Upon stepping into Eat First, try not to ponder whether or not the rest of that title is " ... Nausea Second," because while the food is deep-fried and greasy and the insides of this small Wicker Park Chinese take-out stand are not particularly pristine, your stomach should (hopefully) endure and enjoy the cuisine.
The menu is an enormous spectacle within itself; over 150 possible options greet you, with an emphasis on the "Americanized" versions of Chinese specialties. Apparently, the friendly staff at Eat First knows most are fans of the classics: Old reliables like Kung Pao, sweet and sour chicken/pork/beef (heavy on the "sweet"), and chop suey all have lunch time specials for $4.75 (each comes with rice, an egg roll and a fortune cookie).
While fresh and always piping hot, the food's main flaw seems to be the peculiar choice to load an entrée with one ingredient: Stay away from the chicken lo mein unless you like it topped with a mound of mushrooms, and from the crab rangoon unless you really passionately adore the taste of onions. The restaurant's best tasty treat is the ultra-fruity yet never syrupy smoothies, available in honeydew, mango, cantaloupe and papaya.
While primarily a take-out/delivery joint, there are a few tables, and the menu provides hours of wonderful reading material, or you could simply stare at the duck drawings and cheap Chinese painting on the wall. Or, figure out what you're going to do "second."
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Andy Seifert