Just how all-American is Chinese food? We've been placing delivery orders since the 1920s,and there are now more than 41,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., nearly three times the number of McDonald's, according to Chinese Restaurant News.
With this expansion, Chinese kitchens have pushed well beyond General Tso's chicken, introducing creations like Mission Chinese Food's fiery kung pao pastrami as well as more regional dishes, from western-style cumin lamb with hand-ripped noodles to Sichuanese pepper frog legs. The result is a reinvigorated debate over what makes for authentic Chinese food, plus plenty of tantalizing, adventurous eating. You'll find restaurants setting the bar higher in immigrant enclaves like New York City's Flushing neighborhood and California's San Gabriel Valley, but also in Vermont, Chicago, and Salt Lake City. Some are family-owned, hole-in-the-wall joints, while others have spawned celebrity chefs like Peter Chang, originally from Hubei Province.
Here's a first bit of good fortune: our short list of the best Chinese restaurants across the U.S. See how many you've tried, and share your favorites in the comments below.
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See More of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. Awards continue to rack up for Lao Sze Chuan, one of the first area Chinese restaurants to earn three forks from the Chicago Tribune, and a designated “Bib Gourmand” in the 2012 and 2013 Michelin Guide. Owner Tony Hu, dubbed the Mayor of Chinatown, has seven Chinese restaurants, with four more slated to open by the end of this year. Yet people continue to wait in line for a table at this Sichuan spot, known for its extraordinary spiciness and fearless dishes like sour pickle and pork stomach soup and Peking-style duck tongue (milder options are also available). tonygourmetgroup.com Photo courtesy of Lao Sze Chuan
See More of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. Expect to be one of only a handful of English-speaking diners at this small, family-owned restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown. Though the menu leans toward Taiwanese and coastal cuisines—the soup dumplings filled with pork, crabmeat and a delicate broth and the scallion pancakes are not to be missed—you’ll also find skillfully executed Sichuan dishes, like the sliced fish, revered for it’s perfect balance of heat and tenderness. Photo © Andrea Schwartz
See More of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. A native of Hubei Province, Peter Chang got his start at a no-frills restaurant inside a strip mall in Fairfax, VA, in 2005. Eight restaurants in nearly as many states, a cultlike following, and countless awards later, Chang opened his namesake restaurant in Richmond. The bold, exotic flavors will leave your tongue numb, especially if you opt for the Hot & Numbing Hot Pot, a combo of seafood, chicken, beef, and veggies submerged in a fiery red sauce. The oversize portions are meant to be shared and arrive on an as-ready basis. peterchangrva.com Photo courtesy of Peter Chang China Café
See More of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. At Ping Pang Pong, housed inside the off-strip Gold Coast Hotel & Casino, you’ll find regional specialties from across China, from dim sum served on pushcarts (Cantonese) to salt-and-pepper frog legs (Sichuan) and double-braised scallop hot pot (found throughout China). The night market fried rice is another standout, a satisfying mix of tender beef tossed with chiles, bean sprouts, and tomatoes. No matter which region they’re from, Chinese in Vegas can likely find their hometown specialties here. Photo courtesy of the Gold Coast
See More of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. This no-frills noodle house, with locations in Flushing, Chinatown, and the East Village, is a rare local restaurant devoted to the cuisine of Xian, where Middle Eastern and Chinese flavors meet. It’s become famous indeed for inexpensive and flavor-packed food: stewed pork and cumin-infused lamb burgers run just $2 a pop; spicy cumin lamb with hand-ripped noodles, potent and rich lamb pao mo soup, and hand-pulled biang biang noodles are always crowd-pleasers, too. xianfoods.com Photo courtesy of Xi'an Famous Foods, Inc.
See More of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. Perhaps best known for the made-in-house noodles—Judy’s noodles, sautéed with spinach, jalapeños, shiitakes, and green onions in a garlic wine sauce, is their most popular dish—Shandong is a frequent reader’s choice winner in Portland. The restaurant is sleek and modern (a step up from many) and serves some of the best northern Chinese food in the state; don’t miss the hot and sour soup and the Chilean rock crab and shiitake dumpling, so plump and juicy. shandongportland.com Photo courtesy of Shandong
See More of the Best Chinese Restaurants in the U.S. With its flagship restaurant in Taiwan—selected as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world by The New York Times—this Shanghai-style small-plates chain has branched out to Los Angeles and Seattle. The juicy pork dumplings in paper-thin wrappers, simultaneously delicate and intense, are so melt-in-your-mouth delicious that the Arcadia location in Los Angeles opened a second restaurant down the street just to handle the demand. Perhaps best known for its stellar customer service and spotless interiors, Din Tai Fung almost always has a long wait, but those five-spice fried pork chops are worth every minute. dintaifungusa.com Photo © Robyn Lee
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