Midtown cheap eats
Food & Drink

Why Charlie Hong Kong is Santa Cruz’s Street-Food King

Midtown favorite combines cheap-eat prices with quality ingredients

Charlie Hong Kong has been combining cheap-eats prices with quality ingredients and delicious sauces for more than two decades. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Charlie Hong Kong is a Midtown mainstay that features a variety of Asian dishes centered around local organic produce and nutrient-dense foods. Open seven days a week from 11am-10pm, the popular local spot has been owned by Carolyn Rudolph for 23 years. Her passion is using food as medicine and making sure the entire community has access to affordable and healthy food. She spoke to GT recently about the cuisine they serve and the philosophy behind it.

What is Charlie Hong Kong all about?

CAROLYN RUDOLPH: It’s a quick service restaurant, but it’s not fast food because everything is made to order and made fresh every day. We chop 500 pounds of organic produce every morning. We want our food to be approachable, with an Asian street food feel, and to be a welcoming place where our entire community can come and nourish themselves and their family. Because our food is so plant-based, our relationship with our local farms is essential. That produce is what defines us and Lakeside Organics, the farm we partner with, really focuses on soil quality and that’s what produces vegetables with high nutrient density.

What are the top dishes?

Our Spicy Dan is absolutely our number-one best seller, without a doubt, it’s one of our signature dishes and basically defines our restaurant. It has eggless wheat noodles which are made specifically for us, locally grown organic greens, and a coconut peanut sauce. It’s cooked in a wok, and is very creamy and nicely layered—the sauce really clings to the noodles and covers the veggies. It’s very flavorful and abundant. The community really embraces the dish; it’s extremely popular. We also sell a lot of our teriyaki chicken rice bowl. It’s served over jasmine rice and is garnished with green onion and pickled and marinated daikon and carrot. People love adding our housemade hoisin and chili garlic sauces to it. We prepare the food so that people can spike it up by adding spice to satisfy the individual palette. We also do our own unique Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. We char whole ginger and onions and add spices to the slow-cooked chicken bone broth. We use a thicker rice noodle and then garnish the dish with basil, green onion, lime, and jalapeño. It’s very popular, especially during cold season; people are really drawn to it when not feeling well, and it’s very nourishing.

1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-5664; charliehongkong.com.

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