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Jan 3, 2008 03:15 AM

Excellent Chinese in BALT. Does it exist?

Any possibilties? Got the craving but they're hard to find. American-Chinese is what I need.


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  1. Everyone's definition of excellent Chinese food is different, but here is what I can recommend:
    Cafe Zen near Belvedere Square... on the healthier side of most american-chinese and they also do a lot of take out business. It's a casual atmosphere. Prices are lower than you would expect.
    Joey Chiu's in Greenspring... a bit more upscale- white table cloth, nice decor and more polished wait staff. Food is good, and I've never been disappointed. There is a surprisingly crowded scene at the bar there, too. I have no idea what that's about, but you can eat at the bar if you care to.

    1. Depends on what kind of American-Chinese you're craving. Personally, for American-Chinese comfort food, I get carry out from Golden Dragon on Liberty Rd, just outside the beltway. It's about as mushy and homey and comforting as I get. (OK. We ate there as kids, and I always only get chicken chow mein and wonton soup there.....)

      Also good on the American -Chinese front and the getting more "authentic" front is Szechunan House in a shopping center on York Road and Seminary Ave.

      I'm sure you'll get more suggestions for American-Chinese. But, sometimes I just crave that mushy, overly salty food at Golden Dragon.....Comfort food cravings are truly a mysterious thing!

      2 Replies
      1. re: baltoellen

        Why can't anyone make an eggroll as good as Golden Dragon?
        They are the best ( since Pimlico Hotel went out of business)

        1. re: MDicecreamguy

          I always say that about their American-Chinese wonton soup!

      2. Szechuan House in Lutherville has Chinese American and real Chinese, both are excellent!

        1. The best American-Chinese I've found in Bmore is the Mandarin Orange Chicken from Trader Joe's.

          That said, if I have a craving for hot and sour soup and General Tso's, I'll get it from Ding How, only because it's the best place that will deliver to my house.

          1. Somehow, to my mind, the words "excellent chinese" and "American-Chinese food" do not go harmoniously together. With the latter reminding me of frozen, wok-fried crap that comes in paper or aluminum containers.

            Pretty much, there's no American-Chinese food that's "excellent." Tasty, perhaps, but that depends on your tastes. A Chinese family I know used to own a carry-out on Greenmount that served "Yaki-Mein" - a grotesque mixture of lo mein noodles, egg and ketchup that no Chinese would dare eating himself. However, it was infinitely popular with their clientele. Down in Brooklyn Park, a Chinese carryout I know serves tons of Egg Foo Yung - don't think they eat that either. Then, up here in the Northern part of Baltimore, General Tso's Chicken is a crowd pleaser.

            Personally speaking, I almost never eat American-Chinese food. Overall, I think it's poorly sourced crap. But there are times when I get a hankering for General Tso's (don't ask) and I'll usually venture to Bruce Lee or China Chefs in Timonium and get The General with the sauce on the side (since it's too saucy for me) and maybe an order of Shanghai noodles. Problem is, ten times out of ten, I regret eating that stuff afterwards.

            For good Chinese, I have to give a nod to Szechuan House in Lutherville or Hunan Manor in Columbia. There used to be a great Chinese place on Liberty Road but that closed some time ago. Outside of those places, I like Full Key in Wheaton or Jesse Wong's in Columbia for Sunday dim sum. But the place I really like is Mark's Duck House at Four Corners, Virginia. So good, I ran into my aunt there one afternoon - and we both live in Baltimore!

            14 Replies
            1. re: onocoffee

              I used to feel the same way about American-Chinese food, until I travelled around and tried chop suey sandwiches, chow mein sandwiches, and the "St. Paul sandwich" (basically, egg foo yung on Wonder Bread with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and pickles). They're like the American-Chinese equivalent of a cheesesteak or an Italian beef. Unfortunately (or not, depending), you can't find any of these around DC.

              I've had some decent standards at Mayflower Chinese Buffet on Greenmount, but that was years ago.

              1. re: onocoffee

                I think American-Chinese food is still developing, and we'll all be surprised soon when it really takes a life and taste of its own. Granted, around here I doubt you'll find anything too 'Excellent'. My own nod would be to Szechuan House as well. The food is mostly Americanized (even the ones that they pretend are not) but I don't think I've yet to find a place that matches the taste of their food.

                Onocoffee, didn't the Full Key in Wheaton change hands a few years back? I remember being extremely unhappy the few times I tried it back then and have refused to go back since.

                1. re: Wangus

                  That's the great thing about ethnic cuisine in America. It's in a perpetual state of development. It's constantly evolving and adapting to its clientel. Pick any Chinese carryout in any city, and you'll find Chinese immigrants making "soul food" like fried chicken wings, pork chops, and even some pretty decent steak subs, for African cab drivers. I wouldn't be surprised if some Chinese places started offering chicken tagines with preserved lemons or falafel sandwiches. Yet chop suey remains a standard on most menus.

                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                    I wholeheartedly agree with you, and I would take it further to add that most of the cuisine in the planet is in a constant state of flux, too, as people move around the globe, and adapt familiar cuisines to new ingredients. I just read Why We Eat What We Eat, and the author essentially makes the point that there's really no such thing as "authentic" cuisine, since Columbus and other explorers traveled around the globe. Pretty exciting stuff to think about.

                    Regarding hyphenated Chinese food, I've had Indian-Chinese in Queens. That very interesting food is from the Chinatown in Bombay adapted to the foods available in that borough.

                    And, more of my 2 cents: I ate at Paul Kee in Wheaton about two months ago, and actually thought Szechunan House was superior.

                    1. re: baltoellen

                      If cuisines didn't adopt to changing tastes, we'd still be eating cold dead woolly mammoth in a cave. And as soon as someone starts cooking it with fire, ther'd be some chowhound right there complaining how it's not authentic to cook with fire. You simply have to eat your raw mammoth in a cave to appreciate it. Maybe with some sabertooth tiger coulis and cave moss frissee.

                  2. re: Wangus

                    I don't have a problem with a cuisine adopting local ingredients, assimilating local styles, etc. But what I see with an awful lot of American-Chinese food is just dumbing down the cuisine because they think Americans won't like it if it's authentic. And in many cases they're right about that, unfortunately.

                    1. re: Hal Laurent

                      I've been thinking about this a bit lately, and not sure that changing the tastes to suit particular palates is necessarily "dumbing down." Sometimes I appreciate the level of chilies, say, being moderated to someone like me, who can't take that five alarm fire in my mouth burn......

                      I do have issues when there are certain items--ie. the Chinese that you can't read on the menus--that smack of, well, you're not going to like this anyway, so we won't bother translating this for you.

                      1. re: baltoellen

                        I'm not talking holding back on the chilies as much as I'm talking slathering everything with the same gloppy sauce and vegetables. And serving fried rice instead of steamed rice.

                        But this probably belongs on a different board, although I'm not sure which one.

                        1. re: Hal Laurent

                          Maybe this can get bumped over to the high-fructose corn syrup discussion, as that's why I can't eat any sweet-and-sour Chinese dishes. The last time I had General Tso's Chicken, it tasted like candied Mcnuggets.

                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                            Well, there's American-Chinese that's good, and then there's the fried stuff swimming in neon orange sauce. I guess Chinese buffets in strip malls pretty much showcases this sort of stuff.

                        2. re: baltoellen

                          That reminds me of the first (and so far only) time I tried dim sum. The restaurant had been highly recommended on chowhound, and after I was seated I realized it fit the old cliche that if you're the only non-[insert ethnic group here] at an [ethnic group] restaurant, you know the place is probably doing the cuisine right. Anyway, most of the servers didn't seem to speak English, and I had never been to dim sum before, so I didn't know what I was doing. The best I could figure to do was politely flag down the people pushing the carts as they walked by and gesture that I'd like to see what they had. This one server, who seemed to speak more English than most, each and every single time I motioned that I was interested in what was in her cart, would shake her head and say "this is not your favorite." And I'd say, "well what is it?" And she'd say, "it is not your favorite." And I'd say, "ok, but what IS it?" and we'd go on like that a few rounds until I got out of her what it was. It was so frustrating! The whole reason I went was to be exposed to new and different kinds of food. Anyway, I totally agree with you, Baltoellen. (On the plus side, my friends and I have gotten a lot of joke mileage out of the phrase "this is not your favorite"!)

                    2. re: onocoffee

                      I prefer Paul Kee in Wheaton as well as Hollywood east.

                      1. re: onocoffee

                        I think Mark's got sold last summer. The supervising women were all distinguished but new, with no Mrs. Mark. The dim sum was still great.

                        1. re: onocoffee

                          Mark's Duck House looks like a heavy hitter. I looked up their website and they have numerous awards and I also checked Zagat - they look like one of the best around. I'll have to put them on my list of places to go when I find my self down in that area.