Pick up the phone book (or use Google) in any city and chances are you'll find a Chinese restaurant nearby. High on convenience and intense flavor, Chinese food is one of the country’s great adopted cuisines. But for many, replicating the flavors and cooking techniques can present a challenge — even to the more skilled gastronomes among us. Even if you know how to dry-fry and double-steam with the best of them, sometimes it’s nice to sit back and let someone else do the work while you catch up on Homeland or thumb through your weathered copy of 50 Shades of Grey.
From Sichuan and Cantonese to Shandong and Beijing, we’re a fortunate nation to have so many provincial Chinese cuisines represented not just in the larger metropolises but throughout the lower 48 and beyond. Whether you’re sampling San Tung’s addictive chicken wings on the run in San Francisco or skipping the horrendous lines at New York’s Mission Chinese Food outpost in favor of scenting your home with a mala-heavy mapo tofu perfume, the restaurants listed within are sure to work your tongue harder than a Foxconn employee.
The Daily Meal searched America to seek out the best Chinese takeout, from strip mall nooks and holes-in-the-wall to bustling Chinatown institutions and bold new kids on the block. We consulted our own group of chefs and city experts, James Beard Award-winning and nominated chefs like Ken Oringer and Anita Lo and both nationally and locally trusted sources online and in print in cities across the country. Some great places didn't make the list, but after qualifying the food based on authenticity to regional cuisine, speed and of course, flavor, the food from these 12 places emerged as the clear winners.
For those with a coastal bias — don’t despair. There’s many a specialized delicacy to be found wherever cowboys roam (which, if Cowboys and Aliens has taught us anything, is everywhere). Practice your chopsticks skills, it's time to get down to business.
Zachary Feldman is the Eat/Dine Editor for The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter at @Zachats