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NY/SF style Chinese food in San Diego

mjoc Sep 21, 2006 07:59 AM

Now that Jimmy Wong's is gone, I don't know where to go for Chinese food in San Diego. I'm originally from NY and I prefer traditional style Cantonese and Hunan food. I mean god, greasy, large egg rolls, good egg drop and wonton soups, shrimp toast, real chow mein (not the stuff they call chow mein here, which is really lo mein), and, most importantly, egg foo young.

This is the type of stuff you find in Chinatown in both NY and SF. Jimmy Wong's on University was the only place I have found here in SD that qualified. Open till 3:00 AM (another important factor), a little divy, and good authentic food.

I think most San Diegans are used to restaurants like PF Chang's, which are overpriced, serve tiny portions, and have mediocre or worse food. Are there any transplanted New Yorkers or San Franciscans here in San Diego who know the type of place I'm talking about? If so, is there hope now that Jimmy Wong's is gone? Does anyone know of another good, authentic Chinese restaurant like I've just described?

  1. m
    MayLeeSD Jun 14, 2008 08:52 PM

    Has anyone ever tried Hong Kong BBQ & Dimsum in Mira Mesa? I had crispy duck there today and it was pretty good and they seem to have an authentic menu. It's in the same building as Vinh Hung Market, that is great as well. I would love to find other places like this in San Diego. If you know of any let me know!

    1 Reply
    1. re: MayLeeSD
      surfer1966 Jun 16, 2008 12:52 PM

      I love the dim sum and the pan fried noodles there!

    2. m
      MisterM Aug 23, 2007 01:14 PM


      Try 'Hong Kong Chef' in the UTC area on Governor. Its a real hole in the wall place. Its in the same shopping center as a Henry's market.

      This place is as close as I've been able to come to the kind of American Chinese that you and I remember.

      Strangely, El Chevere's comments aside, San Diego once did have some good Chinese-American type joints...but they are becoming quite rare...and I, for one, am sad for that.

      In any case, Hong Kong Chef has great Almond Chicken, Lo Mein, and (though I've not tried it myself) the Egg Foo Yung looked pretty good. That's a hard one to find anymore.

      A special note to you, I see a lot of New York types come to this place as well as quite a few Chinese. It reminds me of the mix we once had at a place in Chula Vista called "The Teapot Inn" which was, bar none, the best Chinese food I've ever had.

      Give it a try!

      1. w
        westcoastfoodie Mar 9, 2007 07:46 PM

        Mandarin Wok on Balboa is a disaster. 2nd worst Chinese food I've ever eaten. I knew something was wrong when we walked in to find all the customers where caucasian!

        - Cashew Chicken: I've never seen red cashew chicken. Over salted. Too sweet. The large chunks of chicken were far too sinewy to pick up with chopsticks... and guess what? The restaurant did not have a chopstick in sight!

        - Moo Shu Pork: DISGUSTING. The veges were off. Way too salty. No egg. And they came pre-wrapped with too much hoisin sause! Can you believe that?

        - Beef Lo Mein: Awful. Too salty. Chewy like rubberband (the beef, not the noodles).

        - Rice: good.

        And most perplexing... we heard an occasional gwei lo say "delicious" every few minutes...

        1 Reply
        1. re: westcoastfoodie
          ipe Mar 9, 2007 08:05 PM

          It's a shame the wok disappointed you so much. The cashew chicken, lemon chicken, and hunan beef. (or, in recent years, hunan chicken too) have been take-out staples of mine for years. They're not immune to the occasional off night, though, and I've had bad meals -- but I'd say less than five in about twenty years.

          I would definitely second it as a decent example of the Jimmy Wong's genre of chinese, though I can't remember much about their noodles.

        2. d
          daantaat Oct 15, 2006 10:05 PM

          to KirkK-- "I'm not a foodie, just an eater of food.......",
          I reply, an educated and discriminating eater of food at that! Keep blogging!

          1. k
            kimxchris Sep 29, 2006 10:21 PM

            We grew up in Mass. and moved here 7 years ago and spent a few years searching for the same kind of place I think. Of all those mentioned above, I think Double Happiness in Del Mar comes closest, but not that close. Slightly closer (and geographically so, if you're in central SD) might be Mandarin Dynasty, 1458 University Ave, 92103, 619-298-8899.

            If it makes you feel better, we ate at so many places in our search that we came to appreciate the local fare. Our favorite is China Max on Convoy; we haven't been to Ba Ren, but we'll have to try it now. Actually though, I thought it was an east/west coast difference; we've only spent a week in SF, but it didn't seem much closer to what we had back East. I thought all the NY/East Coast places got their dishes from the same NY place (Cecil Adams or someone like that wrote about this); for instance, "lobster sauce" means two different things on the two coasts, no?

            1. MVNYC Sep 22, 2006 07:04 PM

              As a transplanted NYer i have not found any place like what you are looking for. The Chinese food scene here is not really that good no matter what style you are looking for. If you are from NY, LA, SF, Toronto or Vancouver, etc.. you will be disapointed. Though not authenticly Chinese, The NY style of food you mention is good in its own right. There are sometimes i get cravings for a nice big greasy egg roll or shrimp with lobster sauce as well. But since i am out here for the time being i try to stay away from things that arent as good out here. I dont eat bagels, pizza, deli, etc...

              I do try to get what they do well out here. For the most part the Vietnamese scene out here is superior to what we would get back in NYC, so that is what i eat the most. There are some good Chinese places that i frequent but they really are nothing spectacular.

              Hmm now that i think about it, Double Hapiness in Del Mar might have what you are looking for. I only ate there once or twice but remember them bringing out frechly fried nooodles like the old places back in NY. They might have some of the dishes you are looking for.

              5 Replies
              1. re: MVNYC
                llbcsbiggs Oct 15, 2006 05:54 PM

                MVNYC wrote, "The Chinese food scene here is not really that good no matter what style you are looking for."

                I respectfully disagree. If you are looking for Shanghai cuisine, San Diego does well. While the skins are not quite up to the standard's of the original Joe's Shanghai in Flushing or Din Tai Fang in Taipei, the Xiao Long Bao (little pork buns) at the Dumpling Inn are quite acceptable. The jellyfish at the Dumpling Inn could hold its head up at the best of the Flushing restaurants. In addition the Chinese language menu at Shanghai City is fantastic. The fish with tofu is something we have only found in one other restaurant in Flushing, and Shanghai City does it incredibly well. Also, they make a hot beef noodle soup good enough to be served on Tao Juan Jie in Taipei. And their pork shoulder is no slouch. Both Dumpling Inn and Shanghai City do a decent twice fried noodle. Finally, Shanghai City's northern breakfast is quite acceptable. We are foodies, raised in Flushing, NY with a year under our belts in Taiwan. We have found San Diego to have better authentic Shanghai cuisine than many other cities we have lived in (such as Boston and Chicago).

                1. re: llbcsbiggs
                  KirkK Oct 15, 2006 07:12 PM

                  SD does a pretty good job with Shanghainese Food.

                  Shanghai City makes our favorite version of Niu Rou Mein, the broth has a nice amount of richness and depth, and almost no ever mentions this; I really enjoy the texture of the noodles, slightly doughy and with a bit of pull...close to home made. Shanghai City's broth can be somewhat inconcictent at times.

                  Chin's on Miramar is our current favorite Chinese/Shanghainese/Jiangsu/Zhejiang(call it what you will - it's still Shanghainese to me) weekend breakfast spot. And even has Crystal Xiaorou on the Chinese Breakfast menu.



                  Dumping Inn does a fine job with the Jellyfish salad, though I think the Jiaozhi is just okay, but it is my own jaded opinion, as my MIL and Wife are from Shandong(nothing quite like home made Jiaozhi)I'm not a big fan of the XLB at Dumpling Inn, to me it tastes like Jiaozhi filling, and doesn't have the sweeter flavor of XLB filling, in addition the flavor imparted on the meat by a "savory liquid"(usually a ginger scallion water) is missing. The "soup" is fine, but there is usually too little of it. Shanghai City makes our favorite XLB, though it too can be rather inconsistent.

                  Thanks to a great recommendation we've found pretty decent frozen XLB at the San Diego China Center & Chinese Institute:

                  San Diego China Center & Chinese Institute
                  10505 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite #390
                  San Diego, CA 92121

                  I must say they were better than some we've had (i.e. Mandarin Garden, Chin's).

                  To me when most make statements like you mentioned, it's almost addressing Guangdong style American cuisine, or American Style Hunan(my FIL is from Hunan/Sichuan, and thinks Hunan food in the US is terrible).

                  FWIW, I'm not a foodie, just an eater of food.......

                  1. re: KirkK
                    llbcsbiggs Oct 16, 2006 04:54 AM

                    Great response. I thought it was just the lack of crab in the XLB that made it taste so different at the Dumpling Inn (our family has a preference for the crab version, so that is what we have become accustomed to). I'll also add that the skin leaves a great deal to be desired. It is hard to do good skin. We love Shanghai City, but we were really really sad when we tried the XLB there. There was no soup at all, and the skins just didn't cut it. We even tried it again just to be sure. On your recommendation, we'll try it one more time. We'll definitely give the Chinese Institute a try. I've been meaning to get there but have been too lazy.

                    1. re: llbcsbiggs
                      MVNYC Oct 16, 2006 04:30 PM

                      I was unimpressed by Dumpling inn's XLB. Some of the other dishes are decent there but all in all not outstanding. I do like their twice fried noodles. I have only been to Shanghai City once and will give it another try. I am always on the lookout for tasty authentic dishes. As a lover of XLB I left very dissapointed from Shanghai City but berhaps i shouldnt have judged just on that.

                      1. re: MVNYC
                        KirkK Oct 16, 2006 07:16 PM

                        On a good day the XLB at Shanghai City is pretty decent...on a bad day, well...but still we think it's the best in San Diego. They do make a good Niu Rou Mein, and I enjoy the Wined Chicken, though some people think it's too strong.
                        I enjoy a little bit of a thicker(though not too think) XLB skin....sort of like those at Meilong Village in San Gabriel. I'm not a fan of the much too thin XLB wrapper, like those at Din Tai Fung.

              2. Captain Jack Sep 22, 2006 02:41 PM

                You mentioned egg foo young. The best I have ever had is at a tiny dive in Pacific Beach named Super Wok. I never even liked egg goo young until I had it here. The old chinese man who runs the kitchen cooks this dish one at a time, fresh to order, and the portions are huge. If there are people ahead of you there can be a bit of a wait as he is the only person in the tiny kitchen, working with only four burners.

                Super Wok
                4468 Ingraham St. (SW corner of Garnet behind Chevron)
                858 270 4859

                4 Replies
                1. re: Captain Jack
                  Ed Dibble Sep 22, 2006 04:22 PM

                  Nice to see Super Wok still doing well. It was my favorite for takeout when I lived in PB. Don't really recall much about the style of the food any more. Good but not memorable, I guess.

                  The OP should check out Kirk's blog as Kirk has definitive and informative reviews of numerous Chinese restaurants. I think the OP is looking for what Kirk calls ABCDE places: American Born Chinese Dining Establishments. Here's a link to Kirk's Chinese restaurant posts:


                  good eating,


                  1. re: Ed Dibble
                    KirkK Sep 22, 2006 06:04 PM

                    Strangely enough, there's not really that much classic "Chop Suey House" type cuisine(i.e. Egg Foo Yung, General Tso's chicken) in San Diego. I can think of Mandarin Wok(There's an article on the wall saying best Chinese Restaurant from something like 1984???), the afore mentioned Mandarin House(a few coworkers love this place - food was so sweet it hurt my teeth) and Szechuan Mandarin - who a former coworker from NY said was really good, it's on Mission Gorge Road - I've never been there, though. Here's the website.


                    Good Luck in finding New York Regional Chinese Cuisine. It's rather funny, when I moved from Hawaii to the West Coast I found that Chow Mein in LA, is what I knew to be Lo Mein in Hawaii......

                    1. re: KirkK
                      DiningDiva Sep 22, 2006 06:35 PM

                      Szechuan Mandarin is in my neck of the woods and I used to eat there occasionally when I still worked in Mission Valley. My under-edcuated Asian tastebuds liked it and their lunch special is a pretty good value, and at lunch they are f-a-s-t. They do a nice job on their fish and noodle dishes.

                      One day a co-worker and I arrived early for lunch, before the crowd. At the table across from us was an elderly Asian woman cleaning and stringing an enormous mound of snow peas that covered nearly the entire table.

                      1. re: DiningDiva
                        stevuchan Sep 27, 2006 04:03 PM

                        Wow this has become a really informative post. Just had my memory jogged, China Inn on Hornblend in PB, fits the bill for Egg Foo Yung, Gnrl Tso chicken, Poo Poo plater, egg drop, etc.


                2. El Chevere Sep 22, 2006 04:32 AM

                  It's not a stereotype--most people from SD wouldn't know good Chinese food--or most cuisines, for that matter--if it bit them in the nose. Please, the Chinese scene does not even come close to that in the cities the originator of this post indicated. If you think so, I encourage you to buy a plane ticket and travel.

                  Best bet is to save it for a trip back to NY, SF, or LA (Monterrey Park or Chinatown)...I've tried the place on Pearl n La Jolla and it is not like what you are looking for and nothing special...downtown, I have been to Red Pearl Kitchen--which serves "Pan Asian", consisting of a choice of Chinese (very good, but not the NY style you have asked for) as well as Thai and Japanese/sushi dishes.....SD does a much better job in Thai cuisine than it does Chinese.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: El Chevere
                    stevuchan Sep 22, 2006 04:18 PM

                    Ouch again. I was not comparing NY,SF,LA to San Diego. Please re-read the post, don't just read...comprehend.

                    1. re: stevuchan
                      El Chevere Sep 23, 2006 05:01 AM

                      you may have not been comparing the Chinese food scene in SD to NY or SF, but the originator of this post was. Furthermore, you claimed that most people in SD "know their Chinese food quite well"--which, if they did, they would compare it to NY and SF and realize that the offerings in this region are weak....feel free to elaborate on the "non-authentic" offerings in these other 2 cities.

                      1. re: El Chevere
                        Jim Strain Sep 23, 2006 04:49 PM

                        In cities like NY and SF, there are some amazing things to eat that aren't available anywhere else. That doesn't mean, however, that everything in those places is superior to what one can get in Keokuk or even San Diego. NY is home to lots of great pizza, for example, but that city also supports a lot of very successful Domino's stores operations. To quote Steveuchan, if you read carefully, I really think you'll see that the only one who has compared "the Chinese food scene" in SD to NY or SF is you.

                        1. re: Jim Strain
                          El Chevere Sep 25, 2006 10:35 PM

                          Please, not every place in NY, SF, etc. is superior to Chinese elsewhere, such as Podunk or Ames, Iowa. Believe it or not, they do have crappy fast food chains, such as Panda Express, in NY malls that most people in San Diego would vote as "Best Chinese Restaurant" in a San Diego Reader poll. I also, never realized Domino's billed itself as "NY Pizza". However, having grown up in NY I Domino's never was nor never will be my 1st choice when I'm in the mood for pizza. Surely, you can distinguish the differences. What's next--will someone from Salt Lake City post they have waterfront places that rival La Jolla and you'll agree?

                        2. re: El Chevere
                          stevuchan Sep 25, 2006 11:21 PM

                          The originator was looking for NY/SF style in SD, he was not comparing. Also I calimed "most people on this board from SD", this board being chowhound, which is a lot diffrent than most people in SD. The non-authentic I was refering to is "greasy, large egg rolls, good egg drop...".
                          I also dissagree, I think SD does Chinese better than Thai. Please post your favorite Thai spots, I've been to most (SD proper) and always on the look out for a new good one. Any way, if we define chinese food as food from China (all styles included, even greasy egg roll stlye) I would put Ba Ren up against any place in the nation (yes it's that good).


                          1. re: stevuchan
                            Joseph Sep 26, 2006 05:22 AM

                            This post may be off-topic.

                            Would you be interested in going to Ba Ren this Thursday? A few folks on the SDChow yahoogroup email list are trying to get together for that night (9/28). All chowhounds and wannabes (like me) should feel free to sign up; the more the merrier.

                            1. re: Joseph
                              The Chowhound Team Sep 26, 2006 01:50 PM

                              Please post an email address for the Yahoo group, so that those interested may reply there. It sounds like fun, but organizing get-togethers are off topic for this board.


                              1. re: The Chowhound Team
                                DiningDiva Sep 26, 2006 04:44 PM

                                In order to send an e-mail to the SDChow group you have to be a member. To become a member all anyone needs to do is send a blank e-mail to -




                      2. re: El Chevere
                        llbcsbiggs Oct 15, 2006 05:43 PM

                        Sorry. Posted a reply here, meant to reply to MVNYC. Have moved it.

                      3. stevuchan Sep 21, 2006 04:36 PM

                        There is a place on Pearl St. in LJ that touts "NY Style Chinese Food" right on the sign. Located next to El Pescador, near Mitch's. I have not tried it. Mandarin Wok on Balboa sound like what you might be looking for.

                        "I think most San Diegans are used to restaurants like PF Chang's", Ouch, this is kind of a sterotype, and a little insulting. I think most people on this board from SD know their Chinese food rather well.

                        I hope you find what you're looking for, although it's not authentic Chinese food.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: stevuchan
                          jmtreg Aug 23, 2007 01:56 PM

                          Yeah, he has us totally confused with Orange County.

                        2. Alice Q Sep 21, 2006 04:21 PM

                          If you're really feeling nostalgic try Mandarin House in Bankers Hill. I used to work right next door, and when I met him - my husband's apartment was in the same block, so we used to go there for takeout occasionally. They have good pan fried dumplings (dump the entire cup of chile oil in the carton and shake it up!) and I like the crispy beef and pan fried noodles, but stay far far away from the lemon chicken, it's doused in some sort of neon yellow goo.

                          1. Jim Strain Sep 21, 2006 04:08 PM

                            From your description, it sounds like you're describing the old fashioned "Cantonese" style (but "made in USA") stuff. When I first came to San Diego, there were a lot of those places (Chop Suey joints), with the old China Land on Midway perhaps the foremost exponent. I seem to recall Jimmy Wongs having the same type of menu.

                            Over the years, however, people have been introduced to a wider range of different dishes, arguably more authentic, and few diners (or chefs) have much interest in the old stuff. I'd bet you'd have trouble finding it even in NY and SFO. Having said all that, I fully empathize with you; I grew up eating in those kinds of joints, and occasionally get nostalgic for "Number 1 Family Dinner." Let us know if you unearth anything.
                            . . . jim strain in san diego.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Jim Strain
                              cristina Sep 24, 2006 03:53 AM

                              What's the name of that restaurant in Hillcrest--the Hong Kong? That doesn't sound right. It's near University on 5th, if I recall correctly. They serve wonderful chow fun...and yes, egg foo yung, and lo mein that reminded me very much of the lo mein I used to eat in NY Chinatown, back in the 70s. There are pots of hot mustard on the tables, and sweet plum sauce, and fried noodles come before you eat.

                              It just might fill the bill for the OP. But what the heck is the name of it?

                              1. re: cristina
                                Josh Sep 24, 2006 05:12 AM

                                Hong Kong is the name. It's on 4th, between University and Robinson, and is open until (I believe) 2-3am.

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