Chicken, Beef & Broccoli, Salt & Pepper Shrimp, Szechuan Chicken with Peanuts, Pork with Black Bean Sauce, and one of the café's specialties -- homemade Crab Rangoon.
"Everything made in-house," noted owner Rick Woo. "A lot of places lack the expertise and buy food frozen from Chinatown."
Woo opened his Chinese restaurant in 1996. He grew up working at his father's Fort Lauderdale restaurant in the 1960s and later studied architecture; he designed all aspects his 100-plus seat eatery at Billerica Commons. The restaurant is divided into three rooms with an 18-seat bar -- where authentic Polynesian cocktails are poured -- serving as the centerpiece of the front of the café. The middle and third rooms boast natural light pouring from recessed skylights. All tables at the restaurant are lined with pink paper placemats topped with bright green tea cups and napkins.
The portions are large at Chung King Rick's but for those keeping an eye on their waistline, the menu features a section dedicated to Dieters Special Dinners; shrimp- and chicken-based dishes steamed with vegetables and served with ginger sauce for dipping.
The restaurant's Chinese Hot Pot is prepared tableside by the waitstaff so customers don't have to sit through the traditional style of preparing their own food, which Woo said can take up to 30 minutes. Hot Pot dishes at Chung King Rick's include Beef with Eggplant, Fresh Seafood with Bean Curd, and Tender Beef with Scallion and Ginger.
The menu at Woo's restaurant is actually five pages long but will soon be getting a makeover with sushi, steak, pasta, chops, and salad as well as some Thai and Vietnamese dishes -- slated to be among the additions.
"We wanted to diversify," Woo said. "This is America. We have to be all things to all people."
Chung King Rick's Café
446 Boston Road, Billerica, 978-262-9992
- Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Sunday, noon-10 p.m. The lunch buffet is open Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Reservations: Accepted for large parties. The café also offers take-out and catering.
- Parking: Share with shops at Billerica Commons.
- Menu: Mainly Chinese, soon to include sushi, steak, and pasta.
- Atmosphere: Casual, good for large parties.
- Try this: Crab Rangoons, Beef in Black Bean Sauce, Hot and Sour Soup, Chef's Chicken Delight with Sesame Sauce, Southern Fried Rice, Chicken/Beef Teriyaki.