A restaurant named Red Bang Bang sounds kind of cool and clubby, and its sleek red and white interior stands out from other Chinese restaurants in town. But I was brought up short when I saw the very prosaic sign: "$1 a scoop."
Yes, that's the drill at what I would call the University of Kentucky's newest restaurant.
Red Bang Bang is all about utility and does a fine job of it, scooping rice and General Tso's chicken into styrofoam containers for cash-poor, protein-needy, possibly late-night-carousing students. (On the weekends, Red Bang Bang is conveniently open until 3:30 a.m.)
On my first visit, a sustaining lunch cost about $4. Let's repeat that: 4 dollars.
You can order as many "scoops" as you want, so the price might go up depending on the size of your appetite.
It goes in threes.
First, you pick your side: steamed white rice, lo mein noodles, fried rice or stir-fried vegetables.
Then, a main course. The menu is chicken-heavy: the aforementioned General Tso's, sesame, Bang Bang, and sweet and sour. Beef and broccoli and pepper steak also were available on this visit.
Then the last choice is two small spring rolls, two fried won tons of crab Rangoon, or chicken sticks that are fried without any breading in a special seasoning.
The results are about what you'd expect. It's hard to screw up fried chicken.
The General Tso's was predictably sweet and hot, the sesame chicken just sweet. Bang Bang chicken, which is cooked with onions and green peppers, had some nice heat to it. I greatly appreciated the beef and broccoli, whose broccoli was crisp and fresh-tasting.
The menu sometimes varies. On my second visit, they had a very good "hibachi chicken," a kind of teriyaki grilled chicken.
The lo mein noodles were probably the most disappointing "scoop," on the menu, and the appetizers were forgettable.
But come on, for a $4 meal, who's going to complain too much? I'd much rather eat here, knowing exactly what I'm going to get, than some pretentious, overpriced fare where ambition far exceeds ability.
And I'm sure it all tastes really, really good at 3 a.m.
Linda B. Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.