Mar 12, 2021 | OPINION | By Hank Bedingfield | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
As COVID-19 drags on, and restaurants swing back and forth from open-to-closed, indoor-to-outdoor, COVID-ridden to “safe,” we’re all better off ordering take-out for the coming months. Here’s my comprehensive guide to the most underrated, unsettling, hole-in-the-wall, food-poisoning inducing places in the Springs. Keep reading to find out where and where not to eat. I’ll show you where to get a cheap drink, where to get crippled — emotionally and digestively — and where to actually enjoy a nice meal from the safety of your couch.
24 East Kiowa Street, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Lunch and Dinner
Closes at 9 p.m.
Take-out and Delivery Only
Hunan Springs offers uncomplicated American-style Chinese food with fair pricing and free delivery. If the delivery was as straightforwardly satisfying as the food, this would be an easy 4/5 rating, maybe even the perfect five. Unfortunately, even the simple thrill of a seamless take-out experience seems out of reach in this failed American project — our late-term, abortive, capitalist soon-to-be wasteland.
This joint deserves a lot of credit for even offering delivery. On a lazy evening — crippled by intellectual burnout and the unique misery of dietary fatigue that most weeknights bring — a steaming paper bag of Chinese, brought directly from kitchen to couch, may be the only thing to keep your head from splitting into an irreversible delusion of true madness.
Hunan Springs, recognizing the seduction of such effortlessly gluttonous offering, offers free delivery for any order over $15. The entire prospect feels like no small victory, a long-wished but never uttered “Fuck you” to the greedy powers of Grubhub and DoorDash. I was financially liberated, in one way or another, for the first time in ages. And that felt good.
Cheap thrills and delightful things, however, especially of the financial nature, are more often illusions than not, and bliss is infinitely, torturously married to ephemerality. The delivery system, easily processed online, is obscure and deceitful in its over-simplistic process.
Once you scroll through the menu, an intimidating yet familiar list of American-Chinese classics, payment is accepted and a single confirmation email holds the fate of your evening. The email, crafted and sent by some bogus, skepticism-inducing third party, says the expected delivery time is “as soon as possible,” promising a phone call when the food is outside your door and directing any further matters of communication back to the restaurant.
In the age of UberEats and Postmates, where I can track a meal from order to delivery, this tiny surrender of control felt like an act of trust I just couldn’t handle. My mind was frenzied by the ambiguity of my reality, and immediately demanded a tall, strong drink. Despite my best efforts I still sat like a forlorn dope fiend waiting for my food, shaking, tapping, spewing morbid paranoia to my equally luckless company.
Worse yet, my fears were confirmed. In a submission to my inner schizophrenic cynic, I called Hunan Springs directly to confirm that my order had been received and would be delivered, and was not forever lost in the abyss of cyberspace, neglected by the restaurant’s godless middleman.
The woman I spoke to was polite, kind, reassuring, and even maternal. My fears were forcefully beat back for the time being.
After an hour of waiting, driven deeper and more doggedly to coping methods of degeneracy, I called again, this time full of hunger, frustration, and drunkenness. The nice woman answered the phone with a calm voice, but she too, would soon be launched into confused worry.
The food, according to this kind matron, should have been dropped off half an hour ago, and her tone quickly joined mine in puzzled upsetment. Forced up from the couch, still having never received a phone call regarding an alleged drop-off, I investigated, wildly rambling to the front of my building to find my food, sadly sitting outside the door, staring at me with the pathetic look of abandonment and lukewarm shame.
I was at that point too exhausted to complain and too hungry to wait for warm food. I politely hung up with the Hunan Springs Matron to slink back up to my apartment and bring this flaccid meal to equally disappointed dinner guests.
From this pit of self-loathing, self-pity, and utter despair, the meal began.
Containers were ravenously torn open. Plastic and paper blurred together in a desperate frenzy. The entire affair is still blurry apart from a few emotional inflection points.
Simply put, where the delivery service fell woefully short, the food had some serious highlights. The dumplings were doughy and crisp all at once: not a drop of unwanted grease. The beef skewer, barbaric and primordial, was tender and sweet.
Best of all were the Szechuan-style spicy noodles. A bite into these gave me a sense of vitality I thought had long-since escaped me. The dish’s hot and tangy sauce is the kind that’ll kick a common cold in minutes. This rich, beefy entree paired perfectly with the semi-stale rice which accompanies all takeout, and the two provided a sense of harmony I thought was extinct in our world of constant, dehumanizing conflict.
The rest of the meal tapered off in quality, notably, but not too offensively. The chicken-fried rice was bland and forgettable, a perfect picture of mediocrity. The egg roll, only a dollar, was brittle, dry, and — like every other item — just a little cold.
The hot and sour soup is one item that needs a substantial disclaimer. It is classically, uncomfortably bad with the distinct taste of a battery, calling forth childhood memories of foolish experimentation that are best forgotten.
This meal had the highs and lows you’d normally link to an amazing soap opera — although far more intimate than the casual detachment of TV watching. The aftermath brought an all-too-well-acquainted gut-punch of nausea, though I’d attribute that to my own unsavory habits than the food.
I was dying to love this meal, itching for an ounce of faith. But even this small prayer was unanswered and spitefully spat into my face.
Don’t let my jaded displeasure stop you from giving Hunan Springs a fair shot, though. The food was classically tasty and the delivery — regardless of the agony it brought — was free. If you’re looking for rugged, unapologetic Chinese food, look no further.