There are movies, and then there are airplane movies. An airplane movie - like The Secret Life of Pets, Ant-Man, or anything starring Diane Lane - is something you might have missed in theaters, but end up thoroughly enjoying. It might not be the best movie you’ve seen all year, but it makes a normal day a little better (despite the surprise sex scenes that your seat neighbor happens to wake up for). And in that way, it’s a lot like General Deb’s.
This walk-in only Sichuan restaurant in Bushwick is the ideal place for a casual dinner when you’re in the neighborhood. It’s just one small room with red walls, a sizable bar, and one of our favorite bathrooms in recent memory (featuring a Chinese parasol, a disco ball, and floor-to-ceiling shimmery tiles you’d find in a hot tub). Crowd-wise, it tends to fill up with people who live nearby and want a fun but low-key meal for under $30. Which means it’s quite possible you’ll see your L train crush eating dan dan noodles here, reading Kurt Vonnegut in Spanish.
The menu has a few sections ranging from small plates to noodles, and while we’ve tried plenty of the non-vegetarian entrees, we’ve consistently found that - as with VeggieTales (minus the Jesus stuff) - the green things at General Deb’s are the stars. There’s Chinese broccoli that comes with exactly the right amount of black bean glaze, and a dish of smashed cucumbers tossed in garlicky oil with chili powder on top like sprinkles on a sundae. Then there are the long beans, which are soft and perfectly salty. Get any of those things and some soups and small plates (like the fiery shrimp soup or wontons), and you’ll be set.
One other thing to note about the menu is that the dishes here are generally pretty mild. So if you like your glass of water to taste like it’s vibrating, this probably isn’t the place for you. Otherwise, the large portions and easygoing atmosphere make it a group dinner/date spot in the area that should appeal to just about everyone. Even those who don’t usually enjoy participating in our capitalist economy (this is Bushwick, after all).
Most neighborhoods have a reliably good place like General Deb’s - Bushwick is just lucky enough to have this particular iteration. If you live in the area, you’ll love the fact that you can come here for a reasonably-priced, casual dinner pretty much anytime you want. And if you’re in the neighborhood to go out, you’ll love the fact that you can start your night with some good Chinese food, chocolate fortune cookies, and a rousing discussion of how much you enjoyed watching Pitch Perfect 3 on your last flight home.
Get these to start to your meal. They’re salty and garlicky, with chili dust on top.
More vegetables we like a lot. The stir-fried long beans are so soft (instead of snappy) that they actually kind of taste like pasta.
The black bean sauce makes the broccoli stems shimmer like an expensive engagement ring or a heartfelt participation medal. This dish is really, really good.
During the daily Happy Hour from 6-8pm, you can get an order of these wontons and a bottle of Tsingtao for $10. The wontons come in a little hot tub of chili oil, vinegar and soy sauce. They’re flavorful and tasty.
This noodle soup is the spiciest thing we ate here. Which is appropriate since it has the word fiery in it. That said, we’d still feel comfortable feeding it to an adventurous toddler.
This is the soup we’d feed to a less adventurous toddler. Or a sick person. Or just someone who wants a hug for dinner. It has a mild, gingery broth, bok choy, and thin ramen-like noodles. If you don’t personally identify with the categories listed above, you can probably skip it.
A solid rendition of dan dan noodles, and definitely a go-to order. Not too spicy, with little pieces of pork and peanuts. If you’re with a group, maybe get two so that you have enough to score some leftovers.
We’d estimate that this dish is about 1/3 little pieces of chicken and ⅔ peppers. It’s sort of like when the succulent you order on Amazon comes in a box the size of a microwave, with so much packing paper that you can’t actually see anything else at first. Which is to say, the chicken is good, but we want more of it.
Tasty little strips of bacon with peppers, leeks, and a fermented black bean sauce. Like with the chicken dish, we ended up finishing all the pork pretty quickly and being left with mostly pork-adjacent things by the end.