The Best Chinese Takeout in America
Danny Bowien’s white-hot San Francisco transplant has garnered just as much press and adoration as the West Coast original, and both locations command hours-long waits that are only somewhat assuaged by kegs of free beer for those who decide to stick around. The key, then, is to order takeout so that you can enjoy quirky, nontraditional dishes like barbecued pig ear terrine and an upmarket twist on beef with broccoli that incorporates tender brisket and smoked oyster sauce without being crushed by hipsters.
This perennially packed restaurant serves an array of dough-based items like dumplings and fresh-cut noodles (try the dry black bean sauce noodles), but the dish that has most people lined up out the door nearly every night are the dry-fried chicken wings. With a shatter-crisp exterior, they’re about as far from Buffalo as you can get and come slicked with spicy garlic sauce bolstered by even more red chile heat. Forego the rice and snag some garlic string beans to counteract all that heat.
"Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown is one of my favorite spots in Boston. They have this spicy Sichuan fish soup with peppercorns and fiery chiles that I get every time I go — it's amazing. Other dishes to get there are the scallion pancakes, tofu skin, sautéed pea greens, and pork soup dumplings. It's some of the best Chinese food I've had in the U.S., and I've brought other chefs and friends who agree." — Chef Ken Oringer, Clio
The flagship of a modest California chain, this strip mall restaurant is responsible for introducing the Shandong beef roll — a mammoth arrangement of fried Chinese pancakes, cilantro, and shredded meat slicked with fragrant bean sauce — to America. Served in brick-sized hunks and perfect for sharing, a whole beef roll would extend to nearly the length of an arm. Teaching a man to fish is one thing, but teaching a man to purchase a 101 Noodle Express beef roll will certainly do the trick of feeding his family, and he won’t even have to buy waders.
Located a few blocks off the main strip, this spacious restaurant with a vaguely Asiatic exterior specializes in traditional Cantonese cuisine (think barbecued meats, seafood, and slow-cooked soups). To that effect, you’ll see plates of roast duck, honey walnut shrimp, and salt and pepper pork chops exit the kitchen at breakneck speed. Rather than trying to intercept a startled waiter, get your 6-pound lobster to go and stage your twisted version of "Under the Sea" in the privacy of your own home (no one needs to see that).
Hand-carved to order Peking duck for $1 — cheap eats this good rarely come cheaper. This stall attached to Corner 28 restaurant in Flushing, N.Y., is reason enough to visit the vibrant Queens neighborhood. The skin is crisp, the meat moist, and those familiar accompaniments of hoisin sauce and scallions work in harmony just as they have for more than 600 years. As it's a street stall, you’ll have no option but to order takeout, which gives you more time to explore the many gems dotted throughout the area.
With service that’s more or less left to the customer — an expediter is the only thing standing between the kitchen and your food — Asia Café was made for takeout. And lucky you, because the place gets slammed most nights with Austinites looking for steamy bowls of ground beef and cilantro soup, spicy honeycomb tripe, and pan-fried shrimp with crushed peppers. The bland, cafeteria-like space is another reason to grab your food and go.
A banquet hall in the style of Beijing’s grand eateries, this paean to Peking duck roasts one killer bird — and certainly the best in the D.C. area. Granted it will run you $40, but it easily feeds three hungry diners so the end cost isn’t absurd even by takeout standards. Another standout item is the Szechuan Beef Proper, with crispy shredded meat glazed, glistening and covered in sesame seeds.
Shanghai specialties are the selling point here, best chosen from the Chinese menu available upon request. For your determination, you’ll be treated to mountains of preserved vegetables, tender Lion’s Head pork meatballs, and thick, springy fried noodles and rice cakes. For all the adventurousness, they still manage to make an excellent wonton soup.
Forgo the namesake dumplings. You have to hand it to "Katy," her handmade noodles are just about the best on offer in the Windy City. Tangled with ground pork in fiery dan dan noodles or sunken into deeply flavored beef broth, their springiness makes slurping a pleasure. However, one of Katy’s finest contributions is a dish that melds the restaurant’s signature item with Chicago’s European roots in a bowl of beef noodles with homemade sauerkraut.
The golden, flaky Frisbee-sized meat pies called xian bing at Beijing Pie House are something to behold and be held. Splitting their tender crust reveals a paragon of flavorful fillings that eclipse the standard lamb or pork in favor of combinations like pork with summer squash, leek and egg, or shrimp with mushroom. Like a xiaolongbao on steroids, you’ll be happy to give these puppies a rest on the ride home lest you feel the wrath of scalding hot meat juices with each bite.
Handheld Taiwanese pork bao — featuring fatty porcine nuggets stuffed into tender buns — are well worth the trip to Facing East, but you’d be selling yourself short not to try the rest of the animal, available in dishes like pig diaphragm or a dumpling made with sweet potato flour and filled with porky goodness. For a fun race against time, try getting home before your order of shaved ice melts.