Waitresses at the Green Gables don't carry much food. They wheel meals out from the kitchen on rolling carts. The carts, laden with food, glide among the tables of the big, bright dining rooms (with an illuminated mural of Sioux City on one wall), where most of the customers at dinner are family groups, and nearly everyone seems to know everyone else. Green Gables is a friendly place; for strangers and travelers heading west, it provides a homey dining experience that will last a thousand miles.

On Saturday night you might even have to wait for a table. This place is that popular among the locals; it's been a Sioux City favorite since it opened a little more than 60 years ago. The cuisine is familiar. Dinner begins with a basket of nice rolls, both dark and white, which arrive under a layer of plastic wrap. Then you choose from a menu of meat and potatoes, including some good barbecued ribs, an onion-smothered chopped beefsteak, and a specialty called Chicken in the Gables, which is half a crusty-fried bird served surrounded by French fries, rolls and slaw. They also serve nice filet of walleye pike, simply broiled with tartar sauce on the side.Our favorite meal was "Oriental chicken chow mein," which was a mountainous serving of stir-fried and cornstarch-thickened vegetables atop a bed of crisp noodles, topped with shreds of well-salted chicken and strips of egg. It was not like any chow mein we have eaten in a Chinese restaurant, but we liked it: It was real Chinese-American food, with an emphasis on the American flavors and presentation. On the side, we drank lemonade - made with the juice of real lemons and sugar, decorated with half of a maraschino cherry and served with a Flexi-straw.

The recipe for chow mein that follows is not exactly authentic. At Green Gables, the chicken is put on top of the chow mein. In this recipe, as in most Chinese restaurants, it is included. If you want to use about a pound of cooked shrimp or beef, or a combination thereof, feel free to substitute. 1990, Jane and Michael Stern

(Universal Press Syndicate)

Siouxland Chow Mein

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups diced celery (2 ribs)

1 cup diced onions (1 large)

1 cup chopped cabbage (bok choy if available)

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts

2 tablespoons dark molasses

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon butter

2 eggs, beaten

4 to 5 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pound cooked, boned chicken torn into bite-size shreds

1 can chow mein noodles

In a saucepan, bring chicken broth to simmer. Add celery, onions and cabbage. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until celery is soft.

Heat peanut oil in large skillet or wok. Saute mushrooms until they begin to soften. Add bean sprouts. Cook and stir until they are soft, too. Use a slotted spoon to put celery, onions and cabbage in skillet. Add molasses and soy sauce. Stir and cook, adding enough broth to keep it moist and loose.

In a small pan over medium-high heat, melt butter; then cook eggs until firm, with minimal stirring. You want a thin "egg pancake." Remove eggs from pan, season to taste, and slice into thin strips.

Dissolve cornstarch in the remaining chicken broth. Stir into vegetables in wok, and stir as mixture thickens. Add torn chicken.

To serve, put a layer of chow mein noodles on each plate; heap with chicken and vegetables. Top with shreds of egg.

Serves 4 to 6.