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[HOU] Any good old school Chinese/Cantonese restaurants??

j
JoeyCannoli Mar 22, 2008 03:37 PM

I am looking for GOOD old school Chinese/Cantonese food in the Houston area and vicinity,(Humble, Kingwood, Porter,etc..) The kind of places that serve yummy wonton soup, egg-foo-young, fried rice, the real stuff!! I am from NYC and will be visiting friends that live down there who are former New Yorkers themselves. I am NOT looking for Thai, Vietnamese, Japenese,sushi, buffet chinese, etc., just good old school Cantonese. Any reccomendations is appreciated. Thankyou fellow chowhounders!

  1. k
    Kazbern Mar 24, 2008 03:12 PM

    I'm from NJ originally, but I think the style of Chinese restaurant that I remember is obsolete now across the board. There are some pretty good Chinese restaurants in Houston for the anglo crowd. There are also some really interesting Chinese restaurants targeting the very large Chinese and Asian community in Houston.

    My favorite for anglos like me is Dumpling King on Westheimer @ Hillcroft (not a fancy place, but very very good dumplings).

    1. danhole Mar 26, 2008 09:33 AM

      There are several Chinese restaurants that fit your criteria, or at least remind me of the Chinese I ate in the 60's in Chicago.

      C&S Chinese Cafe, Hwy 290 & 43rd St. Small place in strip center, but good food. I love the Kung Pao.

      Golden Wok, Ella & 34th St. Great Orange chicken, sesame chicken, and egg drop soup. I didn't like their Kung Pao becasue it had a lot of large mushrooms and vegetables, and the sauce didn't seem right, but everything else I have had is good.

      Empress Restaurant, Long Point & Antoine. Best sesame chicken I have ever had, good pepper steak, good soups & egg rolls. And they have cantonese style dishes on the menu.

      Oriental Village, 290 & Hollister. This place has a buffet that is very good, especially with kid in tow, but you can order off the menu as well. Extensive menu as well. It labels itself as a "Chinese Restaurant Hunan Cuisine". I am ignorant about the difference between chinese/hunan/cantonese, so . . .

      All of the places above have egg foo young on the menu and all have good fried rice (except C&S is pretty plain.)

      Here is a link to show you even more:

      http://www.chinatownconnection.com/re...

      1 Reply
      1. re: danhole
        danhole Apr 17, 2008 09:28 AM

        I am retracting my recommendation for C&S Chinese Cafe. I has gone way downhill, and the prices have really gone up. It's just not worth it. My daughter said they go to Empress the most, now.

      2. danhole Mar 26, 2008 09:59 AM

        I forgot to mention that all of these places I listed above are locally owned, and seemingly family run. You see the same people there each time you go.

        I also left out 2 more "upscale", as in comparision to diner table, versus table cloths!

        Yen JIng, W. T C Jester & Ella. Good food, but if it says it is spicy be warned - it is over the top spicy! Very extensive menu and they have Peking Duck for those looking for it. Nice interior, but you have to wait for your food, because they take their time.

        China View, Katy Frwy. Good food, pricey, exceptional decor, almost like a museum, and the only one with a website:

        http://www.chinaview.us/

        No egg foo young but lots of really good entrees.

        1. Chandavkl Mar 26, 2008 01:05 PM

          As one of the posters indicated those types of restaurants are pretty much obsolete anywhere you go. You would have loved Ming Palace on Gray St. 40 years ago but that's been gone for years. Essentially you would need to find a Chinese restaurant that has been in continuous operation for several decades, somewhere in the central city, and I don't know if there are any places in Houston that fit this profile. Most of today's Americanized Chinese restaurants are operated by Chinese who have come to the U.S. in probably the last 20 or 30 years, and for whom the concept of old time Cantonese food is completely foreign. You probably recognize this by the fact that these Americanized Chinese restaurants often serve dishes such as Kung Pao Chicken, Mushu Pork and Orange Chicken which are not Cantonese dishes and were unheard of in the U.S. until the 1960s or 1970s.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chandavkl
            kingofkings Mar 26, 2008 09:00 PM

            It is impossible to find good egg foo yung west of the mississippi. I too love the old school american/chinese food. It is disappearing.

            1. re: Chandavkl
              danhole Mar 28, 2008 09:42 AM

              Chandavkl, what specific dishes are Cantonese? I have menus for all of the places I listed and now I'm curious. Tell me some names and I'll look for them. I just mention kung pao because I like it. The OP asked about egg foo young, wonton soup and fried rice. Pretty basic stuff, I would think.

            2. LewisvilleHounder Mar 28, 2008 12:24 PM

              I will admit first off I am not from Houston!

              Second what is "old school" chinese/ Cantonese? Was there only 5 or 6 dishes on the menu and they did them really well? What is so different than the more authentic Chinese places that are along Bellaire in W. Houston? I guess I am not understanding the connection between what Chinese used to be and what it is now. My favorite places in Dallas are First Chinese BBQ, Kirin Court, and Maxims (most of which are highly praised on CH for Dallas). They all have Cantonese dishes on the menu. They might not have egg foo yung but the others definitely. So what is the difference in ordering the wonton soup from these types of places than what you had many years ago?

              I am only 30 so I need some clarification and specifics, as my idea of Chinese cuisine is rapidly expanding in Dallas (i.e via Shanghainese (Yao Fuzi & Shanghai), Sichuan (Sichaunese Cuisine & Little Sichan), Cantonese (the above mentioned), Hunan (Hunan Restaurant) and Shandong (Chef Hsu)). This accounts for four of the eight great culinary traditions plus an extra one (Shanghainese) in China represented in Dallas. I can say since I love spicy foods all the time I tend to like the Sichuan places the best.

              12 Replies
              1. re: LewisvilleHounder
                danhole Mar 28, 2008 12:36 PM

                Thanks Lewis! I am wondering all of the above as well. Houston has a tremendous variety of chinese restaurants and I have no idea how someone from LA could even begin to judge the places I listed. There are more than one community of chinese/asian dominated areas. I just can't believe someone couldn't find what they are looking for,

                1. re: danhole
                  LewisvilleHounder Mar 28, 2008 01:00 PM

                  By the way I was SS (Soul)

                  Anyway I read recently that Houston has the second largest Viet population in the country and I know the Chinese population seems a bit larger than Dallas. I would assume with that kind of diversity you would find what you want. I have made note of your recs and will try them out soon when I visit my bro. Donnaaries (from Dallas) also has a list she likes in Houston.

                  Perhaps the OP can expand on what exactly they are looking for....I know those are the dishes in question but what made them so special to remember them for 40+ years. If someone from the same generation (I would say late 40's to 60's) as the OP that has lived in Houston and dined at a more authentic place nowadays and compare the two it might help us out give the OP the recs he wants.

                2. re: LewisvilleHounder
                  Chandavkl Mar 28, 2008 01:50 PM

                  From the time of the Gold Rush until just after World War II, probably 95 percent of the Chinese in the United States came from an area known as Toishan, a seven district area on the outskirts of the city of Canton, now known as Guangzhou. Think of an analogy where all the Americans in a foreign country came from, say, the area in and around Pasadena, Texas. These Chinese immigrants brought a combination of their own food, and an adaptation of their own food to reflect locally available ingredients, and as curious non-Chinese neighbors began to sample the food, the tastes of these neighbors. This led to an identity of Chinese restaurants in the United States that was marked by an almost uniform menu of items such as chow mein, chop suey, fried rice, wonton soup, egg rolls, sweet and sour pork, egg foo young, pressed duck, and bok choy. This is the kind of stuff you could find at Ming Palace, and is referred to as old style Cantonese food. Starting in the 1950s, due to a number of political events here and abroad, the mix of Chinese immigration to the United States drastically changed. This in turn led to the evolution of Chinese food in the United States. As allegedly Hunan and Szechwan style cuisine made its way across the United States in the 60s, it introduced new Americanized Chinese favorites such as kung pao chicken, hot and sour soup, orange chicken, mushu pork. sizzling rice soup and General Tso's chicken to name a few, the type of stuff you're more likely to find these days at the General Joe's Chopsticks chain in the Houston area . Then with changes in American immigration laws, greatly ramping up the numbers of Chinese in the country with a new wave of immigration, you had the emergence of the authentic cuisines from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China begin to appear, first in the mid-70s at Sun Deluxe on Chartres Street in the old Chinatown area by what is now the convention center, then along Bellaire Blvd. starting in the 1980s.

                  1. re: Chandavkl
                    LewisvilleHounder Mar 28, 2008 02:13 PM

                    My one of my original questions still stands unanswered:

                    So what is the difference in ordering the same dishes from the new authentic Chinese places than what you had many years ago? MSG? The veggies were different so you had a bit more American veggies instead of the exotic items you can get now? Or is it the fact that we don't have a uniform menu?

                    I do understand your post above (an thank you for the info) but I am not clear on the differences between the same dishes ordered now and then, besides the availability of ingredients has since changed and the menus aren't as uniform.

                    1. re: LewisvilleHounder
                      Chandavkl Mar 28, 2008 02:47 PM

                      I think it's a case of the recipes having changed, and the purveyors of the old recipes having retired and not having the chance to pass it on to their successors. My relatives arrived in Houston in the 1930s (we're Toishanese), and as far as I know all the Chinese in Houston through the early 1960s were Toishanese. Today, Toishanese are a very small part of the Chinese community which is dominated by Taiwanese, ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, and Hong Kong Chinese. Coincidentally there is a posting today on the Manhattan board wondering what happened to the old style egg rolls. Similar threads are fairly common on the California and New York boards both about egg rolls as well as other old style Cantonese (really Toishanese) fare.

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/503659

                      1. re: Chandavkl
                        danhole Mar 28, 2008 03:04 PM

                        So, what you are saying is that the chop suey and chow mein we eat now, is not what it used to be? If you are not born into a chinese, or toishanese family how would we know? I am just a stupid Heinz 57 american, and I did not live in Houston in the early 60's, but I do remember the chinese food in Chicago in the later 60's and the places I mentioned ar very similar, except I did NOT grow up eating Kung Pao. Didn't have that until around the 90's. Did have chop suey, chow mein, egg foo young, eggrolls, moo gu gai pan, fried rice and many other dishes.

                        Another question is that if a chinese restaurant has a mix of the old classics and the americanized versions, should it be dismissed, in your opinion.

                        1. re: danhole
                          Chandavkl Mar 28, 2008 03:23 PM

                          I'm not making any qualitative comments about the old or new styles of Chinese food, only that there are stark differences. I can give you an example. Traditional chow mein was made with fresh noodles made of wheat and water, and was slightly thicker than spaghetti. The noodles were partially browned. The dish included meat, celery and bean sprouts with a sauce having the consistency of gravy. Today's chow mein may be made with extra fine fresh noodles made with wheat, egg and water, or it may be made with thicker dry noodles, and may be prepared any number of ways with any number of condiments. The difference between the old chow mein and the new chow mein is very striking, and there is no mistaking the old chow mein. I'm not saying that either style is necessarily better than the others, but a lot of people who grew up on the old style Cantonese food became very fond of it and lament the fact that it's getting harder to find.

                          1. re: Chandavkl
                            danhole Mar 30, 2008 11:53 AM

                            Thanks for the explanation. I wonder if, at the restaurants that gave you a choice of chow mein or cantonese chow mein, if the cantonese style is close to the original. I may have to try that one day.

                            1. re: danhole
                              Chandavkl Mar 30, 2008 02:57 PM

                              It's possible. For example, some restaurants specify some of their chow mein dishes as being "Hong Kong" style. This is the thin fresh egg noodle fried fairly crispily like a pancake which has the condiments (meat, vegetables, gravy) poured on top. In such case their regular chow mein would be something different, made with thicker noodles. Of course the one thing that is not necessarily uniform with the old style Cantonese food is the terminology. For example, it appears that "chow mein" in Miami meant a dish without noodles (even though "mein" is the Cantonese word for noodle), and probably was the equivalent of what was called chop suey in other cities. (What we know as chow mein was called lo mein.) Then there were the places that served the canned chow mein chips as the noodle their chow mein. (Do they still make that stuff?)

                              1. re: Chandavkl
                                donnaaries Apr 17, 2008 09:49 AM

                                To add a note to Chandavkl's excellent explanations, a lot of this old school vs. new school Chinese food is a matter of immigration history, and the cultural phenomenon of immigrant communities being "frozen in time." By that I mean, when immigrants come to the US, they tend to "freeze" in time the culture of their home countries (including food culture) whilest the culture IN their home country progresses. Chinese food in China is not the same now as it was 50 years, thus, with each new generation of Chinese immigrants coming to the states, the restaurant owners are changing, even the old owners are having to adapt to "new taste." This "frozen in time" phenomenon is not solely limited to Asian immigrants (though this is most evident due to the fact that Asian immigrants have a long history in the US of having community centers like Chinatowns and are still immigrating at a high rate) and can be seen in Little Italy's and certain Hispanic communities as well.

                                1. re: donnaaries
                                  j
                                  JoeyCannoli Apr 20, 2008 08:18 AM

                                  WOW! Thankyou all for your amazing replys. I appreciate this. This posting is really to help my friends find a good place that live in Houston. They are originally from New York and cant seem to find any good ol' Cantonese. Thanks again.

                    2. re: Chandavkl
                      s
                      stockboy85 Jul 12, 2008 05:24 PM

                      My family came the United States in the late 1800's (my mother's side) and in the 1940's (my father's side). Both branches of my family are from Toishan. For truly authentic, homemade type of Cantonese food, my family likes to go to either Hong Kong Food Street on Bellaire (the food is really good here, but the service is like being in Hong Kong - there isn't any) or to East Wall, also on Bellaire. East Wall is probably our favorite family restaurant (it is clean, they are fast, the owners are very nice and the food is fairly inexpensive. Order off of their lunch menu for 5-7 dollar dishes. They have things like salted steamed ground pork, bittermellon, good wonton soup, etc on their menu that are very authentic.

                  2. j
                    jwoodsonrn Jul 7, 2010 05:00 PM

                    Ha ha good luck. I moved here from Boston 13 years ago, and have yet to find anything other than that "Hunan" crap! Everytime I go back east I make sure I get my fill of chinese whenever I can because I know it SUCKS in Houston. BTW, good luck getting a decent Philly Cheese steak here as well - they put f&*)ing mozzarella cheese on it, lol. Oh, and one more thing, they also put f&(*ing American Cheese in their mexican food. Hope you like BBQ - you'll get used to it.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: jwoodsonrn
                      FarleyFlavors Jul 8, 2010 02:49 AM

                      "they also put f&(*ing American Cheese in their mexican food"

                      In their Tex-Mex food, surely.

                      And long may it continue.

                      1. re: jwoodsonrn
                        Chandavkl Jul 8, 2010 02:25 PM

                        Well there's plenty of good authentic Chinese food between Bellaire and Sugar Land, just not the old style Canto-American.

                        1. re: Chandavkl
                          j
                          James Cristinian Jul 8, 2010 04:46 PM

                          I wasn't going to respond to this bitter rant on a two year old post unless someone else did. I'll offer a suggestion. Hong Kong Chef on Bissonnet and Rice in Bellaire is old school. My favorite is shrimp kew, fresh fried shrimp in a brown sauce. Throw in crisp, stellar egg rolls and some of the best won ton soup around. I love the place.

                          -----
                          Hong Kong Chef
                          5112 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 77401

                          1. re: Chandavkl
                            c
                            cooltouch Jul 11, 2010 03:09 PM

                            +1 to the "Chinese Corridor" in SW Houston. However, most of the restaurants there are not Cantonese, especially not the Cantonese I remember eating here as a kid back in the 60s. Trying to find egg foo young or cantonese-style eggrolls can be a frustrating experience.

                            My wife is Chinese from Taiwan, so her "comfort food" preferences are different from Cantonese or most other mainland varieties (Hunan, Szechwan, Mandarin, etc.). Usually when we go out for Chinese, we wind up at one of the Taiwanese places around Bellaire Blvd. -- between Gessner and the Tollway. But certainly not always. We both like the other styles as well. But I couldn't tell you the names of any of them to save my life, though. Mostly cuz I don't read Chinese :) My wife could, but she's not here at the moment. Still, I like going to a lot of these places where you have to ask for a menu in English and you're the only Anglo in the joint. One thing's for sure in almost all cases -- the food will be authentic, regardless of the style. And it's usually quite good and reasonably priced. Has to be -- the competition is so fierce in the Corridor that they've got to offer good food at reasonable prices simply in order to survive.

                            Anyway, I can't list any names of places, but I can tell you where to look. In the DiHo Plaza, where the Welcome grocery store is, there are a few restaurants. One of them is a Szechwan place, and it's food is very good. Another is more Taiwanese style, and it is also good. Down a bit further is a center with the DiHo Supermarket (not to be confused with DiHo Plaza). There is a place there my wife and I used to eat at on a regular basis. On the east side of the building(s). This place serves a variety of styles as I recall. Really, I would just recommend that you get adventurous and pick one at random. If it's good, now you know. If it isn't, try the place next door. :)

                            About the Empress Restaurant that was mentioned previously, I live a few blocks from that place. It's been around forever and I honestly don't know how it manages to stay open. Seems like the only clientele it has anymore are retired Anglos. I talked my wife into going one time, and it was a real disappointment. I don't recally now what we had -- it was a few years ago -- but it was totally uninspired and ordinary.

                            By contrast, there's a small take-out place with a few tables, a couple of blocks to the west, in the Walmart Supermercado shopping center, called China One, which manages to knock out some excellent food for a very reasonable price. Try one of their $5.99 all-day specials (they have over 30 to choose from).

                            -----
                            China One
                            7912 Long Point Rd, Houston, TX 77055

                          2. re: jwoodsonrn
                            j
                            jscarbor Jul 16, 2010 08:20 AM

                            I don't think Jake's put mozz on cs unless you ask them, they usually have provolone or cheez whizz.
                            houston has all kinds of really good chinese. Fung's comes to mind. Many other noodle/dumpling places.
                            Hong Kong Chef is really good for old school american canton esque food. Cheap and lots of food. Place almost makezs you feel like you eating in a hidden gym when you are there. Its kind of a time warp.
                            Boston can suck it by the way.:)

                            -----
                            Hong Kong Chef
                            5112 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 77401

                            1. re: jscarbor
                              j
                              James Cristinian Jul 16, 2010 12:06 PM

                              The wife and I just got back from Hong Kong Chef. It may be hidden as it is a whole in the wall, but it is well known. When we got there at 11:30 we were the only ones there. When we left, it was totally full, definitely not hidden from the locals. This place is a time warp, it hasn't changed in the thirty years I've been going there. As far as Boston goes, I'm sure they have some great Mexican food there.

                              -----
                              Hong Kong Chef
                              5112 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 77401

                          3. Lambowner Jul 10, 2010 05:41 AM

                            China Garden defines old school chinese. It is very good, too.

                            http://www.chinagardenhouston.com/

                            -----
                            China Garden
                            1602 Leeland St, Houston, TX 77003

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Lambowner
                              c
                              cooltouch Jul 11, 2010 03:15 PM

                              Thanks for the China Garden tip. Its menu does look proper 'old school.' Next time I'm in the downtown area, I'm gonna stop in and try their egg foo young. :)

                              -----
                              China Garden
                              1602 Leeland St, Houston, TX 77003

                            2. Lambowner Jul 10, 2010 05:45 AM

                              Good grief, I didn't notice the age spots on this post. Why isn't this site organized by date of original post? Silly.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lambowner
                                d
                                dexmat Jul 10, 2010 07:39 AM

                                This is not a problem and happens all the time Good advice is good advice whether the original poster is still around or not. You can use the search feature to pull up old threads and add your information or opinions there or start a new thread. Sometimes the former is preferable since it brings together all the information and opinions on a topic together in one thread.

                              2. s
                                seethemoon Jul 11, 2010 07:51 PM

                                China Garden is very old school and the best in town.

                                -----
                                China Garden
                                1602 Leeland St, Houston, TX 77003

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