Recently I was watching the replay of an ESPN college football telecast from a couple of years ago, when they did a promo for their College Game Day telecast. It was a slow period early in the season, so ESPN decided to do their show from a small (athletically speaking) campus, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. While I had heard of that school, I was surprised that I had never heard of the town in which it was located. Looking it up, I saw that it was in rural Virginia, a two hour drive away from both Washington DC and Richmond, explaining why it had never come to my attention. Obviously I decided to check whether James Madison was a school that had enough Chinese students to warrant authentic Chinese food, and indeed it is, with A Taste of China Restaurant providing anything a homesick Mainland Chinese student would want to eat.
The menu at A Taste of China is absolutely fascinating. As I have written before, these college town Chinese restaurants serve a mixed audience--students from China, students not from China, and local residents. The result is an interest mashup of old time Americanized Chinese dishes and cutting edge items from the Chinese interior. However I don't think this has been any more starkly demonstrated than by the menu at A Taste of China. For example, look at the "soup" section of their menu.
Likewise, the hot appetizer section of the menu was also like a diorama of Chinese food in America.
Once again, the menu started with the crudest old time Americanized Chinese appetizer, the egg roll, followed by the slightly more modern crab rangoon, before transitioning to more modern, Mainland Chinese diner oriented appetizer items.
Typically we think of Chinese restaurants in the US as falling into distinct categories--old time Americanized Chinese, more modern Americanized Chinese, and modern authentic current Chinese regional cuisine. But at A Taste Of China in Harrisonburg, and undoubtedly others in different college towns, they can be all rolled up into one.