San Diego, CA

A Love Letter to Fortunate Son in North Park, San Diego, CA

Joy Sun | @littlejoybigworld

The food here is straight up Panda Express on crack. And I mean that affectionately. Their menu is pretty simple with just familiar, tried-and-true favorites: chow fun, General Tso's, orange chicken, egg rolls. Basically all the bastardized Chinese foods - the dishes that Americans think of when they think of Chinese food, but none that actual Chinese people really eat. As a Chinese American, I am here for it. You know what I'm especially here for are the crab rangoons (fried cream cheese wontons--a dish I love extra and one I find hilarious since most Chinese people are lactose intolerant and don't eat cheese), although we didn't order them this time around. I had to save that precious stomach real estate for the real food!

California's reopening has come at the perfect time for everyone to dine at Fortunate Son! This restaurant, like many others, opened during the pandemic and was largely unable to accept dine-in customers, save for a brief period of time when San Diego's covid numbers were nice and low. San Diego is a great place for al fresco dining, but this is a restaurant that was intended to have patrons enjoy their interior. Much like its parent company's other restaurants like Morning Glory and The Invigatorium, no expense was spared in each detail. Flora and fauna hung from above, there were hidden dragons, and the decor was breathtaking. They poured so much thought into it all, from the menu, the face masks worn by staff, the plates, even the takeout boxes.

I'll admit my expectations were set a bit low. Usually when they kill it this hard in the aesthetic department, the food leaves a little to be desired. But that was not the case at Fortunate Son at all!

I fell in love with their Kung Pao Chicken ($13). It seemed simple in terms of ingredients, just chicken, honey-roasted peanuts, and chilies, but it was delicious. Best kung pao chicken I've had, from both traditional Chinese restaurants and Panda Express. This was my favorite dish from Fortunate Son. The chicken was extremely well-breaded and the peanuts were well-roasted, providing a fun crunchy texture. Be careful of those chilies! This dish had some very large chili peppers in there and they are hot. This is a classic dish that they kept the same, yet somehow also made it more interesting and exciting. A 5/5 all around.
Kung Pao ChickenJoy Sun

And I know I just said this about the chicken, but the Honey Walnut Shrimp ($15) was the best Honey Walnut Shrimp I've had anywhere. I do not know how they made their sauce so creamy! I'm used to mayo-y, gritty, sauce that coats the shrimp so thickly you don't even know if you're picking up walnut or shrimp. It's like a fun guessing game! The walnuts in this dish were crushed. At first I missed the whole walnuts but the more fresh, perfectly-breaded shrimp I ate, the more I forgot about the walnuts.

The Beef Chow Fun ($14) was the only letdown. It would have been good if it didn't taste like absolute pure salt. I blame the dark soy sauce used. Dark soy sauce should never be used with a heavy hand, and that's what it tasted like. Otherwise, the beef was tender, the bok choy juicy, and the noodles well-cooked. The salt just overpowered everything and nearly rendered the dish inedible.

Unlike your traditional Chinese restaurant, the rice don't come free here. Steamed white rice will cost you $2 bucks, so we figured if we were going to order rice, we might as well order the Fried Rice ($6). You can add protein for another $6 but we were happy without it--it was already almost an entree in itself! It was way bigger than I expected it to be and actually delicious, which may be due in part to the garlic butter it was cooked in.
InteriorJoy Sun

Reservations are very much recommended since the space isn't huge. There is usually a line out the door by 7 pm, but you could bypass that by having an early dinner! Each booth is almost completely enclosed by wooden partitions, so that should help quell any covid fears.

Just remember, the food isn't authentically Chinese by any means. Nobody in China is eating orange chicken. It is 100% authentically Chinese-American though, and as long as you keep that in mind, you'll fall in love with this restaurant just like I did.


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SoCal native, matcha snob, boba expert. I'll be gallivanting my way around SD & OC to bring you the best small local businesses, underrated restaurants, and hot new establishments!

San Diego, CA

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