After years of waiting for a new restaurant to take over Panda Express’ vacant spot in the Student Union, Dining Services’ Earth, Wok and Fire finally opened Tuesday. As my friends and I discovered, the new eatery has some good food, but it comes at a price.
Earth, Wok and Fire offers both express, prepared option and cooked-to-order options that allow you to choose your own ingredients. Express options include General Tso’s chicken and beef and broccoli, both of which come with your choice of starch. Starches include sticky rice, vegetable or pork fried rice or yakisoba noodles. Other express options are sides of pork and kimchi dumplings, pork fried rice, sticky rice, vegetable lo mein and vegetarian egg rolls.
Cooked to order options include a starch, protein, seasoning, sauce and vegetables. Proteins available are beef, pork, chicken, tofu, shrimp and a vegetarian option. Customers can choose six vegetables for their meal from a wide array including carrots, onions, peppers, broccoli and snow peas, among others. Other add-ins include mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks and water chestnuts.
My friends and I decided that we needed to try this new spot, and we got lunch at Earth, Wok and Fire on Wednesday.
I tried the cooked-to-order chicken option with sticky rice. For sauce, I got General Tso’s, and I added carrots, broccoli, peppers and onions to my stir fry. My food was good but not spectacular. The combination that I made was tasty, and I liked the familiar flavor of the General Tso’s sauce. There was a good ratio of stir fry to rice, so it was nice to not have a ton of plain sticky rice left over. Additionally, my food was pretty warm when I ate it because it was cooked to order.
My friends each got the express General Tso’s chicken and the pork and kimchi dumplings. They enjoyed them and said that they were tasty. However, the General Tso’s chicken was almost exactly the same as the General Tso’s served in the dining halls, and the dumplings looked suspiciously like fried versions of dining hall potstickers. My friends got the fried rice with their General Tso’s and said that although it was good, it was also essentially the same fried rice that is served in the dining halls.
Though we all agreed that the food was tasty, we also agreed that it was overpriced. The General Tso’s chicken entree was $8.99, and the order of dumplings was $5.75 for four small dumplings and a container of duck sauce. Given that these menu items were pretty similar to dining hall food, we questioned why the price was as high as it was.
My customized chicken stir fry was $9.25, which I thought was overpriced for the amount and quality of the food. I understand a higher price for a cooked-to-order, customizable option, but there wasn’t much chicken. I ordered it with simple sticky rice, so I thought $9.25 was a little pricey.
On a more positive note, the service was pretty quick, even for my cooked-to-order meal. My friends’ express meals were already prepared, so they simply had to pay.
Overall, the food was tasty, if not amazing. Only the price of the food and its similarity to food already being served in the dining halls will prevent my friends and me from going to Earth, Wok and Fire more often.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.