Fast food taste tests, waitresses getting massive tips, the best restaurants across America — these are just a few of the topics Yahoo Food readers loved the most. In a tribute to you, our reader, we are revisiting some of our most popular stories of 2015.
Mosa Asian Bistro’s lo mein is just one example of the creative approach some of the best Chinese restaurants take on classic and original dishes. Photo: Mosa Asian Bistro
Chinese food is an American obsession. Almost everyone has a favorite dish they can find on just about any menu at any Chinese restaurant in the country. Some restaurants,however, are just better than others.
In our attempt to pinpoint the best Chinese restaurants in each state and Washington, D.C., we reached out to Yelp data scientists. They compiled a list based on the number of stars and amount of reviews each restaurant received from Yelpers. The higher the combined number, the better the ranking. Some of the restaurants serve a variety of Asian cuisine – such as Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese – but devote a large portion of their menu to Chinese food, according to the reviews and menus.
Compiling any “best of” restaurant list is a dangerous mission and risks offending at least a few of the faithful. People have their favorite go-to spot and not much can be done to break their devotion. While we salute their loyalty, we also embrace discovery, adventure, and sharing. This list represents that spirit.
If you’re looking for a change, a proven winner while traveling, or a dish your local favorite just doesn’t serve, these restaurants are all worth visiting. They received mostly high marks (overall four to five stars out of five) for quality food; full, well-balanced flavors; decent portions; reasonable prices; and generally good service.
After reading through hundreds of Yelp reviews, a few other trends and highlights emerged:
— Location doesn’t matter. There’s always a strong concentration of great Asian restaurants in any big city, but you’re likely to a find a rival to many of them in tertiary cities, small towns, and the middle of nowhere. Pleasant surprises lurk where you’ll least expect them.
— While most of these restaurants serve a full variety of Americanized favorites, many delve deep into authentic dishes. Sometimes they’re on the menu, sometimes they aren’t. Always ask.
— Odds are you’ll find the restaurant owner, or a close family member, working the floor or stove at many of these restaurants. They appreciate the business, like to chat, and will do what they can to accommodate.
— “Fusion” is no longer a dirty word. More restaurants are serving multiple types of Asian food and doing it well. The sushi is often as good and fresh as the Chinese food.
— Many of these restaurants are small and hard to find. If you happen to miss one on the first pass, keep trying. Chances are you’ll be glad you did.
Red Pearl Restaurant’s beef noodle soup. Photo: Ee Vonn Y, Yelp
1. Alabama: Super Oriental Market and Red Pearl Restaurant, 243 W. Valley Avenue, Birmingham.
4.5 stars, 101 reviews
Thankfully, the dining room, not the quality of the food, was the only thing Red Pearl owners changed during a remodeling a few years back. From the soups to the rice dishes to the seafood, Yelpers say you can’t go wrong with whatever you order at this Birmingham favorite. Fried fish in sweet-and-sour sauce, sautéed pork belly, hot pots, double spicy chicken, and roast duck are just a few Yelp faves. And the Red Pearl chefs aren’t afraid of adding a little heat. “You ask for spicy and they will give you spicy,” writes Charlotte N., Houston, Texas. Swing through the well-stocked market on your way out and pick up a few things for home. “This is an authentic Chinese experience from the get go,” says local Gene S.
Charlie’s egg tarts are worth the trip to Anchorage. Photo: Charlie’s Bakery
2. Alaska: Charlie’s Bakery, 2729 C Street, Anchorage.
4 stars, 77 reviews
Yelpers applaud Charlie’s for the authenticity of its entrees and quality of its baked goods. Yu-Shiang eggplant, roasted duck, steamed buns, scallion pancakes, shrimp wonton, and ginger chicken are just a few main-course standouts from Charlie’s, which local Mike M. calls “an Anchorage gem … reminds us of Taipei.” Best leave room for something from the bakery: puff pastry with chicken curry, egg tarts, custard buns, and the cakes all get high marks. Take it from M.B. of Chugiak, a Charlie’s regular for more than 10 years: “An Anchorage institution. Mouth is watering just thinking of the next visit.”
The orange chicken at Simi’s Cafe. Photo: Simi’s Cafe
3. Arizona: Simi’s Café, 2401 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert.
4.5 stars, 168 reviews
Simi’s specializes in Vietnamese, Thai, and Cantonese food, and does it all very well, report Yelpers from the front lines. But there’s something about the orange chicken (and friendly service) that puts reviewers in rapture. “It is so ridiculously good that I have turned my back on my beloved pho a few times to order it,” writes a guilty Sarah R. of Phoenix. Red or green curry chicken, chow fun, pho, and the BBQ pork fried rice are a few other dishes Yelpers praise. And did we mention the customer service? “You can tell they love their customers because they remember their regulars by name,” says Elaine B. of Chandler. Always a good sign.
4. Arkansas: Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking, 3901 S. University Avenue, Little Rock.
4.5 stars, 40 reviews
Yelpers traveling from Asian food hotspots such as San Francisco, Seattle, and New York praise this “amazing” Little Rock “diamond in the rough” for its authenticity, large portions and reasonable prices. “This is some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in years,” writes Paula S. of Dallas, Texas. Standouts include mapo tofu, basil squid, sesame shrimp, seafood hot-and-sour soup, and Taiwanese braised pork. “Our Chinese stomach felt very comfortable,” reassures Ke X. of Clemson, S.C. “Five stars.”
The Chairman delivers baked and steamed pork belly buns. Photo: The Chairman
5. California: The Chairman food truck, various locations in San Francisco.
4 stars, 1,264 reviews
Thirty-minute wait? No problem. Yelpers gladly stand in line to get their hands on two or four (never just one) of the Chairman’s steamed or baked buns. Plus, the line moves quickly. “I dream about this truck’s steamed buns. I could eat these everyday and not think about other food,” admits Alisa R., Glasgow, U.K. The Chairman carries only a few items – pork belly with pickled daikon, Coca-Cola braised pork, spicy chicken, crispy miso-cured tofu, and Muscovy duck confit – but Yelpers say they’re all the right ones. Check the web site for locations.
Star Kitchen’s salt and pepper squid. Photo: Star Kitchen
6. Colorado: Star Kitchen Seafood Restaurant, 2917 W. Mississippi Avenue, Denver.
4 stars, 350 reviews
Based on the Yelp reviews, Star Kitchen not only has the best dim sum in Denver, it also serves up some of the best overall Chinese food around. Forget about ordering dim sum (served until 3 p.m. daily) from the menu; just pick whatever looks good from the rolling carts. Yelpers say you can’t go wrong. But make sure to snag a few BBQ pork buns, which are “so good it hurts,” writes Jenn W. Littleton. Combine the dim sum with a few dishes from the kitchen. They’re as good as whatever is rolling by on the cart. “Everything they bring is excellent,” writes Michael C. of Denver.
Black Bamboo’s crispy duck special. Photo: Black Bamboo
7. Connecticut: Black Bamboo Chinese Restaurant, 844 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford.
4 stars, 208 reviews
Black Bamboo is popular, busy, and very small, so takeout might be the best option. That certainly doesn’t bother Yelpers. “Some of the best Chinese food I’ve had. Period! The food here is flavorful, fresh,” writes C M. of Middletown. A large vegetarian menu featuring a handful of vegan options – meatless orange chicken, boneless ribs, Kung Po chicken – scores big with Connecticut Yelpers, as do the other “higher-end” “non-greasy” Chinese dishes, such as chicken or pork with garlic sauce, General Tso’s dinner, and the Szechuan triple crown.
Flat noodles and beef at Confucius. Photo: Confucius
8. Delaware: Confucius, 57 Wilmington Avenue, Rehoboth Beach.
4 stars, 35 reviews
Confucius says: If the food is really good, unleash the superlatives. Yelpers don’t hold back when reviewing this Rehoboth Beach hotspot. “Best,” “out of this world,” “unfailingly delectable,” and “awesome” are just a few of the adjectives used to describe the hot pepper pork, scallion pancakes with smoked salmon, and black pepper beef. “Amazing flavor, delicious fare, great service and the owner always greets you with a smile,” writes Azzmeiah W. of Beverly, N.J., in her five-star review.
Like many Asian fusion restaurants on this list, the Japanese is as good as the Chinese food at Asian Garden. Photo: Asian Garden
9. Florida: Asian Garden, 2451 W. 68 Street, Hialeah.
4.5 stars, 82 reviews
Yelpers rave about Asian Garden’s sushi and its “reasonably priced” Chinese food. “Best Chinese food I’ve had in a while!” writes Lissette C. of Miami Beach. On the sushi front, the Miami Heat, Pink Lady and Caribbean rolls are definite winners with reviewers. Yelpers also recommend the Mongolian beef, General Tso’s chicken, ham fried rice, and any of the family dinner specials. Gracious owners and a “cozy” atmosphere seal the deal. “They also have great soups and fried rice,” writes local Danays S.
Ready for the hot broth at J’s Mini Hot Pot. Photo: J’s Mini Hot Pot
10. Georgia: J’s Mini Hot Pot, 2174 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth.
4.5 stars, 119 reviews
J’s Mini Hot Pot has been building up a fan base for years, luring Georgians with its beef bone, miso, chicken, vegetarian, herbal, tom yum and beauty booster broths, and variety of meat, seafood, and combo entrees. “Hot pots are awesome, great for a first or a fifteenth date. Delicious and interesting,” writes RP H. of Lawrenceville, who, we assume is referring to the hot pots. Yelpers especially appreciate the sauce bar, where they can create custom combinations. “The key to a tasty experience is the dipping sauce … just take a little of all your favorites and stir,” writes Addy C. of Atlanta.
11. Hawaii: Char Hung Sut, 64 N. Pauahi Street, Honolulu.
4.5 stars, 219 reviews
For nearly 70 years, Char Hung Sut has been serving up its manapua (pork bun) and dim sum to hungry locals and visitors of Honolulu. Make sure not to blink if you’re on a first-time quest for this small mom-and-pop shop. You could miss it. “The steamed bun of Char Hung Suts … can’t be beat! The bread so soft and warm in your mouth, with a slight sweetness and that delicious shredded char siu inside is hard to not love!” writes local Reid O. oh so convincingly. Pork hash, rice cakes, and chow fun or gon lo mein noodles also have Yelpers swooning.
Chan’s famous ginger chicken. Photo: Wok-Inn Noodle
12. Idaho: Wok-Inn Noodle, 4912 Emerald St., Boise.
4 stars, 43 reviews
This nondescript restaurant in a strip mall is considered one of the area’s best Chinese restaurants, with the credit going to Chef Chan, who pulls his own noodles and does all the cooking. “The food was surprisingly amazing. The noodles were well cooked and the meat was of much higher quality than you would get from your ordinary Mongolian BBQ,” writes local Alan Y. Check out Chan’s big collection of vinyl records while you’re there and don’t forget to order the House Noodles.
Chef Ping’s Chinese New Year spread. Photo: Chef Ping
13. Illinois: Chef Ping, 1755 Algonquin Road, Rolling Meadows.
4 stars, 424 reviews
By way of Yelp reviews, Chef Ping could be considered the King of Chinese food in the greater-Chicago area. His seafood combo, Mongolian beef, anything from the salt-and-pepper family, walnut shrimp, chicken wings, fried rice dishes, and mochi ice cream come highly recommended. “Everything we ordered was excellent,” writes David W. of St. Louis, Mo., who recently went to Ping’s with 10 people who shared 10 different dishes. That’s the way to do it at a place like Ping.
14. Indiana: Naisa Pan-Asian Café, 1025 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis.
4.5 stars, 113 reviews
This small restaurant is big on flavors and portions. Depending on your appetite, an entrée can satisfy two people. But why risk it; you can always take the leftovers home. Yelpers note that most everything is homemade and all ingredients are fresh. Garlic chili chicken, tangerine beef or chicken, and a variety of vegetarian dishes shine. “When I’m on the hunt for fresh/non-greasy Asian eats ranging from veggie pot stickers to basil curry fried tofu rice, Naisa is my go-to!” writes Britany S., of Indianapolis.
Sam’s sesame balls filled with sweet, yellow mung bean. Photo: Sam’s Fine Egg Rolls
15. Iowa: Sam’s Fine Food Egg Rolls, 3300 S.W. 9th St., Des Moines.
4.5 stars, 23 reviews
Ever since Mint Asian Bistro in Arnolds Park closed its doors late last year, Sam’s has taken the throne as Yelp’s top-rated Chinese restaurant in Iowa. It wears the crown well. “Hole-in-the-wall food at its best,” writes Dallas G. of Manhattan, Kansas. “Great egg rolls (order more than you think you can eat). Huge, homemade pot stickers.” Crab rangoon and Mongolian beef also score high marks. There are only a few tables in the place so plan to order takeout. Everything travels well. “The food was impressive for Chinese take out,” writes Trina W. of Reno, Nev.
16. Kansas: ABC Café, 10001 W. 87th Street, Overland Park.
4 stars 114 reviews
With a menu featuring such dishes as spicy chicken feet, deep-fried intestines, shredded dough with water chestnut jello, braised sea cucumber, and turnip cake, it’s no surprise that adjectives like “authentic” and “exotic” appear on Yelp reviews. “This place is the real deal,” writes Joseph P., a Chinese native living in Kansas City, Mo., who didn’t bother with the menu and just asked for the chef’s specialty. Turned out to be a good decision based on the vegetable, duck and fish dishes that arrived at the table. “If you’re expecting sweet and sour shrimp, General Tso’s or moo shu pork pancakes, maybe they’ll have it, but you’d be missing the best part of the menu,” says BM of Bentonville, Ark.
Amerasia’s Chef Chu combines kung fu and fast food to create a knockout Chinese food menu. Photo: Amerasia
17. Kentucky: Amerasia, 521 Madison Avenue, Covington.
4 stars, 210 reviews
Don’t be surprised to see Amerasia’s chef Rich Chu touring the dining room with a glass of beer and drinking a toast to each diner until his glass is empty. You’ll toast him right back after scarfing down his “Kung Food.” You’ll also want to keep that glass full throughout the meal. Amerasia’s broad, “eclectic” mix of craft beers and rotating taps separate it from most other Chinese restaurants in the country. Kung fu posters on the walls and classic martial arts and monster movies on the TV add to the fun and funky atmosphere. Oh yes, there’s also the food. Dragon Breath Wontons, “great” egg rolls, How Fun Noodles, Mongolian beef, Pork Get in Mah Belly, General’s Sesame Street Chicken, Brocco-Lee and Big Bird’s Nest get strong Yelp shout outs. Chef Chu also respects spice levels. If you ask for heat, you’ll get heat.
18. Louisiana: Hoa Hong Nine Roses, 1100 Stephens Street, Gretna.
4 stars, 96 reviews
Nine Roses primarily serves Vietnamese food, with only a few Chinese-style dishes sprinkled on the menu. Whatever Yelpers order, though, most want to go back for more. “I go here probably 3 times a month. No kidding,” writes local Leena T. Vietnamese crepe filled with shrimp and pork, chicken salad, and catfish steaks simmered in fish sauce are just a few call outs that hit the spot. “This continues to be my happy place and where I seek the comfort food of my motherland,” confides Felicia H. of New Orleans.
Empire Chinese Kitchen‘s Szechuan ramen bowl. Photo: Empire Chinese Kitchen
19. Maine: Empire Chinese Kitchen, 575 Congress Street, Portland.
4 stars, 79 reviews
Despite its ranking as a solid food destination, Portland for years has lacked a quality, higher-end Chinese restaurant. That is, Yelpers say, until Empire Chinese Kitchen took over the space once occupied by Portland’s first “deluxe” Chinese restaurant, the Empire Restaurant, which closed in 1953. This dim sum hotspot also serves authentic Cantonese entrees made from locally sourced ingredients. “In the past year, I’ve probably visited Empire at least once a week. This is Portland dining at its best,” writes local Nathan K. Small plate standouts include the Empire eggroll made with local pastrami, spicy pork belly buns, and honey walnut shrimp with citrus Japanese mayo. For dim sum, try the Shanghai soup dumplings; spinach dumplings with carrot, ginger and sweet corn; and, of course, the lobster dumplings. This is Maine, after all.
20. Maryland: Yuan Fu Vegetarian, 798 Rockville Pike, Rockville.
4 stars, 250 reviews
Yuan Fu Vegetarian is one of the few vegetarian-only restaurants to land on this list. Chef Tai makes all the imitation meats and seafood from vegetable products: beef and pork from gluten; chicken from soybean protein; duck from layers of tofu skin; fish from soybean protein and seaweed; and baby shrimp and squid from Japanese style white yam. “I was a little skeptical at first. But after trying the food, it was all awesome! No one believes from the picture that it is vegetarian food … it does have the texture of what it claims to be,” writes Emma W. of Montgomery Village. Not in the mood for mock meat? The eggplant dishes get strong reviews, while everything under the “non-fat” menu is oil free.
Ready for the full experience at Shabu-Zen. Photo: Shabu-Zen
21. Massachusetts: Shabu-Zen, 16 Tyler St., Boston.
4 stars, 543 reviews
High-quality meats and seafood, fresh vegetables, addictive broths, a huge variety of entrees and sides, and large portions for the price? No wonder Yelpers rank Shabu-Zen one of the best shabu shabu restaurants in New England. And don’t worry if you’ve never eaten shabu shabu. The friendly servers will gladly show you the way. “The meat’s (beef and lamb) marbling was rich, weaving together fat and lean to create a sumptuous texture and flavor,” writes Lawrence H., a New Yorker. Try to hit Shabu Zen for an early lunch. Expect long waits most other times. “So delectable, so delicious,” writes Tin P. of Kent, Wash., who obviously got over the long wait.
22. Michigan: Trizest Restaurant, 33170 Dequindre Road, Sterling Heights.
4 stars, 93 reviews
A round of applause to Trizest for offering two full in-house and online menus: one featuring all of the standard Chinese favorites and the other packed with traditional specialties, such as spicy pig stomach, fried duck in spicy fire pot with beer sauce, and Chengdu style spicy shrimp. “My Chinese wife tells me this is the most authentic Sichuan restaurant in the area,“ writes Albert K. of Troy, Mich. Other Yelpers gladly note how spicy the food is “even by Asian standards.” Whatever Trizest is doing, Michigan resident Jeff H. hopes it doesn’t stop: “I just had the best Chinese meal I think I’ve eaten in my life.”
23. Minnesota: Weng’s Kitchen, 115 Elm Street, Farmington.
5 stars, 29 reviews
Since opening in 2010, Weng’s Kitchen has quickly become a Yelp favorite around the Twin Cities. What do you expect? Not only is owner Tony Weng known to be super friendly, he also has a secret weapon manning the stoves: his mom, Chef Juan. A fresh, well-stocked buffet anchors the lunch trade, while entrées such as Mongolian beef, salt-and-pepper squid, and a variety of seafood fuel strong reviews. Oh, and the moo shu pork gets “a perfect 10” from Karl of Burnsville. Weng’s is also trying some new items on the menu, including filet mignon with pea pods, onions, bell peppers, and mushroom in a black pepper sauce; fried or sweet-and-tangy walleye; mango chicken; and lobster with ginger.
24. Mississippi: Ichiban Buffet, 359 Ridge Way, Flowood.
4 stars, 35 reviews
With its extensive Chinese and sushi offerings, as well as a bunch of American extras for picky kids, many Yelpers say Ichiban has one of the best buffets they’ve been to. “I took my dad here a few months ago (he is critical of almost everything) and he loved it,” reports Rose K. of Flowood. Chefs prepare sushi by the rotating sushi bar and other Japanese favorites on hibachi grills. Most of the Chinese food is standard fare, but it’s all well-prepared and flavorful, Yelpers write. Keep your eyes on the crab legs, though. Diners tend to grab as many as they can whenever a fresh batch hits the buffet.
Just one example of Lona’s ethereal rolls. Photo: Lona’s Lil Eats
25. Missouri: Lona’s Lil Eats, 2199 California Ave., St. Louis.
5 stars, 44 reviews
Best known for running a spring roll stand (still open on Saturdays and serving a variety of other items) at the Soulard market, Lona Luo moved into this small storefront where she sells build-your-own “giant” rice paper wraps and other types of Thai-inspired “healthy” cuisine with a soul-food flare. “Lona’s is characterized by exciting and fresh flavors and a bright, lively storefront,” writes Mark S. of St. Louis. An expanded menu includes a variety of carnivore, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and paleo dishes. “The food tastes so authentic, the place is adorable, the staff and service are excellent and the prices reasonable. I wish I had discovered this place sooner,” writes Muja B. of Valley Park.
26. Montana: China Garden Restaurant, 2100 Stephens Avenue, Missoula.
4 stars, 19 reviews
China Garden is still going strong after 30 years. Yelpers consistently praise the service and give the variety of classic Chinese fare strong marks. Sautéed vegetables and chicken, almond chicken chow mein, and the shrimp anull