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Salt Treaty

Heaven Dragon's owner dreamed of serving the president. But his food is a high-sodium nightmare.

Once is an event, twice is a coincidence, but three times? Three times is the beginning of an addiction, and for the Bush administration, Heaven Dragon Chinese Cuisine and Lounge is starting to look like an unhealthy habit.

It was back in 2002 that President George W. Bush got his first taste of Heaven Dragon. He was in Denver, doing whatever it is he does when he takes his show on the road -- raising funds, campaigning, freeing the world from the tyranny of evildoers and homosexuals -- and he had worked up a powerful hunger. Enter Heaven Dragon.

Why this unassuming little strip-mall outpost in the wilds of big-box suburbia? Well, I'd like to think it was because our commander in chief wanted to see something of the immigrant experience in action, a successful small business owned and operated by one of those fellow Americans he's always going on about -- someone who left school after the fifth grade and made it to Denver by way of a yam farm in Canton, a refugee camp in Macau and then the kitchens of L.A.'s Chinese ex-pat community. I'd like to think that he asked someone on his staff to ask some knowledgeable local to point him in the direction of the best Chinese food in a hundred miles, and that this place in Thornton was the natural choice.

Rogues' gallery: Dick Cheney welcomes you to 
Heaven Dragon.
Rogues' gallery: Dick Cheney welcomes you to Heaven Dragon.

Location Info

Map

Heaven Dragon Chinese Restaurant

3730 E. 120th Ave.
Denver, CO 80233

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: North Denver

Details

3730 East 120th Avenue, Thornton, 303- 457-9977. Hours: 11 a.m.- 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 11:30 a.m.- 9:30 p.m. Sunday

Pu-pu platter: $4.95 (for two)
Wonton soup: $1
Egg drop soup: $1
Sizzling rice chicken: $7.95
Peking duck: $28
Shrimp in lobster sauce: $8.95
Fried rice: $6.95
Sesame chicken: $8.75

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According to the official version of the story, it was Senator Wayne Allard (or one of the wonks in his employ) who suggested Heaven Dragon to the Bushies. But there's another possible explanation: Google Dan Tang, owner of Heaven Dragon (and Pearl Wok in Broomfield), and if you look at what he does with his money, what you get is a pretty clear and concise record of the man's politics. Eight thousand dollars to Campbell for Colorado, four grand to both John Thune for U.S. Senate and Bob Beauprez for Congress, another two thousand to Bush/ Cheney '04. So far this year, Tang's donations are by far the biggest in his zip code, and over the years he's thrown tens of thousands of dollars into the Republican Party money machine. But Tang (who says he's "unaffiliated" politically) had more than partisanship as a motivator. The man wanted to cook for a president, and he worked every connection he could until his wish came true.

Tang delivered that first order himself. It was the American dream in action, and not a bad climb for a yam farmer from Canton. Tang says it was one of the most exciting days of his life.

Then, when Bush returned to Colorado in May to speak at the Air Force Academy graduation ceremonies, his people put in a second call to Tang, ordering the exact same thing: Peking duck, sesame chicken, Hunan chicken and fried shrimp. The president and First Lady enjoyed their feast aboard Air Force One, no doubt while bugging the pilot to do repeated flyovers of Kerry/Edwards headquarters.

And when Vice President Dick Cheney stopped in Denver last month to rouse the rabble and watch his boss during the first debate, did he dial room service? No, he ordered in from Heaven Dragon: Peking duck, two kinds of chicken and some crispy shrimp.

Say one thing for these guys, they're consistent. But imagine for a minute that you're the vice president of the United States. You're rich as sin, you're so crooked you need two helpers to screw you into your pajamas every night, and you can eat any damn place you please. You could demand -- under threat of an IRS audit -- that Goose Sorenson personally deliver you a grilled-cheese sandwich or that Bryan Moscatello bring you ribs and then dance for you while you eat. But Cheney ordered in from Heaven Dragon (and tipped well, from what I hear), which tells me that the big dogs in the Bush administration have come to identify food from Heaven Dragon with visiting Denver, the way I do breakfast at Amy's Place with a trip to Buffalo or a richer foodie than me would La Tour D'Argent with spring in Paris.

I was so there.

The exterior of Heaven Dragon looked innocuous enough. No hundred-foot-tall inflatable George Bush balloons on the roof, no Dobermans trained to attack at the smell of patchouli or liberalism. But once I opened the door, I found myself staring at a rogues' gallery of Republican Party bigwigs, both local and national, all staring back, grinning, from big frames on every wall of the lobby. There was Rudy Giuliani with Dan Tang; Dick Cheney looming all huge and crazy-eyed, shaking Tang's hand; the president looking for all the world like a cardboard cutout of himself, standing with his fake smile and his arm around Tang's shoulder. The pictures were everywhere, blown up to gigantic poster size, crowding out smaller publicity snaps and framed letters from important people. Near the grand arch leading from the lobby into the dining room was a thank-you note from the president, complimenting Tang on that second takeout order, saying how much he and the missus enjoyed it, and closing with a quick God bless you and God bless America.

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