Gam Lei Sig
918 S Street • Sacramento
On the block of S and 10th in downtown Sacramento there is a hot spot for “regulars.” There is Old Ironsides, a bar that has been around for decades where people are likely to walk in and know the bartender’s name. Then across the street is Waffle Square, a breakfast joint that brings out the usual Sunday brunch crowd. And down the street is Beers Books, a bookstore that keeps the bookworms coming back for more pages to read. But there is one of the block’s regular spots that definitely goes under the radar. At 918 S Street there is a small restaurant that is easy to miss, most likely because it is someone’s house. The basement-turned-family owned Chinese restaurant, Gam Lei Sig, has been feeding Sacramento for the past 10 years and keeps its regulars coming back for more.
The moment my roommate Brian and I walked up to the door of the restaurant, the server was outside and took one glance at Brian and said, “Chicken chow mein, chicken chow mein,” without hesitation. Although Brian has only recently started to eat his usual dinner at Gam Lei Sig, she knew his order even before he even walked through the door.
But this time Brian decided to venture away from the usual and try something new. Every item on the menu is made family style. You will receive very generous portions that will most likely have you eating leftover Chinese food for the next few meals. Forget measuring the portions in terms of plate size; what you get is equivalent to a small mountain. Considering the bounty of food Gam Lei Sig serves, you’d be hard pressed not to feel (and eat) like a king.
At first it was a bit overwhelming to choose an item on the menu. For being such a small restaurant, Gam Lei Sig menu has more than 100 items to offer. The menu is divided up into categories from chicken to seafood, and features all kinds of Chinese-American favorites such as chicken chow mein and sweet and sour pork, but they have a few surprises that you might not see anywhere else such as the appetizer called, ginger garlic fried chicken wing. Not only are the portion sizes giant, but the prices make you wonder how they have managed to stay in business for so long.
The lunch combinations only cost $5.95, and the dinner combinations cost $7.25. But this isn’t only a one-shot meal; you can expect to take two or three meals back home. Most of the dishes range from $5 to $8, making it the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat and to save some for the next day.
My feast for the evening included wonton soup, pot stickers, spicy chicken salad, seafood and cheese fried wonton, beef chow fun, asparagus beef and chicken chow mein.
The meal started off with a giant bowl of wonton soup that only cost $5. It was hot, fresh and delicious with vegetables and broth. The pot stickers, which seemed to be very popular with everyone that came in for dinner that night, was an appetizer that was made fresh and was only $5.95 for eight pieces. And my personal favorite were the seafood and cheese fried wontons: the fried wonton was made crispy on the outside but when you bite into it you can taste warm cheese and meats. The spicy chicken salad was crunchy and the sauce that was mixed in with the lettuce added a mild spiciness to it. The asparagus beef included giant pieces of veggies mixed in with fresh meat that was drowned in sauces. Next up was the beef chow fun, which is very similar to regular chow mein but it is made with thicker noodles. This plate only cost $6.50.
For a restaurant that only has a maximum occupancy of 28 people, it was scattered with people that didn’t require a menu, because they already knew exactly what they wanted. Seated behind us was a very friendly regular named Jack Donaldson, who seemed to have more plates on his table than his stomach could handle. Jack not only frequents Gam Lei Sig but he comes every Wednesday night for dinner, then usually saves his leftovers and shares them with his friends.
Our meal ended with the server handing us a handwritten check and, of course, fortune cookies. As we were leaving the restaurant it was near closing time and the family owners, including the servers and cooks, were gathered around a table inside preparing to have their family dinner and watch professional ice skating in Chinese on TV.
Gam Lei Sig is everything that makes for amazing Chinese food: fast, cheap, delicious, leftovers to take home and a very friendly environment. Gam Lei Sig is open seven days a week for your Chinese food cravings. Whether they hit at 10 a.m. or 8p.m. at night, this “hole in the wall” will feed you with great food at the right price.