Why the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ Myth Lingers

racism and msg lead art

IN 2019, a fast-casual restaurant called Lucky Lee’s opened for business in New York City with an extremely problematic premise: The white owner, Arielle Haspel, promised to serve up “clean Chinese” that was less salty, less greasy, and MSG-free, so that diners may enjoy their favorite dishes without feeling “bloated and icky,” according to one of her Instagram posts.

The restaurant shuttered after less than a year of operation amid accusations of racism and cultural appropriation from the Asian American community. (Haspel also deleted her post and couldn’t be reached by MH for comment.) But the whole experience is just one battle in the war of mixed messaging around MSG.

This idea of an improved Chinese food fit for the refined white palate is the culmination of decades of insidious mythmaking with MSG, or monosodium glutamate, sprinkled at its center. Today, there are still some Chinese restaurants that feel the

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Five spots to fill-up both ways

Christopher Regan loves the sausage, egg and cheese at Stewart’s.

“The egg, cheese and sausage meld together perfectly with a bit of each in every bite,” the Town of Poughkeepsie man said. “The roll stays slightly crunchy but not hard like a lot of pre-prepared sandwiches get, and because it’s wrapped instead of in a plastic container, it doesn’t get moist either.”

For a long time, food sold or prepared in a gas station had been the subject of ridicule. But regional chains like Wawa and Sheetz, which have a cult following, have helped change that perception. Beyond high-quality convenience stores, there are also delis and restaurants that have purposely opened as a part of a gas station to catch the heavy flow of customers already coming through for a fill-up of a different sort. Some are gems that have been known to locals for years.

While Stewart’s Shops may

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