Suzie Wong Egg Rolls, A Mysterious State College Culinary Classic
On any day of the week, Ernie’s Cheesesteaks is brimming with patrons both sober and intoxicated.
But it’s not just cheesesteaks they’re after.
Suzie Wong egg rolls are a State College favorite, and can only be found locally, including at Ernie’s. The egg rolls are spoken about with a certain reverence for those who have discovered them, and the online reviews are all glowing.
As written by Brian B. on Ernie’s Yelp page, “Towards the end of the night after you’re having trouble standing up straight and find women looking at you funny as you slur your speech, go back up and get exactly TWO Suzie Wongs. No more, no less. Wait for them to cool for a minute or two after getting them, then chow down on the first one. Congratulations, you are now instantly sober enough to at least make it home! Chow down on the second one on the way home, and that grease and asian flavor will keep you going just long enough to hit a bed. Never fails.”
An egg roll that can reverse spaghetti legs? No wonder they’re so popular.
The Wong family has been making egg rolls for the State College community since 1970, and even had their own restaurants on Atherton Street and in downtown State College, eventually moving to wholesale and catering. Although no public list exists of their distribution, many local restaurants have the delicacies on their menu if you look hard enough.
When I called to speak further about the family business, Suzie Wong herself answered the phone and politely declined to speak about her product.
“Oh, that’s so sweet, but we’re really busy, so I’m going to have to decline. Thanks, bye!” Click. There was no time to muster a response.
A few days later, I drove down Aaron drive, found Suzy Wong Egg Rolls, only to be shot down again.
“Oh yeah, we’re really backed up this week. Thanks though!”
How about a time next week?
“No we’re really busy, but thanks have a good day!”
Magic. Mystery. Mystique.
Luckily, Kit Henshaw, co-owner of Harrison’s Wine Grill & Catering, is a close friend of Suzie Wong and was able to give me the low-down on Wong’s storied history.
“I have known Suzie since the Wong family moved to State College to open the first Chinese restaurant in State College — over 40 years ago,” Henshaw said. “Suzie’s mom, Theresa, was the head chef and they named the business after their oldest daughter (Suzie) who now runs the business. Suzie and I were close in high school, were roommates after high school, and still remain close after all these years. Harrison got to know Mr & Mrs Wong through philanthropic events, kids sports, and ordering egg rolls amd tofu cakes and he developed a close relationship with each of them — he and Herb still hang out at lacrosse.”
Harrison’s has been operating since 2000 and has carried Suzie Wong egg rolls since the beginning.
“S0 many people return to State College and are so happy to see the egg roll on our menu — it brings back warm fuzzy memories for people such as getting them at the Brewery to ordering at Grange Fair to eating at Suzie Wongs on North Atherton or Little Suzie’s on College Avenue,” Henshaw said. “Many, many people have good Suzie Wong memories.”
Although today Suzie Wong egg rolls seem to have more of an inebriated connotation, they are a State College culinary classic.
“We have tried egg rolls in lots of places over the years – San Francisco, New York, and many other places,” said Henshaw. “No egg roll ever came close to the Suzie Wong egg roll we all know from State College.”
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“I knew my mom did it and I knew I was going to finish, but having her there pushing me, talking to me, and keeping me occupied definitely took my mind off the pain.”
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