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PF Chang's- could it actually be any good?

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[note...the moderators split this discussion off from another thread, where a chowhound and his Taiwanese wife expressed fondness for PF Chang's]

Hey, I will totally cop to the fact that PF Changs (which I've never tried) might actually be great, and that I'm being a snob in knocking it before I've tried it. OTOH, I haven't tried every single menu item at Olive Garden, either. Generalization is one of the unavoidable hallmarks of chowhounding...can't get too bogged down in too many fine details...

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  1. Actually, Jim, your initial thought is correct: PF Changs is absolutely ghastly, and should be avoided at all costs. You'd be better off finding a Panda Express, it's that bad.

    And this coming from someone not philosophically opposed to chain food.

    18 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      Simply not true.... I challenge you to actually eat Panda Express side by side with PF Chang's, which actually possesses some refinement over the general swath of Chinamerican food.

      Jim, try the chicken lettuce wraps, which are totally inauthentic but very tasty!

      Mr Taster
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      1. re: Mr Taster

        I will admit the PF Chang is better that most buffet palaces, but not more than that. In order for them to justify charging the prices they charge, they need to have more subtle flavoring and control over the cooking techniques. That is just not there, they inevitably slightly overcook everything because they don't understand the subtle differences in flavor, degree of tenderness and texture so essential in fine Chinese cuisine. It is the Applebees of Chinese food, good enough to fool the masses but not as bad a McDonalds.

        1. re: Phaedrus

          It doesn't fool me... I've spent 2 months with my wife eating our way through China last year and several more in Taiwan and regularly eat many different styles of authentic Chinese food here in Los Angeles (hand pulled noodles, Shanghainese xiao long bao dumplings, Szechuan hot pot, Yunnan crossing the bridge noodles, Taiwanese stinky tofu, etc.) and still like several dishes at PF Chang's. Of course compared to the super cheap and highly delicious fare to be had in LA's san gabriel valley, PF Changs loses about 99% of the time (even though there's a branch about 3 minutes from my house, and the SGV is about a 30 minute drive) but my point here is simply that I feel many people summarily dismiss PF Chang's because it's inauthentic. The difference is that it is inauthentic and tasty, whereas joints like Panda express, Yang Chow here in LA and others are inauthentic and bad.

          Mr Taster
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          1. re: Mr Taster

            You miss my point. It just doesn't capture the subtleties of authentic Chinese, there fore I avoid it. If I wanted to feed at a trough I will go to a crappy place and not pay a premium.

            1. re: Phaedrus

              It seems as if you missed my point as well!

              The things I find most awful about virtually every Americanized Chinese dish is that the sauces are overly heavy and dripping in thick sweetness. The cooks at PFC have a much lighter hand with the corn syrup (or whatever it is most places use to glop up the sauce) and as a result the food is infinitely more tasty.

              It is inauthentic but it is very unfair to lump them in with Panda, Pick up Stix and the like who are happy to dish up bowls of chicken breading floating in orange goo.

              Mr Taster
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              1. re: Mr Taster

                I could not possibly care less about "authentic" versus "inauthentic." My interest is solely "tasty" versus "not tasty."

                Based on my experience, PF Chang's is firmly on the Not Tasty side.

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  I think PF Changs does it's job of appealing to the masses. I would lump it in with Olive Garden.

                  1. re: Texchef

                    I feel that this is an unfair lump.

                    While I rarely eat at chains myself, it is wholly irrational to lump all chains of any given category together, simply because it is fashionable to do so. People like to lump in Olive Garden with Buca di Beppo, for example. Now Buca is hardly haute Italian cuisine but the food is leagues above the bland stuff that OG serves up. (Granted, I haven't been to Olive garden since I was in college 13 years ago, so I have no recent experience by which to go by).

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                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Buca di Beppo is nasty. All their dishes taste like they combined Prego with refrigerated diced garlic. At least Olive Garden has an all-you-can-eat salad/breadstick bar.

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Your PF Chang cook was not my PF Chang cook. Some of my foodie friends like some of the dishes at PFC, but EVERY dish my family ordered one night was totally inedible: one was way too salty, one was way undercooked, one was way overcooked, one was swimming in grease, and none had quality ingredients. I'm Chinese and don't mind "inauthentic" Chinese food (even my mom can't cook dishes exactly like my grandma did - things evolve!) However, paying a lot of $$$ for food that even my Caucasian husband thought was horrible was insult upon injury.

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Mr. Taster, I am right there with you. I do like pf changs (for what it is). I abhor olive garden, like you, I have not been there since college, also about 12-13 years ago. I figure if I didn't like it then, I certaintly wouldn't like it now! I think many people lump chains in together and don't give them a chance. I had an argument one day with someone that tried telling me that Olive Garden was as good if not better than restaurants in Italy. I was aghast, to this day I think he was just trying to pick a fight!

                      2. re: Mr Taster

                        For what I would pay at PFC, i could get a tasty and authentic chinese meal without going to a Panda of a buffet palace, so why bother? PFC is for people who won't go the extra mile to find good Chinese food and who are impressed by the decor.

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          Certainly PF Chang's is the kind of place that appeals to a solidly yuppie upper middle class demographic who love all the trappings of a place that feels and tastes Chinesey enough to make them feel like they're doing something exotic.

                          I haven't eaten at PF Chang's in about a year, but still I think the chicken lettuce wraps and one other dish (mongolian beef, I think) are expensive but really quite tasty. And this is coming from someone who less than a year ago was squatting on a tiny stool outside a villager's home eating barbecued yak near the border of tibet.

                          (given the choice, I would much rather eat the yak over PF Chang's mongolian beef)

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                          1. re: Phaedrus

                            "PFC is for people who won't go the extra mile to find good Chinese food and who are impressed by the decor"

                            Maybe it's only here in the tri-state area that this is the case. But, P.F. Changs is only located at malls. No one I know goes there as a foodie destination. It's where chicks (myself included :-) ) grab lunch or dinner after a day of shopping.

                          2. re: Mr Taster

                            What really bothers me is that the sauces are made in a central kitchen somewhere, with tons of preservatives so they can be shipped across the country without refridgeration. Plus the food is cooked in huge batches and that makes it hard for a cook to focus on the quality of a single dish. You can taste the ridiculous amounts of sodium in the food and the food doesn't have a fresh taste to it. These are standard problems with chain restaurants.

                            Is it better than some of the crappy mom & pop run places? Sure, but I wouldn't go to any of those places either. If you're getting deep fried globs of goo, you're clearly not going to a very good Chinese restaurant.

                            But there are good Chinese restaurants that make everything onsite from fresh ingredients and they cook in small batches. I have found a few of these restaurants here in the bay area and would never choose a PF Changs over any of them.

                            That said, I've suffered through some pretty bad meals weeding out the bad restaurants. That's the appeal of PF Changs, you always know what you're in for.

                            1. re: Fussy Foodie

                              My boyfriend works as a manager for a PF Changs and I know for a FACT that the sauces are made in each restaurant!

                              1. re: sweetnspicy

                                They must go through a LOT of cornstarch...

                                1. re: sweetnspicy

                                  That's remarkable if it's true. Too make everything in-house and still have it taste the same at all the locations nationwide would take a great quality management system. It still doesn't taste fresh to me and has way WAY too much sodium, but I admit that the freshness thing could be psychological.

                  2. "Authentic" or not, that place is simply no good ESPECIALLY when given you can get something just as crappy at Panda Express for much less.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mstinawu

                      Patently untrue. See my comments above.

                      Mr Taster
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                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        I didn't mean to say it was authentic or not. Good food is good food and bad food is bad food. I just thought that PF Changs was bad though I've never had the chicken wraps. I'll try it if I am ever forced to go there again though. =)

                      2. re: mstinawu

                        I agree - I think all their food is way too salty and charge you too much. I think people are being sucked in because they have a nice decor and looks so 'chic'.

                      3. If I am going along for the ride with someone who really wants PF Chang's I can definitley find edible food, but for price and authenticity I definitely have local favorites. I don't mind the PF Chang's fast food off-shoot, Pei Wei. Cheaper, similar food and quick.

                        1. I have only eaten at PF Chang's twice. I eat at Panda Express more than I eat at PF Chang's, but I have stopped that habit recently. I do know a lot of people who like PF's, though. My sister and her friend used to really love the lettuce wraps.

                          1. While I've only eaten at PF Chang's maybe two or three times, I'm not going to call it outright "bad." I think a major issue with people is that they might be searching for authentic food, visit PF Chang's, and then size it up against their expectations of authenticity, and their local, possibly more authentic restaurants. This really isn't fair, as I don't think it's claiming to be tremendously authentic, and by virtue of the fact that they're a national chain, undoubtedly deliberately americanize the food, which makes a completely different "species" of food altogether. Taken for what it is, it's certainly not terrible.

                            Although I almost never go to PF Chang's, I do visit Pei Wei, their semi-self serve, faster/more casual, and significantly cheaper brand (entree are ordered at the counter, delivered to table by number, all cost around $6-$7). For me, the food is quite tasty, fresh, and reasonably priced, making it considerably better than much of the americanized chinese out there (assuming you don't mind these breed of food--don't go expecting high authenticity by any means). However, were it to cost the Chang's price of $15 +/- instead, it would certainly not be worth it.

                            1. PF Chang's epitomizes Americanized-Chinese food.

                              If you like such fare, then you'll like PF Chang's.

                              As to PF Chang's v. Panda Express ... it's not really a fair comparison. The former is more upscale and provides more nuance to their dishes; while the latter caters to the most, basic common denominator -- e.g., fast food with a Chinese twist.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Yes but for me, I really don't like Americanized Chinese food very much, nor does my wife. There are countless incarnations of chewy, overbreaded, gloopy and deep fried schlock that your mouth gets tired of after 3 or 4 bites (think slippery shrimp at yang chow, for example). We really can't eat the stuff.

                                But compared to most Chinamerican restaurants, PF Chang's goes light on the heavy, deep fried and gloopy sweet, which is precisely *not* what epitomizes Americanized Chinese food.

                                Mr Taster
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                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  Again, you can go to a local family owned Chinese place for much better food at a lower price. AND you don't have to put up with gloopy, fried slop or pseudo Chinese food made by some schmuck from Guadalajara pulling a slim paycheck from some company in Chicago.

                                  Ever try going into a typical Americanized Chinese place and asking to order off the menu? I walked into a Chinese place in Mena, Arkansas, spoke Chinese to the owner, and bingo, I had a delectable seafood noodle soup and ma po tofu in 15 minutes. The owner even thanked me because he doesn't get too many Chinese people there and rarely gets to cook what is good.

                                  I am not a chain hater, but PFC hits close to home. I am sure Italians feel the same about Olive Garden or Fazzolis.

                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                    Of course, you can also go to local, family owned Chinese restaurants and have a middling meal featuring deep fried glop. That's usually my experience with random Chinese restaurants all over the States.

                                    Further, one does not _always_ have the time to find a local, family owned place that flies their ingredients in from their homeland on a weekly or daily basis and creates perfectly authentic food at all times. One might get lucky. One, like you, might be Chinese and be able to navigate that culture better than others who are not. As you note yourself about your experience in Mena, had you not been Chinese and able to converse easily with the owner, you'd likely have gotten the things they normally make which aren't "good."

                                    Because of this thread, I've checked out the P.F. Chang's website and menu/nutritional information. It looks as though its possible to construct a fairly healthy meal, which is a big step up from many many restaurants (chains or not).

                                    I get that you don't like it; but others do and I don't see why there needs to be such a problem with that.

                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                      Hey, you're preaching to the choir regarding seeking out authentic Chinese food! As I've tried to say (many times!) I don't go to PF Chang's for Chinese food. I go there for Chinesey food. There is a distinct difference!

                                      The main distinction I'm trying to make (again!) is that PFC's food does not contain the heavy sauces and overly sweet glop that plagues virtually every Americanized Chinese joint in the country. In that regard it is much better than almost every other place, and the food is surprisingly tasty because of it.

                                      By the way, my wife was not offended by PF Chang's decor any more that she was offended by the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It's just a diversion-- not a statement about Chinese culture

                                      Mr Taster
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                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        Why go for Chinesey when you can go Chinese? Your logic confuses me.

                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                          Chinesey satisfies a different craving.

                                          Mr Taster
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                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            I know what you mean. Occasionally, I seek the likes of PF Chang's so I can stay awake afterwards. I find that "authentic" Chinese restaurants often pour on the oil and MSG (something my Chinese mom does NOT do), which leaves me thirsty and sleepy for the rest of the day.

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              And you can't get an apple martini at a Chinese joint.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      I think you make a good point about PF Chang's v. Panda Express, in terms of price and ambiance, ipsedixit. PF Chang's is a sit-down restaurant, and Panda is a fast-food place. I'm sure one of the reason's that I have eaten at Panda Express more often is because it's cheaper and more convenient for me. That said, lately, I have been choosing the Chinese fast food places that aren't Panda Express, since my last bad experience with their chow mein.


                                      1. re: katkoupai

                                        ive been to pf changs-twice-and i liked it. its somewhat more upscale than the average chinese restaurant,both in terms of decor,presentation and food quality. i dont think it can be favorably compared to panda express-as that is chinese fast food, it would be an apples to oranges comparison. in the ny-nj metro area, i dont know which chinese place it would compare to.

                                        1. re: mrbeachy

                                          I've been to P.F. Chang's twice and liked it. Generally speaking I'm easy to please and difficult to impress, and while PFC definitely is the former it's still better than most places I've been to. There are a few places in the St. Louis area serving much better Chinese food, but they're far away from where I live or work. I've also been to "authentic" Chinese food restaurants that weren't as good as PFC.

                                          I have no intrinsic problem with places that serve "Americanized" ethnic foods; to me the bottom line is "does it taste good?". I'll eat at Chili's or similar psuedo mexican places and do just fine.

                                          To me -- a former chef -- while generally speaking a chef raised with a style of food has a starting leg up on other chefs making the same style their background does not, in and of itself, make them better chefs. Case in point: While most of my favorite sushi chefs are Japanese, one of the best here locally is Croatian. (He used to work on a fishing boat.) He is certainly better than some of the Japanese sushi chefs I've been to. Is he as up on the finer regional distinctions as my favorite Japanese chefs? No -- but his rice is nigh perfect and he knows fish.

                                          1. re: Richard 16

                                            That's a great description: easy to please, difficult to impress. Of course, clearly, many people pride themselves (on this message board site, I mean) on being difficult to please to begin with.

                                            I don't care whether something is Americanized, authentic or something entirely different...I look for a place that I can get good service, my wife (who has some dietary restrictions) can find something she'll like without having to bail out to plain pasta or some such thing, perhaps a decent cocktail and good food. Some of the buffets, authentic places etc don't have all of those things.

                                    3. Nice menu but why pay all that money for a little food and some ambiance I know some oriental buffets for 8$s I'd rather go too and get my fill of baked salmon squid and snow crab till I pass out.And If I sneak in a beer and chug it in the bathroom theres another 4$s savings.;)

                                      1. My wife and I really enjoy PF Changs. I have either lived in , or travelled to Taiwan / HK / China for the past 20 years yet I still enjoy Changs. No , it is not authentic but it is good..

                                        1. PFC is a hot topic on the Chowhound board. In my opinion, PFC beats the average Chinese food place dish for dish - meaning that Kung Pao Chicken at PFC beats the Kung Pao Chicken at a random Chinese place. That said, a good Chinese place will always beat PFC for food, especially for more specialized dishes. Unfortunately, good places are still hard to come by, especially in the suburbs.

                                          It is impossible to have a rational discussion with the usual topics "Why is PF Changs So Bad?" or "PF Chang's- could it actually be any good?" This shows an inclination to accept only arguments that prove one's point rather than discussing the merits of each dish. I prefer some dishes (crispy honey shrimp, Chang's chicken, etc.), brown rice, good cocktails, and new spins on classic Americanized Chinese food at PFC over my local places. Most of the time, I do not want the more exotic food offered by the local Chinese places, even though it may be excellent, nor do I want the long drive.

                                          1. PF Changs is terrible faux-chinese food.

                                            I also dont get the "raves" about the lettuce wraps. I was not impressed.

                                            Ate there once(darn work lunch where I was outvoted), and had a terrible meal.

                                            Luckily in Chicago, and the suburbs we have many fine chinese restaurants, some hole-in-the wall spots, and some sit down spots that make eating at PF Changs unnecessary.

                                            When I want chinese food, I want the person taking my order to be Chinese, and all the cooks in the kitchen to be Chinese. I know PF Changs cannot offer that.

                                            1. Personally, I like PF Changs. Many complain the food is too salty, but I've been to plenty of "real" Chinese places here in the SGV, capital of Chinese restaurants in the U.S. and I could say the same of them. Also, many complain PF C's isn't authentic. Granted it isn't, but does that make the food bad just because it isn't authentic? I've been to numerous "authentic" Chinese places, again in the SGV, and the food was at best mediocre. Some people seem to think that just because a place sells weird stuff, or if the menu is only in Chinese, that it has to be good but let me tell you, there's plenty of horrible "authentic" Chinese places. My wife is Chinese (from Hong Kong) and laughs when I jokingly tell her PF Chang's is the real thing, but I would honestly rather eat there than over half the places that we go to with her family who eats nothing but Chinese food when they go out to dinner.

                                              1. I've had both good, decent, and not favorite dishes at PFC!! If you go my favs are orange peel chicken, lemon pepper shrimp, changs spicy chicken, and mongolian beef!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: sweetnspicy

                                                  See, now you like the stuff that isn't necessarily "authentic" but it's good, isn't it? I like stuff like that, too.

                                                  1. re: monkuboy

                                                    That's a very good way to put it!

                                                2. They have dan dan noodles. That's fairly adventurous!

                                                  1. You will never convince me to set foot in PFC just as long as there are authentic Chinese places where I can go to. And I can't convince you that the stuff they serve are any good. Its like taking real Italians to a Olive Gardens or to a Bucca di Beppo, which I happen to like, and convince them that this is great food. So, I'll end my part of the discussion here and not waste any more time.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                                      I'm a "real Italian," and I have enjoyed (I wouldn't say "liked") Bucca di Beppo because I understand that it's not Italian food; it's Bucca di Beppo food. It's unfair, and a little silly, to compare ethnic-y foods to ethnic foods because they're not the same thing. It's too bad that Phaedrus and some others limit themselves by refusing to simply experience a flavor or dish for what it is instead of comparing it to what it isn't.

                                                      It's like refusing to hire a plus-sized model for a plus-sized clothing line just because they don't look like a "traditional" model.

                                                    2. just went to PF Chang's on Sunday. first the ridiculous sauce mixture - the waitress comes and mixes spicy mustard and hot sauce into a separate dish, then adds black vinegar! i shared the shrimp dumplings - leaden things not resembling any dumplings i've previously had. then had the changdu lamb, which I ordered b/c I didn't want anything resembling the real chinese food i've had. this was overcooked lamb, very salty, and every so often a taste of cumin. it did have that wok hotness(?). The best part was dessert -completely American indulgence of thin chocolate eggrolls dipped in caramel-peanut butter and caramel chips. whoo- I felt disgustingly full afterwards. oh yeah, it was about 50 degrees in the restaurant. my overall impression immediately afterwards: i'm never going back. my thoughts now, i don't want to rag on it to non-foodie friends, so i would go. an italian friend once told me he goes to "italian" restaurants in the states and enjoys his meal as long as he doesn't think of it as italian. i think that's the way to approach pf chang's. i'm guessing the kung pao chicken is much better there than at my neighborhood place. if you have no other chinese options, this might work for you.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: fara

                                                        Well, I've only had two business lunches at PFC...one okay, one just yesterday (i was coerced!) however...first of all, in the southwest corner of this great country, most - not all, but most - of the "real" Chinese restaurants are of the formica table-paper napkin ilk - and some are indeed quite good. But it's not a business lunch place, for the most part. So there's a niche for PF Chang's. Yesterday I ordered the "Sichuan chicken quesadilla." It had a slaw on the side. Know what? Not awful. Had "sweet" registering for hours after, but while eating it...not awful. Good smoky taste on a grilled tortilla, some evident spice in the chicken...really, not a bad little lunch - for $7!!! -at all. And it was not unpleasant in that restaurant. Extra points for really pleasant service. I'd do it again.

                                                      2. as is clearly demonstrated in this thread, taste is subjective. try it and judge for yourself. you already know it's a chain and that it's not "authentic" chinese food. taking all that into consideration, it's not at the top of my restaurant list (or anywhere near it) but i wouldn't count it out, either. i accept it for what it is: a chain restaurant attempting to appeal to the masses.

                                                        1. I blieve P.F. Change's had its origins with the independently owned Panda Inn, in Pasadena, California. At one time we enjoyed the food there, but once they started expanding, opening more Panda Inn's and then the P.F. Chang's concept, it went downhill.

                                                          The last time we ate at our local Panda Inn there was a bit of a communication problem with our waitress, who did not seem to speak English. There were three of us and we thought we ordered one order of Peking duck for the three of us, we ended up wrestling with three Peking ducks that evening. For some reason, I have not had the urge to eat Peking duck since.

                                                          Panda Inn
                                                          3488 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                            I stand corrected, P.F. Chang's was not born our of Panda Inn, it looks like it was born in that bastion of Chinese cuisine, Arizona: http://www.pfchangs.com/homeoffice.jsp

                                                            Now I am wondering who copied who's concept.

                                                            1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                              Dahling, I ate at this place once. Ick. Expensive, and not as good as some authentic Chinese restaurants in my area. I'll pass from now on.

                                                            2. re: ChinoWayne

                                                              P.F. Chang's stands for Paul Flemming. It is run by a white guy. Pasadena Panda Inn was the first restaurant (opened for more than 20 years) and after that, the owner's son decided to create Panda Express. The Panda Inn and Panda Express concepts are still both corporately owned and owned by a Chinese couple who live in the SGV. Panda Inn only has six locations, with the newest location at Universal City Walk.

                                                              1. re: nkong

                                                                That explains a lot, thanks. Do you know if Ming Tsai is a family member of the Panda Inn/Express family? On the Panda Inn menu, it says something about him being an early creator of the menu there.

                                                                1. re: nkong

                                                                  From Wikipedia: "The initials "P.F." stands for the founder of the chain, Paul Fleming, while the "Chang" is derived from Fleming's co-developer, Phillip Chiang."

                                                                  P.S. Perhaps it a geographic thing...but living the Bay Area, there's really no reason to eat at P.F. Chang's or TGIF, Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory...and frankly there aren't any around (in SF, Berk/Oak). I'm sure there's something decent on all the menus...but I'll probably never know.

                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                    Chains are more popular in the suburbs where large new developments are common. Older neighborhoods are usually too expensive for the chains to develop since new developments are very eager to offer cheap rent to a PFC, Cheesecake, etc. to draw customers to their stores. Also, competition from existing restaurants in an established neighborhood can make the competition more intense for the chain. Since corporate chains want to minimize costs and maximize revenue, you are unlikely to find them in older established neighborhoods.

                                                              2. I will not read the rest of the opinions until I say mine...I actually enjoy PF Changs. I have one right next to Houstons and Mortons (They share the same parking space) in Aventura FL/NMiami Beach. I have many choices that of course beat any chain, but yet I find myself returning to PF Changs because of their tasty simple dishes. Last time we went we saw they have added some new items in the middle of the menu as a "regional" special, the items were very good, like a combination of spanish with chinese, interesting! I always get the lighter dishes like the simple shrimp on garlic sauce and brown rice. Still, its refreshing.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: SarahOM

                                                                  I went last Friday with a group of friends to the one in Boca. Firstly service was excellent and so were the drinks.
                                                                  onto the food, forget authentic chinese or not, for me it was dull. I had Mongolian beef and rice. The beef was tender and nice but the sauce was tasteless and it was supposed to be ginger. If it had been near a piece of ginger I would be surprised. The rice was tasteless too so I had to add a lot of soy sauce just to get flavour.

                                                                  It was fun in a group context but I would agree what I had (also veggie spring rolls) was tasteless.

                                                                2. Just order their chicken lettuce wraps and get a beer, and you won't understand why some people bash PF Chang's. As for the other dishes, you're on your own. But seriously, it's not horrible; some of the dishes are good enough or ok, and some just make me sad. But I would not revolt against eating there like I would with the Olive Garden.

                                                                  PF Chang's is a big leap above Panda Express and even Panda Inn, just as Buca di Beppo is a big leap above Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill.

                                                                  1. The Lemon-Pepper Shrimp is actually really good. Worth going back for. Again, as echoed in the post, not authentic but who cares. Those who completely refuse to eat foods that aren't "authentic" are boring. There's authentic mexican and mexican-american, there's authentic italian and italian american, etc. Both disciplines have merit.

                                                                    1. Hey, I love authentic Mexican food, but that doesn't mean I don't hit up Taco Bell or Don Pablo's every now and again. I'm Italian, but sometimes I'm just in the mood to go to Buca and soak up some garlic.

                                                                      Likewise, sometimes I want "real Chinese food" and sometimes I want "American Chinese food." There's some tasty stuff at PFC's. Can't say I lobby to go there because if I'm going to eat "American Chinese Food" I'd sooner call my local (and excellent) takeout joint and veg out on the couch (and have better tea!). But if friends are going, I won't chafe about it.

                                                                      So it's not authentic. Did anyone ever say it was? That seems like a bad criteria for judgement.

                                                                      Now if you ate the food and you just don't like it, there's nothing more to say. Not everyone likes everything and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: jzerocsk

                                                                        Well said!

                                                                      2. Jim, I've not eaten at a PF Chang's, but I have tried the food. It was offered at a walk-around wine and food event. The executive chef himself sauced, assembled, and handed me a signature wrap. It was horrible, glopped with an insane amount of sweet hoisin sauce, bitter spicing with a harsh and out of balance chili element, too much salt, and overcooked meat. I really wish I'd asked him whether he'd ever tasted one of these things himself! I imagine that it might be possible that an individual cook at one of the locations is preparing the executive chef's recipes and concepts better than he does himself, as you've editorialized about before when the soul-lessness of chains has been discussed. But I doubt it.

                                                                        1. They're definitely great for someone; it's hard to argue with the evident success of a national chain, eh?

                                                                          My in-laws take me there whenever I visit Palm Springs (they're white, I'm Asian) and at first the place baffled me. I wondered why they were serving white-people food in an Asian-esque decor restaurant (I've worked my way through a lot of the menu and tried food from their plates). I like to think of the place as what would happen if an Asian cook got stranded in an American small town (where Scots are the significant minority group) and then went to the local grocery store to see what he could work with.

                                                                          Think of it that way and the place is amazing and creative; think then of taking it on the road and selling to America and it's genius! Think of it as Chinese food and well ... feh! But, PFC has taken a lot of my white relatives' money and the folks couldn't be happier. Me, I just order soup, the lettuce wraps, alcohol, and dessert and enjoy the company.

                                                                          1. Wow...after reading the posts I'm almost totally afraid to reply! I've been to the Changs in Palm Beach Gardens several times...and it was great...no, not authentic, but tasty... usually have the lettuce wraps mentioned here, but their cucumber sesame salad is wonderful as is their salt and pepper calamari! Chinese calamari? don't think so...but it is SOOO good! Have not been to the Baltimore store yet though...

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: crosby_p

                                                                              Salt and pepper calamari is a staple of Cantonese-style Chinese restaurants, although most of them call it by its proper name, squid.

                                                                              According to legend, when Joyce Chen opened her first Chinese restaurant in Boston's North End in the '50s, she renamed certain items so as to avoid freaking out people used to the Italian restaurants in the neighborhood. As a result, to this day, a large number of Chinese restaurants in Boston call potstickers "Peking ravioli."

                                                                              I'm sure Chinese restaurants calling squid -- a staple of the Cantonese diet -- "calamari" is the same principle. I wouldn't be shocked if this could be traced back to Joyce Chen as well.

                                                                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                Thanks Barmy...I didn't know that!

                                                                            2. living in south florida it's not easy to find good 'chinese' food... especially my absolute Favorite: Singapore Noodles. I have to say I do really like them at PFC... A little oily and the chef is a little Too Scallion happy, but tastes more like curry and better than any of the local chinese places around here. Authentic or not, don't really care, as some people said before. as long as it's tasty!

                                                                              1. PF Changs is good, if you order carefully...The lettuce wraps, orange peel beef, hot and sour soup, and dumplings are all quite good...(Skip the "Wall of Chocolate"...not worth the calories...)We enjoy the duck as well....No this is not "authentic Chinese food", but it is very enjoyable...Love the Martinis as well!LOL

                                                                                1. I enjoy the lettuce wraps and the dry rub short ribs (a perfect lunch to share). For some reason I have a hard time finding ribs without bbq sauce slathered all over them.

                                                                                  1. I was recently put on a gluten free diet. And let me tell you they have a gluten free menu, so it works for me. Not a lot of restaurants in my area offer gluten free menus. I give them that for props.

                                                                                    1. OMG!! what an experience , LOL !! I took my little boy with me, and we ordered the meal for two, lol, they screwed that up so bad, they forgot the appetizers, they only gave my son i dare to say maybe 5 sweet and sour chicken and i got a couple of spoonfuls of almond chicken and then we got 1 rice bowl - All of this for 40.00 !! and then i made the mistake of ordering an alcoholic beverage, a beer , they charged me for it but it never arrived !! I will never eat their again, btw, there isn't any mgmt staff on duty, because i complained and ask for someone to talk to, but they never came !! Oh and this is really really funny, they added a 10.00 gratiuty on my check, lol, i guess they really wanted to rip me off good, --they succeeded but I will never eat there again. Its pretty bad when you have to stop at mcdonalds on the way home after leaving dinner PF Changs , I believe that they are marketing the statues and the wall paintings , it can't be the food or service !!, But here is the interesting thing, the place is always packed !! Could it be that all those people are first timers?? Is PFChangs a one time ripp off place and then they just keep getting new folks?? I mean there were other folks complaining at other tables while i was there, so I know its not just a one time thing, ...its very bizzare ....how are they staying in business, is it from the profit of PeiWei, i mean the same company ownes both. Ripped off in OKC, OK

                                                                                      1. I will answer your question this way - It all depends upon the standard of the Chinese restaurants you have gone to. When I lived in Los Angeles we were surrounded by high quality, and very authentic Chinese. PF Changs to us was a poor Asian Fusion concept that wasn't particularly good. However after living in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by some of the worst Chinese restaurants I have ever been in PF Changs seems like a decent alternative when we are craving Asian style food.

                                                                                        Therefore my LA rating of PF Changs would be a 3 out of 10 but my Pacific Northwest rating would be a 6 (maybe even a 7) out of 10.


                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                                          Ummm....the Pacific Northwest? The one with Vancouver BC in it? And Seattle, which has some of the best Sichuan I've found anywhere in North America (including LA, Vancouver and NYC)? If you live in Salem or Bend or somewhere, fine, but don't say the PNW.

                                                                                          But I am actually posting to see if anyone can steer me toward anything edible at PF Changs. It is a favorite of my gluten free mother and also my sister, so I'm guaranteed to end up here 3 times a year. I thought it would be a perfectly acceptable, sort of healthy Americanized version of Chinese food, so I thought it would be fine. But oh my god--worse food I have rarely had. It's like what I imagine small town Chinese to be--gloppy sweet sauces, fried things (with battered crust) where you expect stir fried....I;ve tried at least 10 different things and they are astoundingly bad. My husband, who normally would not turn his nose up at chains, even hates it. But there has to be something edible. There has to be. Help me out--what should I get next time? Preferably seafood or veg--I hate getting meat at these kind of chains, since I'm sure it's the worst kind of factory farmed meat.

                                                                                          1. re: christy319

                                                                                            Lettuce wraps/veg fried rice/spicy green beans.
                                                                                            My mom looooves PF Chang's.

                                                                                            1. re: Samalicious

                                                                                              I'll try the veg fried rice and the beans, thanks--those sounds like good suggestions, hard to really screw up. My sister loves the lettuce wraps so I've tried those, and I don't like them at all.

                                                                                            2. re: christy319


                                                                                              On chowhound the boards are divided this way:

                                                                                              * B.C. (including Vancouver)
                                                                                              *etc, etc

                                                                                              PACIFIC NORTHWEST
                                                                                              * Greater Seattle
                                                                                              * Metro Portland
                                                                                              * Pacific Northwest

                                                                                              My use of PNW is the same way that chowhound uses the nomenclature so it does not include restaurants under the heading of Canada. While I thought it was clear that I was speaking about the pacific northwest board since I did not mention the Seattle board it has obviously caused you some confusion I am sorry for that.

                                                                                              I agree that Seattle has some very good Asian restaurants the rest of the pacific northwest as chowhound defines it, not so much.

                                                                                              Happy New Year

                                                                                          2. I found Chang's tremendously disappointing. Like the theme park version of an Asian restaurant. I was actually embarrassed as our idiot child server explained the dipping sauces.
                                                                                            I've only been once, and that experience made me really miss our tried and true Chinese/fusion place.

                                                                                            Strangely I was kind of impressed with their Pei Wei diner offshoot. Had lunch there once during a conference out of town. Everything seemed pretty fresh, and was clearly being cooked to order in the open kitchen. I'd do it again, but wouldn't go out of my way.

                                                                                            1. One thing I look for in any Chinese place is how well they control the heat for the stir fry. Beff is especially difficult. You are stir frying a mixture of foods that get cooked in different times, so when you put the ingredients in is critical, plus, when you take t5hem out is equally critical since the meats will continue to cook with the residual heat. A great Chinese cook can make the beef tender to the bite, a hack will almost always overcook the meats and undercook the vegetables. This is what I have found the few times I have been to PF Chang's. the beef is not exactly tough, but it is always past the tender point. There are times when the vegetables show up dried up and charred, that is when I don't even want to try the meat.

                                                                                              1. whoever has yet to experience p.f. chang's i dare you to try the lettuce wraps and the hunan style hot fish and come back with an honest opinion. they are 2 of my absolute favorite dishes on their menu and definitely amongst any chain restaurant option.

                                                                                                1. I used to eat there occasionally about 10 years ago. I thought it was really good. My favorites were the Ma Po Tofu and the lettuce wraps.

                                                                                                  I stopped going for many years and went back about 1 year ago for the last time. The quality had gone downhill quite a bit, so I'm not surprised most people here dislike it so much. I was quite disappointed.

                                                                                                  1. I've been to PFC a few times. It used to be decent, IMO, now it's just awful. the last couple meals we had there were very disappointing - and we weren't expecting that much. <grin>

                                                                                                    1. My wife and I went once, to the one in Lexington KY, about 6 months ago. They pack the tables in so closely that we had to climb over people to get to our table in the center. Then others had to climb over us to reach their tables. Not very pleasant.

                                                                                                      I ordered an unsweetened iced tea, because in KY if you don't specify you get sweet. Sometimes even if you do you get sweet. What I got was some horrible peach flavored concoction. I asked our server for an unflavored unsweet tea and she said they don't serve that. So I had water.

                                                                                                      I had some kind of spicy chicken dish that was waaaayyy too sweet and not spicy. The brown rice was a nice option. Our server was nice and took very good care of us. But I have no desire to go back.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: chileheadmike

                                                                                                        For us, the food is pretty high quality for what we can get for Chinese food where we live. We have had less positive experiences with service and quality of food issues, but mostly it is reliable. We like the shrimp dumplings, Ginger chicken, Mongolian beef and shrimp chow mein. I also like the curry vegetables.