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The red cursive letters pull late night food scavengers to the second-floor restaurant. The steps to Formosa, 913 E. Broadway, are steep and hidden from sight; each one lets out a creaky whine as hungry citizens tramp up them.
At the top they take a left, pushing open the glass door and letting it bang behind them. The chimes let the cooks know they have customers, and –inside everything smells like chicken.
The booths are narrow, perfectly suited for intimate conversations. And the tables are pushed close together, making eavesdropping a delightful dinner game. Classic Chinese fabrics cover every inch of the place, transforming the tiny shop into a red and gold palace.
Next comes the piled high plates of fried rice, Peking duck and pot stickers. The air quickly grows thick with the smells, and the dim lighting adds to the quiet calmness seeping in. Costumers clear their plates, forkful by forkful.
The satisfactory stretching of the belly leads to an obligatory after-meal closed eyes moment. In one second, when seeing is not important, sounds take over. The clinking of utensils, the quiet accented questions of the waitress and the out of place, yet incredibly endearing, Lady GaGa music compose their own late night symphony.
There’s a crack from the fortune cookie, as it breaks apart, setting free the message inside: thoughtful nuggets of wisdom or even sarcastic tidbits.
Here in Columbia, in the second story of a ramshackle building, is an urban masterpiece. Big cities and late night Chinese food are a hushed and perfect love affair. The partnership cements itself in soy sauce, florescent lighting and piles of white take out boxes.
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes