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PF Chang's --what's it like?

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Is it very good for Americanized Chinese?

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  1. Yes, probably the best all rounder Americanized Chinese in the country.

    Good quality ingredients, well prepared, with a decent wine list and gigantic desserts. Can't ask for more.


    14 Replies
    1. re: TexasToast

      So if I ever had to go there, what would you suggest are the best things to order ... what to skip?

      1. re: rworange

        I've always liked the lettuce wraps and I'm a huge fan of the Dan-Dan noodles, although the noodles are usually overcooked. I've only been a handful of times since there isn't a Chang's near my house (although one is opening up nearby soon).

        1. re: rworange

          I was just at PF Chang's in Atlantic City. It is the best Chinese food I have ever eaten. We had Mongolian Beef and scallops with snow peas.I have also had PF Chang's in Ca and had lemon chicken which was good and a delicious Chinese chicken salad also the mongolian beef again.I live an hr away and it is worth just going for lunch or dinner.We were there for two night's. I also went on there web site. Keyword PF Chang's and they gave two of their recipes.I just found this and do not know how often they change the recipes. Enjoy!

          1. re: Rodijose

            There must be something wrong with me. I've eaten at two of these places and found it the blandest, least-authentic and just generally worst-prepared Chinese food I've ever had. Even the greasy neighborhood takeout place was better than this. To top it off, the insulting servers asked my (obviously asian - and the only asians visible in the restaurant, but I guess that's common) family if we knew how to use chopsticks, and then dumped soy sauce all over our already over-saturated food to illustrate the "correct" way to eat rice. I was livid, but I guess I deserve it.

            They had a bunch of Americanized dishes that were far more Los Angeles than China, and were missing so many of the staples of traditional Cantonese, Hakka and Mandarin food that I was amazed that they could even pretend to call it Chinese or even Chinese-inspired.

            No insult intended, but if anyone thinks this is the best Chinese food they've ever tried, they have either never had real Chinese food or must have some kind of numbed palate.

            The over-MSG'd stuff served in a mall food court was/is more Chinese than the food here, although probably of about the same quality (at 1/4 the price).

            1. re: hewn

              Hey hey HEY!!! PF Chang started in Scottsdale, AZ, first of all. And the greater LA area is well-known for having some of the very best Chinese food in the US. Don't blame the un-Chinese menu items at PF Chang on LA tastes.

              1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                Yes, as a Phoenix resident, I can confirm that the PF Chang disease originated here in Arizona. Amazingly, for the first few years of operation, PF Chang's did not take reservations. People would line up for hours, waiting for an opportunity to eat a week's worth of sodium in one meal! I enjoy a far better meal without a wait at my above-average neighorhood Chinese restaurant.

              2. re: hewn

                I wouldn't call it the worst ever, but it's certainly nothing to get excited about if you like real Chinese food. I think its appeal is to the crowds is that it makes unfamiliar food seem accessable.

              3. re: Rodijose

                I couldn't agree more Rodijose. Some of the best ingredients, well prepared and cooked to perfection.

                1. re: Rodijose

                  I would imagine if I too were Asian I would probably think the
                  same as you. I would love a homemade prepared Chinese dish. I am sure your ancestor's would agree with you that the food is not
                  authentic.What do I know. I just know the food we had tasted great.I am 1/2 Italian and have found but one very good
                  Italian restaurant close by.My dad who is all Italian agrees and
                  he is a great cook. We did not find PF Chang's bland at all. We had the nicest server too.

                  1. re: Rodijose

                    I'm not asian; my family is. And since I eat out at ethnic restaurants regularly and not hadn't before had asian food watered down or mediocritized for white tastes, I guess I was just very disappointed.

                    People may enjoy it, but they need to realize that it is not by any stretch of the imagination Chinese food; it's white people food, made to look like Chinese food, and given a fake, vaguely Asian-sounding name.

                    1. re: hewn

                      Bringing this back to the OP, even though PFC is not "authentic" Chinese food, it is a pretty good version of Americanized Chinese. This reminds me of film critics who like a trashy movie simply because it is an excellent example of a trashy movie. Some people may avoid PFC like the plague since it is not "authentic", but few places actually serve true ethnic food. The test is to define the true cusine of a restaurant, then determine whether it is the best (or worst) interpretation of the cuisine.

                      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                        But Americanized Chinese is a pale and warped imitation of regional Chinese cuisines, and is never, ever as good as the real thing.

                    2. re: Rodijose

                      I'm with hewn. I've been dragged to PF Changs branches since this chain infected southern California, and the inauthenticity wouldn't be so galling if the food were better. But for the most part, the flavor combinations are really clumsily executed. A Malaysian curry dish didn't have any heat, just a cloying off-tasting sweetness that ruined the flavor of every other dish on the table.

                      Sometimes you forego the Good Stuff for the Convenient Stuff-- and I can't really knock that. But PF Chang "Asian" food is FAR from good. You can get much better, real Asian food-- including some knock-out fusion dishes-- just about everywhere in California, and most other major urban centers now.

                      1. re: rjw_lgb_ca

                        It can be very easy to be spoiled by the vast availability of excellent ethnic cuisine here in California (i.e. Vietnamese, Cantonese, Thai), but for the vast majority of the United States, Chinese food is Sweet & Sour Pork and Egg Rolls. In suburban America (outside of California), authentic Chinese food is either very far away or nonexistant. In those places, PFC is usually the best Chinese restaurant around. Most of the time, meal decisions are not based on finding the best restaurant, but choosing between several restaurants at 5:30 PM on a Friday night. Fortunately, this board can direct those souls to the best options at PFC - or better, educate them on their local board about better regional options.

              4. I can only say what I've liked and not liked. Chang's Spicy Chicken, Crispy Honey-Shrimp, Chicken in Black Bean Sauce and the Salt n Pepper Calamari come immediately to mind. The lettuce wraps are good, but the tofu ones have better flavour. Less sucessful are the shrimp in lobster sauce, and the wrapped steamed fish dish I once had. A criticism of P.F. Chang's is that they over-salt their dishes, and to some extent, that's true. But, it's still good.


                1 Reply
                1. re: TexasToast

                  I enjoy PF Changs from time to time (love the Singapore Street Noodles)...and your assertion about the salt is right on...if you go to their website, you can find out nutritional information about most dishes EXCEPT for the sodium amount, noticeably absent in the nutritional breakdown.

                2. I went there for the first time Friday. I second the black bean chicken, and also liked the vegetarian lettuce cups and the mongolian beef. Yes, everything is a bit salty, but you can mitigate that with rice.

                  1. Yes, very americanized, but it is a good compromise for people who are adventurous regarding chinese food and their less adventurous friends. I was skeptical when I went but I felt what it lacked in authenticity made up for in fresh ingredients and ample portions. I had the mango chicken and was surprisingly happy with it. Both of my dining companions really liked the option of ordering brown rice.

                    1. It's ok. Whenever I go to Chinese restaurants I usually get the mongolian beef. The beef at Chang's is amazingly salty, and the meat is always a little crispy - as if burnt. It's edible, however, if you add chili oil to it. The lettuce wraps are ok. There is a barely seared tuna appetizer that is very good, if you like almost completely raw fish. The one I had was very fresh and sweet, with a nice sauce that tasted faintly of peanut.

                      I have not had any of their desserts, but I have heard that they are fairly good, as is their wine list. If beer is more your thing, you might be slightly disappointed.

                      One thing that did not impress me: when you first sit down, the server comes over and concocts some sort of "special sauce" based on your preferences from a variety of pre-fab ingredients. This is invariably vile.

                      However, I would go again (I have been two times) and as the poster before me said, it is a good place to bring friends who are perhaps not as adventurous as you. Seeing my boss take a bite of the aforementioned tuna was hilarious.

                      1. Changs is pretty good, as far as chains go.

                        They are known for their lettuce wraps, which I personally don't love. I prefer the flaming wontons or the calamari as an appetizer.

                        I've had several menu items, and I keep going back to the Dan Dan noodles (albeit overcooked just a tad) or the lemon pepper shrimp. The black bean chicken is pretty tasty, as well.

                        Decent wine list, okay desserts.

                        1. I actually really like the Hot Fish. It's usually catfish in a black bean/garlic sauce. Lots of veggies and nice and spicy. Definitely enough for two!

                          1. Well, I've only been once and ordered from what I think was a seasonal special menu. Lamb (maybe "Mongolian"?) It was the best Chinese food outside of SF Chinatown that I've ever had in the States. I have no clue about the rest of their menu.

                            1. I love Chinese food and one there are a couple of positives I will say about PF Chang's. One is that their menu is actually quite "authentic" and "adventurous" compared to some of the local Chinese places I've been to. Sure some most of the dishes have been seasoned to what may be perceived as American tastes, but growing up in a Chinese household in the US and growing up on Chinese food, it nice to see a corporate chain offer dan-dan noodles and chow fun.

                              I like that they seem to use decent ingredients. How many times have you been to a local Chinese place and the chicken in the kung pao is suspect at best. Other things I like include the restaurant list nutritional values and offering brown rice.

                              Now what I don't like is the fact I am going to a chain. I would much rather support a local mom & pop shop and I will usually pick on over these type places. But like I said before, only if their quality and offerings are at least on par with their competitors.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rcheng

                                Exactly, Rcheng. In some places, the ingredients are just a mush of fried, gray crap, and that's just the vegetables!


                              2. If you must, PF Changs is good. Although the tastes found in most Thai restaurants are more satisfying and healthy. It is really the way to go.

                                1. I find it very expensive for very average food. We would much rather go to a neighborhood Chinese place.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Janet


                                    I only went once. I didn't recognize any of the food. It didn't have enough going as either a Chinese or an American resto to give any promise of improvement.

                                  2. I know some people who prefer PF Chang's over excellent local. This might have as much to do with the nonthreatening "upbeat bistro" concept as with the food. I always find the dishes to be "off" from what I expect. Not bad, so much, except the long beans, but flawed. Some specific comments:

                                    Chicken in Lettuce Wraps: Average or above

                                    Kung Pao Chicken/Shrimp/Scallops: Not the sauce I was raised on, salty, but otherwise not bad; lots of fresh peanuts.

                                    Mongolian Beef: is it my imagination, or does the meat get hard very quickly as it cools? One of my colleagues has them add asparagus to this dish, which is a great idea. The wait staff are quite flexible about customer inventiveness.

                                    Steamed Salmon with ginger/scallions: more bland than I expected; huge portion can be shared or prepare to take home leftovers.

                                    Garlic Snap Peas: Huge portion, very crunchy, simple seasoning (good for people who fear strong spicing).

                                    Great Wall chocolate cake: ludicrously tall slice that fills a dinner plate. The cake's not bad, but IMHO, it just doesn't "go" with Chinese food.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Jefferson

                                      Have you ever happened to look at their nutritional breakdown of the chocolate cake on their website? Holy TOLEDO, what a calorie count!

                                    2. I like the place, despite it's many failings. It is Americanized, but I can get things there that I know I'll like - for instance, the appetizer of ribs (the ones called, I think, "Northern Style," or something like that). The silly business with mixing a special sauce for you grates on me, but you can always tell the waiter not to bother. My main complaint is that so many of their dishes are too sweet - I haven't noticed the oversalting that other posters mentioned.

                                      The fact is, the state of Chinese dining in Chicago is so disappointing (the best Chinese places here are holes-in-the walls in out-of-the-way locations) that I sometimes like to go to Chang's just to be able to eat something Chinese in a pleasant setting, with fairly good service.

                                      1. I think one of the attractions that draw the mainstream to PF Changs is that it's not as intimidating or foreign as some of the local Chinese places. For the foodies and the those for a taste of adventure, the place to go for Chinese is where the locals go. These places often have items on the menu, or written on chalkboard or on the wall that are in Chinese with no english translations. Often times there may be menu items that sound very "strange" and perhaps not too appitizing for mainstream American taste. Additionally, many times the servers are foreign with limited grasp of the english language. These factors are often a sign to a foodie that something good is in store, however to the mainstream this can be a turnoff. (My only pet peeve about all these issues is the menu items not being written in English. Even though I am Chinese, I can't actually read it and I don't want to miss out on any hidden gems.)

                                        Thus PF Chang's fills a spot in the mainstream where you have a familar decor (even if it is "corporate" restaurant decor"). The menu is understandable and there aren't usually language barriers with the servers. It is what it is, I guess.

                                        1. I like the salmon salad, and it is very reasonable compared to other restaurants. I do add some hot sauce to kick it up a few notches.

                                          1. I love PF Changs . I lived in Asia 13 yrs , travel to China 6 times a year , and I still enjoy what they serve. The lettuce wraps and the Mongolian beef are our favorites

                                            1. I would never go again...noisy, noisy, noisy (I think restaurants like this purposely make people shout across the tables to each other so it seems more festive.) I ordered garlic noodles and they were so garlicy I really could hardly eat them it was so overpowering. It's too bad because I think the decor is great and it looks like it could be good.

                                              1. My daughter thought she wanted to go to a PFChang's the other night, after a nearby shopping expedition; I was going to humor her, but we walked in and walked right out, thanks to noise levels and the very, very long wait, on a Wednesday night! I don't know if they take reservations but I certainly can't imagine it would be worth waiting 45 minutes to an hour without one!

                                                1. PFChangs is all right.The one in the Alamo Quarry marketplace gets busy and noisy.Saw a new place mentioned in the food section of today's paper,that has both dim sum and a chinese menu over on West Avenue.I'll have to try it sometime.I just go to the local places close by to home.To me it's Yuppies chinese food. Place is kind of dark and when it has a crowd,quite loud.
                                                  Salsalito Mexican Restraunt on Nacodoches here in SA has some good food,but because of the tile floor and the way the place is designed,it too is pretty loud depending on the crowd.

                                                  1. PF Chang is OK for someone who like to sit in a fancy atmosphere thinking they're in chinatown. The food is so americanized, nothing chinese at all. Overly price (you pay for the environment and not the food). Too salty. However, one good things is that the food is fresh. My suggestion is if you want Chinese food, then go to places where the real chinese eat. Besides, chinese food meant to served with hot tea, not wine.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: quimao

                                                      right, but that's not always an option. some places in this country are actually without authentic chinese restaurants.

                                                    2. i agree that many of the dishes are oversalted, though that can vary from day to day, and location to location. I've been to three, always at the urging of others.

                                                      I also find almost all of their sauces very sweet, even the ones that are allegedly spicy...and don't list "sweet" in the description.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: coolcreek

                                                        ooh, i hate that. that may prevent me from trying the place.

                                                      2. PF Changs is fine with me. Whenever our department at work goes out for a special lunch, everyone always wants to go there. Unfortunately, the people I work with are some of the most unadventurous eaters I've ever met, and we always share, so I usually have to eat dishes I wouldn't personally order.

                                                        Since there are a large number of us, we are able to make a reservation, so I've never had an issue with a wait, but yes, it's very noisy.

                                                        The wok-seared lamb, chicken with eggplant, lettuce wraps are good.

                                                        1. I really like Changs lettuce wraps, the orange beef or orange chicken, and the mixed stir-fry veggies. I also really like that I can have brown rice with my meal. I admit that it seems a little strange to serve chocolate cake at a Chinese restaurant, but as an avowed chocolate lover, I am SO glad they do! Who knew that raspberry sauce on chocolate cake could be so wonderful?!? It's a huge serving, too-enough for my hubby and I, and then about half of it left to take home to the kids!

                                                          1. Even for Americanized Chinese food, I don't like it.

                                                            1. I have been there 3 times & each time, each time wanting to like it there, but each time the food was saltier than the next. The last time I was there (& it is now literally the LAST time, as I won't go again), the food was so salty I couldn't eat it. And yes, it's nice they have all these dipping sauces, but they too were way oversalty. One poster suggested mitigating the saltiness with rice, but I respectfully have an issue with having to compensate that way at a restaurant. They should just reduce the amount of salt they use instead of making the customer have to look for workarounds.

                                                              1. I now have $85 worth of gift cards for PFC, from "friends"..can we say 're-gifting'...?

                                                                1. I think it is overrated. Now hold on, this comment comes from a gal who very much enjoys authentic ethnic food. Very "Americanized" indeed, Im not a huge fan even though the food and selection are both decent. My friends all seem to enjoy but I do say none are a self proclaimed foodie as myself. If your lookin for good chinese Id say you can probably find better tasting food in your local china town.

                                                                  1. I love the lemon scallops. The kung pao chicken is good, but too salty. Lately, they have introduced some new stuff, such as spicy green beans, etc. I also love the pot stickers (they call them fried dumplings). Very good. ask for chili oil. I agree that the sauce the server mixes up is awful -- just ignore it.

                                                                    1. ehhhh... save yourself $40 and go to Panda Express. I would say they're on the same taste level except at PFC you'll be paying an extra $40 for a sit-down-bad-service-loud-as-hell-tasteless-experience instead of a sit-fast-no-service-loud-as-hell-tasteless-experience.

                                                                      1. Some observations. It's noisy. I ordered the Ginger Salmon and it was the most tasteless, bland dish I have had in a long while. I could tell that the ingredients were top notch and fresh but it just didn't come together tastewise.

                                                                        Sad to say, but it looks like the food was dumbed down for the unadventerous eater. The Chinese use a term called "wok hay" literally translated "breath of the wok". It's like the difference in taste between a steak grilled on charcoal vs. steak grilled on a gas grill.

                                                                        I for one don't ever plan on going back. It's a lose lose situation: expensive and lacking in taste. Sorry to sound so harsh.

                                                                        1. I'd rather go to its quick-service cousin Pei Wei. The food is very similar, in some cases identical, and the cost is way less than PF Chang's.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                                            paying a lesser amount to eat the same crappy food... sounds ingenious

                                                                            1. re: Danimal n Hustler

                                                                              Well, if you don't like the food at one, you probably won't like it at the other. That said, I enjoy both places and for me, Pei Wei is certainly easier to get to, cheaper, and less crowded than P. F. Chang's.


                                                                            2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                                              FINALLY, someone talking about Pei Wei! I go to the three in Orange County, and every single person I introduce it to makes it one of their regular spots. I live for the Mongolian veggies & tofu with brown rice. Oh yeah, and the lettuce wraps or wontons rule.

                                                                              1. re: pizookie75

                                                                                Me too :) I seem to sniff 'em out wherever I might be!


                                                                                1. re: pizookie75

                                                                                  I ate at Pei Wei once. Never again. The food sure wasn't Chinese, sure wasn't American, but it sure was awful. Shopping mall food court Chinese is in our Southern burg is many steps above Pei Wei. Not that I like the gloppy, deep-fried-to-death food court Chinese, it's just far more palatable.

                                                                                  1. re: rockycat

                                                                                    See, Pei Wei is much better than any of the mall court food we have. I'm not saying it's great, or even good for Chinese, just that you can recognize what it is you are eating.


                                                                              2. I think it's good. No, it's not all authentic and it can be salty-- but that said and with expectations firmly in place, it's quite good. My company used to often go there as a group since we didnt have a lot of adventurous eaters.

                                                                                1. Ummm, I think PF Changs is basically a Chinese version of the Olive Garden but without the endless salad & breadsticks....

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Walters

                                                                                    as an italian-american the olive garden is my worst nightmare. as the OP I think I was waiting for someone to something similar about PF Chang's...that way I have an excuse not to go. it's not like never trying the Olive Garden would be a loss to anyone.


                                                                                    1. re: fara

                                                                                      A better comparison would be to the Macaroni Grill instead of Olive Garden. Panda Express is to Chinese what the Olive Garden is to Italian. Macaroni Grill is to Italian what PF Chang's is to Chinese. It is difficult to top the food from a locally owned 1st or 2nd generation Chinese place, but many people prefer PF Chang's for the overall dining experience - good, but not great, Chinese food + cool, hip atmosphere + great drink menu.

                                                                                      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                                                                        but..Panda Express is in the mall food court, whereas people consider Olive Garden a real restaurant.

                                                                                        But I get that the atmosphere at MG is probably like PFC - I haven't been to an OG since high school but every year my grandparents in Flordia take me to MG, where they order salads and split the fried calamari. They do not know about any real restaurants for some reason. When I went to MG the last time I ordered the fish which stank of lighter fluid. mmm. If PFC is that good...
                                                                                        It is easy to make fun when you know exactly what the food is supposed to taste like, I'm not sure if I'm that picky about Chinese food, although I think I am. I know I don't know really good Mexican food yet...as I mention in another post, this can be a blessing or a curse.

                                                                                        1. re: fara

                                                                                          I have never had a bad meal at PF Chang's. If you are used to a place where you have to ask for the English menu, you probably will notice a difference. PFC thrives on the date/business/impress clients, not chowhounds. We have a group of restaurants here in Sacramento run by an actual Asian family that have the look of PFC but with more authentic food which I prefer.

                                                                                          Back to your original question - yes, PFC is very good for Americanized Chinese food. Authentic Chinese food would probably scare most people.

                                                                                    2. re: Walters

                                                                                      No, PF Chang's actually COOKS its food, unlike the Olive Garden where microwaving out back is clearly optional.


                                                                                    3. PF Changs serves boring, poorly prepared Americanized "Chinese" food. Unless your idea of a good entree relies heavily on carrots, celery and soy sauce, you'd be better served eating elsewhere.

                                                                                      Your first clue should be a chinese restaurant without any asian faces anywhere.

                                                                                      1. I am somewhat embarassed to say this, but I go every couple of months with a friend because it is right in a shopping center we haunt. In fact, I don't really get it, but it seems most of them are in shopping centers. Anyway, it is about as Chinese as I am, but one can make a decent meal: I LOVE the salt & pepper prawns. I also like the seared ahi, but I don't care for the sauce they drizzle on, so I wipe that off and use Chinese mustard. I am a fan of garlic noodles, which aren't that easy to find and I like theirs. The lettuce cups are usually pretty good, but I have to zip mine up with mustard and/or hot oil. I like the garlic snap peas - they are crunchy! I agree that the steamed salmon with ginger is bland, but again, I zip it up a bit. Personally, I'd rather go for bland than a gunky sauce. I read somewhere that PFC was started by the son of the woman who opened the (just closed) Mandarin Restaurant here in SF. I'm assuming the son went for the big bucks, as PFC seems to proliferate everywhere and it is always crowded.