NHL.com writers covering the championship round between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues will provide a daily Stanley Cup Final postcard from whatever city they're in. Today, columnist Dave Stubbs checks in from Stony Plain, Alberta, where he dines with Hockey Hall of Famer and former Blues goalie Glenn Hall.
The first thing you need to know about Bing's #1 restaurant on Main Street in this small town 25 miles west of Edmonton is that there's no Bing's #2. The second Bing's, about five miles east in Spruce Grove, is called Bing's Family Restaurant.
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But in downtown Stony Plain, Bing's #1 has since 1970 been serving up Chinese food for which folks come from miles around. It plates a "Canadian menu," too -- sandwiches, burgers, steaks, a few seafood dishes and salads -- and has an all-day breakfast, served Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall, the first player drafted by the St. Louis Blues, lives a short drive from Bing's #1 and has been coming to the restaurant since it opened 49 years ago. Hall and his late wife, Pauline, also were regulars at the Chinese place that was on this spot before it.
It is here that he's arrived on Friday evening with his son Pat, daughter-in-law Debbie and yours truly, who's flown in from Montreal to sit with him in his farmhouse on Saturday to watch Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Blues and Boston Bruins (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
The restaurant was founded in 1970 -- the same year that Hall's Blues most recently had qualified for the Stanley Cup Final -- by Bing Choy, who had immigrated to Canada from Quangdong Province in south mainland China. Pat and Debbie, who have known each other since high school, remember shelling out 35 cents after class for Bing's #1 French fries and gravy, 25 cents for the fries alone.
Bing eventually passed along the family-run business to his son, Fon, who subsequently gave it to William, Bing's grandson. William not only owns Bing's #1, he's the mayor of Stony Plain, his civic duties having taken him to Quebec City this weekend for a Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.
But William's brother, Dod, was happy to talk to us about the Bing's #1 experience as four heaping plates of food and frosty beer arrived at our table. There would be no check at meal's end; William had left word that Glenn's money would be no good on this night.
The little restaurant has drawn rave reviews from far and wide. Bing's #1 was featured in Edmonton's Royal Albert Museum exhibit "Chop Suey on the Prairies," a celebration of the cafes and restaurants opened by Chinese immigrants to Western Canada.
"It's great to be able to meet all the local people," Dod said as regulars drifted into Bing's #1 for a Friday feed. "We've been here for so long, we're just part of the community. We have regulars who come here every day."
Bing's #1 is divided in two: a spartan dining room with a red wall on one side, a cinderblock wall on the other, and a comfortable cafe next door "where most of the farmers come," Dod said. "Most people come over to the dining room at night because it's a little more dress-up."
The small kitchen was a flurry of activity as more diners arrived nearing 6 p.m., having spent the day up the road at Stony Plain's Farmers' Days Rodeo and Exhibition, an annual weekend event featuring a pancake breakfast, strongest man and woman contests, axe-throwing, a parade, museum, midway, saloon and general store.
Dod, who guesses he's worked at Bing's #1 for 22 of his 35 years, totals the staff at 13, an uncle having been here since 1995. Chicken balls are probably the most popular take-out item, though Dod sings the praises of the ginger beef.
That beef, as well as spring rolls, wontons, egg rolls, soup, gravy and more are made on the premises using tried-and-true recipes.
Sadly, Dod can't remember any particularly good fortune he's cracked out of a cookie over the years, saying, "I don't really eat them that often."
Full to bursting, Glenn breaks open his cookie and pulls out his fortune.
"You will win success in whatever you attempt," it reads, which also is an astute review of the Hall of Famer's career.
Glenn liked it well enough to autograph it for a visitor's souvenir. After all, Bing's #1 has been a part of Mr. Goalie's life for a half-century, with more boneless sweet and sour pork surely in his future.