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The Kowloon in Saugus, Massachusetts: America's Largest Asian Dining Complex

Kowloon Chinese Restaurant, Saugus MA
Dedham Community Movie Theater, Dedham, Massachusetts.

by Eric Hurwitz. Updated 12/18/16.

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The Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, MA, has gained legendary status in the Greater Boston area through the years, given its larger-than-life, almost cartoon-like atmosphere and a menu that features Szechuan, Cantonese, Sushi, Thai and Polynesian Cuisines.

Known as America's largest Asian dining complex, the Kowloon stands out on Route 1 just on looks alone -- noteworthy, given the amazing signage and structures like the giant cactus at the Hilltop Steak House, the humongous sausage at Karl's Sausage Kitchen and the 50-ft. tall orange dinosaur at Route 1 mini-golf. The Wong family opened the Kowloon in its humble, smaller origins in 1950 and greatly expanded the site as locals loved the mounds of excellent Chinese food, great prices and a caring staff. Those concepts surely remain today. The Wong family, in fact, is on site, running a tight ship and treating its customers like the most important people in the world. The Wongs can frequently be seen sincerely interacting with customers and wanting to know their experiences.

The look of the Kowloon is certainly not shy and demure. The exterior features a large A-frame entrance on a building that looks like the size of some community shopping malls. The Kowloon sign above the A-frame must be a million pixel font size!

Once inside, the Kowloon looks like the Chinese restaurant version of Vegas or Atlantic City --or perhaps even Disneyworld -- with an expansive, stunning diversity of lights, decor and furnishings. Specifically, across the several rooms that can seat 1,200 people on two floors, you'll see, depending upon location, giant backlit murals, a huge boat in the middle of a dining room, water fountains, gold wallpaper, bamboo chairs, koi ponds, tiki torches, multi-colored lights, huge flames rising above an open kitchen and food being served to you on fire. It's kitschy Polynesian decor at its finest! The names of the rooms have colorful names like Tiki Lagoon, Volcano Bay, Mandarin and Cliff. It's the stuff that our vivid childhood dreams were made of, no doubt, carrying on into adulthood. Mention the Kowloon and the first thought, for many, is "I have to get back there!" (that might also include a scorpion bowl, Mai Tai, or other exotic drink for the adults at the bar or in one of the dining rooms).

The Kowloon food selections for lunch and dinner are dependable and consistently good, often achieving excellence. The menu is extensive, taking me nearly 15 minutes to read -- and wishing for a Cliff Notes version. You won't find a better Pu-Pu Platter or pork-fried rice and dishes like the Pad Thai, chicken with yellow curry, the Special Kowloon Treasure (chicken, lobster, shrimp, beef and roast pork sauteed with Chinese vegetable and oyster sauce and topped with crispy wonton) and the Eddie Andelman Lo Mein (shrimp, chicken, onion and pea pods over a bed of pan fried noodles with black bean sauce) are phenomenal. For those of you that don't know Eddie Andelman, he is a legendary local sports talk show host known for his hilarious "Sports Huddle" radio that gained prominence starting in 1970 and ending in 2010. Andelman is also famous for the "Hot Dog Safari" fundraiser that features the best hot dogs in the area.  He also was well-known for sports talk radio shows on WEEI and WWZN. Eddie has always loved the Kowloon with frequent mentions on his radio shows and hilarious commercials from the Sports Huddle Days. His sons, David, Dan and Mike who run the food-related Phantom Gourmet television and radio shows in Boston, carry on the Andelman love for the Kowloon! But it's not all about the Andelmans when it comes to the Kowloon. They simply reflect the feeling of a large number of Bostonians that love the Kowloon, ourselves included.

Pad Thai from the Kowloon in Saugus, Massachusetts.
Pad Thai from the Kowloon.

Call the Kowloon old-school, but the reality is that the owners are up on the times. Here, you'll find a Sushi Bar (not personally a Sushi eater, but have heard this particular cuisine here is solid), a section of the restaurant called the "Thai Grille," and Kowloon Komedy featuring some nationally-known musical and comedy acts ranging from the O'Jays to Paul D'Angelo.

The Kowloon complex is also kind of a community meeting place (sorry, cute, overpriced coffee houses don't hold the monopoly on this concept). On our last visit all walks of life seemed to be here with colorful conversation and community goodwill. As examples, I saw a group of middle-aged ladies gossiping with vengeful glee, a couple (both looking like Woody Allen) complaining about everything, a young couple gazing into each other's eyes in between texting, and a group of Girl Scouts selling Girl Scout Cookies in the lobby area.

The wait staff has always been amazing, in our many visits here. Personable, often quick-witted and fast with service, this is a relief from the sometimes surly waiters we have found at other good and not-so-good Chinese restaurants in the Boston area. Last time at a large birthday celebration, the floor host for that particular dining room knew we all had senses of humor, so he periodically came over tell to some understated but hilarious G-rated jokes to those ages nine to 80. He had a great comedic touch, slowly walking away from us the second after the punchline. 

What more can be said about the Kowloon? Just that if you haven't been, give it a try -- the overall experience is one-of-a-kind with the over-the-top atmosphere and a menu where fans of Asian food will surely find something tasty to order.

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