America’s 30 Best Chinese Restaurants
January 21, 2016
From dim sum parlors to tiny dumpling shops, these are the best around
America’s 30 Best Chinese Restaurants
If there’s one style of food where we tend to think, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” it’s Chinese food. To some, this conclusion might seem obvious, and it is perhaps not without some justification. After all, many Chinese restaurants are surprisingly similar, right down to their dish names and descriptions. But in certain parts of the country, you can find Chinese food that’s legitimately spectacular. To honor these restaurants, we’ve rounded up the 30 best Chinese restaurants in the country.
#30 Corner 28 Peking Duck Stall, Flushing, New York
Yelp / Kevin L
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 this 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.
#29 Beijing Pie House, Monterey Park, Calif.
Yelp / San Q
The golden, flaky Frisbee-sized meat pies called xian bing at Beijing Pie House are something to behold and to 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 xiao long bao 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.
#28 Katy’s Dumpling House, Chicago
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.
#27 Best China, Canton, Mich.
Yelp / Angela W
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. But for all the adventurousness, they still manage to make an excellent wonton soup.
#26 Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church, Va.
Yelp / Linda C
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.
#25 Asia Café, Austin
Yelp / Cris R
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.
#24 Gourmet Dumpling House, Boston
Yelp / Vivian C
From renowned Boston chef Ken Oringer: "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."
#23 Joyful House, Las Vegas
Yelp / Jerry W
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 six-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).
#22 Hakkasan, Various Locations
This upscale London-based chain has American locations in Miami, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco. While it’s flashy, opulent, and very expensive, the food coming out of the kitchen is of an incredibly high quality, full of flavor and always interesting. Dim sum items are especially notable, including chicken and abalone shumai, morel crystal dumplings, and roast duck pumpkin puffs. If you’re looking for a Chinese meal fit for a king, Hakkasan’s your place.
#21 Biang!, New York
Chef Jason Wang is perhaps best known for the Xi’An Famous Foods mini-empire, but Biang!, which recently moved from Main Street in Flushing to a higher-profile location on Second Avenue, is just as worthy of praise. Whereas Xi’An is primarily a takeout spot, Biang! Has full table service as well as a liquor license. Many of Xi’An’s famous noodle dishes make appearances on the menu here, but the primary addition to the menu is a wide selection of skewers, both “Spicy & Tingly” (boiled, then slathered with a spicy bean sauce, sesame pasta, garlic, and chile oil) and “Spicy Cumin” (flame-grilled, then seasoned with cumin, red chile powder, and spices). With options including tofu skin, beef stomach, chicken heart, lamb, chicken wing, and quail, there’s plenty of room for experimentation.
#20 Earthen Restaurant, Hacienda Heights, Calif.
Yelp / Dana K
The lines form early and often at this Hacienda Heights must-visit, and you’ll notice that every table tends to order the same items: lots of thick noodles, cold Shandong-style chicken, green onion pancakes, and pork pot stickers. While everything on the menu is astonishingly delicious, it’s these items that are essentially the perfect representation of the form, and the reason why this restaurant deserves a spot on our list.
#19 Shanghai Café Deluxe, New York
Yelp / Quoc H
If you find yourself looking for a classic Chinatown sit-down restaurant experience with the added benefit of eating the best soup dumplings the neighborhood has to offer, then Shanghai Café Deluxe is the place to go. Modest and cash-only, with plenty of neon lights for décor, this Shanghai-style restaurant is the perfect setting to dig into big and inexpensive portions of Shanghai-style wontons, smoky and chewy rice cakes, and an enormous braised pork shoulder in brown sauce.
#18 R&G Lounge, San Francisco
This must-visit Hong Kong-style Cantonese spot has been impressing locals and tourists alike for 30 years, a span in which it’s expanded from one floor to three. The restaurant’s preparation of traditional dishes is second to none; standouts include battered and deep-fried Live Crab with Salt & Pepper, flaky baked black cod, soy sauce chicken, and golden brown whole roast squab.
#17 Szechuan Impression, Alhambra, Calif.
Yelp / Lindsay A
Since opening in 2014 with a chef who honed his skills at a five-star hotel in Chengdu, this Alhambra hotspot has commanded lines for a table. This restaurant proves that Szechuan cuisine isn’t just spicy cumin chicken and ma po tofu; standouts here are the ones that don’t numb your mouth with Szechuan peppercorns, like pig’s ears smoked in the style of Szechuan bacon, garlic shredded pork, bon bon chicken, and Leshan beef. The spicy dishes, including cold spicy rabbit, are definitely worth ordering as well.
#16 Utopia Café, San Francisco
Yelp / William B
The simple and no-frills Hong Kong-style Utopia Café is a master of clay pot cuisine, and you’ll find a brown stoneware pot filled with clay pot rice on just about every table. These ripping-hot bowls come in 15 varieties and take up to 20 minutes to cook, with standouts including cuttlefish and minced pork, Chinese sausage and preserved duck, and spare ribs and black beans. These bowls are filled with rice and topped with your choice of protein. The combination of fat from the meat and soy sauce drizzled over it creates an irresistibly crunchy and golden brown crust. Working your way through a pot is about as fun and exciting (and delicious) as Chinese cuisine gets.
#15 Fu Ran, Flushing, New York
This Flushing institution (previously called Fu Run) is dedicated to the cuisine of China’s northeastern Dongbei region, which is heavy on the flatbreads, doughy dumplings, and lamb, which happens to be Fu Ran’s main claim to fame: the Muslim lamb chop. This now-legendary dish starts with a big rack of lamb ribs that are braised until they’re falling apart, battered and fried, and completely doused in a mixture of sesame seeds, cumin, and chile flakes. It’s plated tableside with much fanfare, and just might be the single best Chinese dish in New York City.
#14 Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, New York City
Yelp / Steven C
You haven’t truly experienced Chinese noodles until you’ve had them at Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, located on tiny, crooked Doyers Street. Offering Chinatown’s best noodles, this restaurant has a noodle for everyone: thin hand pulled noodles, thick and frilly knife-peeled noodles (made by shaving strands from a dough log over boiling water), thick rice noodles, and skinny rice noodles, and they’re all flawless. You can get them in soup or pan-fried and with endless toppings, and no matter what route you take the odds of choosing poorly are slim to none.
#13 Chengdu Taste, Alhambra, Calif.
Yelp / Howie C
Hailed as “the best Sichuan restaurant in America” by Serious Eats and beloved by culinary authorities including Jonathan Gold, every location of this mini-chain is packed at all hours, and with good reason. Traditional dishes like couple’s beef, simmering beef in hot sauce, mapo tofu, and dan dan noodles are still spicy but lighter and cleaner than you might expect, and offal abounds if you’re in an adventurous mood. Dining at Chengdu Taste is an adventure, and it’s one that may change your impression of Chinese food forever.
#12 La Chine, New York
This opulent palace to regional Chinese cuisine inside the esteemed Waldorf-Astoria may have only opened a couple months ago, but it’s already staked its rightful claim as perhaps the finest upscale Chinese restaurant in New York, recently earning two stars from the New York Times’ Pete Wells, who called it “interesting, in ways that those of us who love the cuisines of China wish would happen more often in New York.” Executive chef Kong Khai Meng’s menu, which includes a variety of raw seafood preparations inspired by the cuisine of Zhejiang, also features standouts like Peking-style duck, Guangdong-style pork collar, Shanxi-style wok seared lamb loin, and Taiwanese fried jasmine rice with crab and roe. La Chine offers a tour of China by way of its cuisine, and proves that it’s a wonderfully diverse country.
#11 Nom Wah Tea Parlor, New York
This dim sum parlor is New York’s oldest, but a recent renovation and menu overhaul from new owner Wilson Tang gave it new life. It still retains its retro quasi-diner vibe with red banquettes and formica tabletops, and its dim sum is some of the best you’ll find in Chinatown. Go for the chewy and supple steamed rice rolls, juicy siu mai, Shanghai soup dumplings, and roast pork buns and you’ll be in dim sum heaven.
#10 Din Tai Fung Dumpling House, Los Angeles
Din Tai Fung Dumpling House is a popular Taiwan-based chain of dumpling shops that got its start in 1958. Today there are locations throughout Asia, and six in the United States: three in the Los Angeles area (Arcadia, Glendale, and Costa Mesa), and two in Seattle (in Bellevue and the University District).
As the name might suggest, Din Tai Fung sells a variety of Chinese-style dumplings, with fillings including pork, pork and crab, fish, chicken, and vegetable; pork buns; soup dumplings; and shao mai. But there is also a wide variety of appetizers (fried pork chop, pork rice bun, soy noodle salad); soups (braised beef, chicken, wonton, hot and sour); noodles (with minced pork sauce, spicy sauce, pickled mustard seed, and shredded pork); wontons with sauce; fried noodles (with pork, chicken, or shrimp); fried rice; greens; and desserts including red bean buns.
If you’re looking for authentic dumplings, Din Tai Fung is the place to go. If you need any more prodding, the New York Times named the Taiwan flagship one of the 10 best restaurants in the world in 1993, and its Hong Kong branches have been awarded Michelin stars.
#9 San Tung, San Francisco
This perennially packed restaurant serves an array of dough-based items like dumplings and fresh-cut noodles (try the shrimp and leek dumplings or dry black bean sauce noodles), but the dish that has people lined up out the door every night is the dry-fried chicken wings. With a sticky-sweet exterior, they’re about as far from Buffalo as you can get; they come slicked with spicy garlic sauce bolstered by even more red-chile heat. Forego the rice and snag some garlic string beans to balance out all that heat.
The no-frills dining room doesn’t give the impression that this restaurant is any more special than the many others in San Francisco, but one taste of menu items including shrimp and leek dumplings, hot and sour soup, and dry fry beef will have you sold.
#8 RedFarm, New York
Dim sum master chef Joe Ng and Chinese food expert Ed Schoenfeld have elevated Chinese food to a new level in the West Village and on the Upper West Side. RedFarm offers innovative Chinese cuisine incorporating a farm-to-table mindset, one that you certainly don’t encounter often in Chinese restaurants.
The West Village location only has 42 seats, most of which are at two large communal tables, and reservations for both locations are only taken for parties of eight or more. Once the food starts coming out, you’ll see what all the fuss is about. Starters include Kumamoto oysters with Meyer lemon-yuzu ice, barbecued Flack Foot Berkshire pork belly with grilled jalapeños, a Katz’s pastrami egg roll, and barbecue duck lettuce wraps. Dim sum includes pan-fried lamb dumpling “shooters,” pan-fried pork buns, crispy oxtail dumplings, crispy duck and crab dumplings, and pork and crab soup dumplings. Mains include lobster with chopped pork and egg, crispy skin smoked chicken with garlic, wide rice noodles with barbecued duck breast, Dungeness and rock crabmeat long life noodles, Nueske’s bacon and egg fried rice, and udon noodles with grilled short ribs.
Not only is RedFarm’s food creative and delicious, it fuses the traditional and contemporary in a seamless and brilliant way.
#7 Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco
Chef Danny Bowien’s San Francisco landmark is still going strong, and very well just might be the most famous Chinese restaurant in America today, commanding hours-long waits that are only somewhat assuaged by kegs of free beer for those who decide to stick around. Thankfully, you can order takeout, so it’s possible to enjoy quirky, non-traditional dishes like kung pao pastrami, 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. The New York location, which was shuttered by the city’s Department of Health in October 2013, re-opened with much fanfare in a new location last December. Some may think that Bowien is just a flash in the pan (his follow-up restaurant, Mission Cantina, opened to poor reviews), but we think that his star is only continuing to rise.
#6 Peter Chang’s China Café, Fredricksberg, Md.
Yelp/ Xida C
The famously peripatetic chef Peter Chang, known for his superior Szechuan cuisine and a propensity to disappear… er… move about in the American southeast, has been a little easier to find over the past five years since forming a business partnership with Gen Lee, a semi-retired Chinese chef. Indeed, the question has gone from, “Where is Peter Chang?” to “Which of his seven Virginia restaurants is the chef cooking at on any given day?” The quality is good at all of them, and the menus are almost identical. Peter Chang's China Cafe in Fredericksburg, neither the oldest nor the newest of his establishments, is a good place to start — but any of Chang's locations (also including Williamsburg, Charlottesville, Short Pump [Richmond], Arlington, and Virginia Beach, and Rockville), all in Virginia, will provide a similarly satisfying (and spicy) experience. Try Chang's famous scallion bubble pancakes with curry sauce, and/or the Sichuan-style dry-fried eggplant, spicy dan dan noodles, fried boneless whole fish with pine nuts, pigs’ feet stir-fried with dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns, and most anything on the “Chefs’ Specialties” section of the menu.
#5 Yank Sing, San Francisco
Yank Sing, the popular dim sum restaurant in San Francisco’s financial district, was founded by Alice Chan in 1958. There are now two San Francisco locations of this third-generation family-run restaurant, both creating almost 100 items a day to be rolled into the dining rooms for diners to choose from. Both locations are excellent, but some of our Chinese friends prefer this one, where on weekends, the crowd spills out into the Rincon Atrium. Any conversation about San Francisco's best dim sum is dangerous, but you can easily make a case that this is the city’s best. Either way, complementing the merits of Yank Sing's soup dumplings is well-tread ground. Thin dumpling skin, pursed plump dumplings, a dash of vinegar, perfection.
#4 Grand Sichuan, New York
Chinese cooking in New York City was better and more diverse 25 years ago than it is today — many of the great older chefs who immigrated to America during the Cold War have retired, and the demand is now too high in China itself to encourage anyone to leave. That said, chef–restaurateur Xiaotu "John" Zhang's Grand Sichuan restaurants — of which the Ninth Avenue branch is considered the best example — are a bright spot on the local food scene.
The cooking holds true to ancient roots but embraces the evolution of modern cuisine, redefining the familiar "take-out" that New Yorkers have come to love (and depend on) while suggesting a more vibrant future for Chinese food in America. In addition to all the standards you'd expect, done well, the menu offers more uncommon fare — for instance, crab and pork soup dumplings, sliced conch with "wild pepper" sauce, eel with garlic sauce, shredded duck with bitter melon, and ox tongue and tripe in hot sauce.
#3 Xi’An Famous Foods, New York
With eight no-frills locations in New York, including outposts in Flushing, Chinatown, Greenpoint, Midtown Manhattan, and the East Village, Xi’an is one of the only places in the country where you can get your fix of the traditional foods of the western Chinese city of the same name.
You’ll be glad you did: Go for any of the hand-pulled noodle dishes, like the spicy and tingly beef, or try the spicy cumin lamb or stewed pork “burgers,” which are more like chopped spiced meat on buns. Other intensely flavorful options include a soup with diced pork belly and hand-stretched and ripped noodles in a sour and spicy broth; lamb face salad with lamb face meat and tendons, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro with a spicy dressing; homemade soft tofu in a spicy sauce; and lamb offal soup (with liver, stomach, and heart). If you’re feeling adventurous, Xi’an is for you.
The flavors will be unlike any you’ve had. We suggest you heed their warning and don’t take your order to go; those fresh noodles demand to be eaten immediately, before they begin to stick together.
#2 Koi Palace, Daly City, Calif.
The secret to this perpetually-crowded Hong Kong-style restaurant’s success? Sending its staff to Asia on occasion to learn about the newest dining trends, and then incorporating them into the menu back home. This sprawling Daly City, California, restaurant and event space opened in 1996 and has been one of the Bay Area’s top Chinese spots since day one. World-class dim sum is the name of the game during lunchtime, but once dinner rolls around Koi Palace becomes a seafood destination, with entire menu sections dedicated to abalone, crab, shrimp, and lobster. While these preparations are spot-on authentic, there’s plenty of room to be daring: goose intestine chow fun, anyone? We’ll stick with the whole suckling pig, selling for $190, or its legendary Shanghai crab dumplings.
#1 Lao Sze Chuan, Chicago
If you live near Chicago and haven’t been to Lao Sze Chuan, here’s a word of advice: Go. Now. You can consider yourself fortunate to be living in a city that’s home to a Chinese restaurant of this caliber, run by Tony Hu, dubbed the mayor of Chinatown and proprietor of a handful of restaurants throughout the city. The Chinatown original is the best though, and folks line up every night to get in. Lao Sze Chuan’s Szechuan fare is spicy and intensely flavorful, and it’s racked up accolades including three forks from the Chicago Tribune and a designated ‘bib gourmand’ in the Michelin Guide. Classics like mapo tofu, cumin lamb, dry chili chicken, and twice-cooked pork are flawless, and the house specialties — like Tony’s Three Chili Chicken: sweet, crispy, moist, and not too spicy — will keep you coming back again and again.