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Apr 3, 2008 06:09 PM

Cheap Chinese (aka Orange Chicken) in the Alhambra area?

First of all I'll flat out say that my question is a sacrilege -- here I am living in probably one of the best places in all of SoCal for "Authentic" Chinese food...

...and here I am asking about Orange Chicken.

Before moving to Alhambra about 12 years ago, I lived in the San Fernando Valley (Sherman Oaks, Burbank, then Glendale) and there were what seemed like "$1.00 Chinese Food" restaurants on every corner. You walk in and they served the food "Panda Express" style out of warming bins. Yes I know, pretty ghetto.

Then I started finding out about the terrific chinese food restaurants here in Alhambra and started driving over here to eat at places like Sam Woo BBQ.

Long story short (too late!), every now and then I would like some good 'ole orange chicken.

And yes, when I say "Chinese" I am actually talking about "Americanized" Chinese food that has little to do with China or their cuisine.

We used to have Panda Express in Vons on Valley, but that has closed. There is an orange chicken restaurant on Rosemead next to K-Mart (appropriately called "Orange Chicken"), but I've found that the food there is hit or miss.

SO....what is the closest place I can get "1.00 Chinese Food" around this area? It seems like there is an invisible border that once I hit El Monte or Montebello, they start magically appearing (although I think "$1.00" is no longer valid due to inflation!).

Can anyone recommend something relatively cheap and close, possibly within "the invisible borders" of this area?

I used Panda Express as an example and I know there is one next to Edwards Theaters, but I'm thinking more on the lines of a Mom & Pop type of place.

And no, they don't have to serve Springfield Style Cashew Chicken. :)

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  1. Google "Chinatown Express Los Angeles" and head west towards areas like east LA and along Whittier Blvd. and look for any Chinese fast food take out places in the Mexican areas and you'll find what you're looking for.

    Probably has lots of fried doughy chicken, but I'm sure you'll find it.

    1. The one word I seemed to have left out of my long-winded query -- "good." So in other words, are there any "good" cheap americanized Chinese food places relatively close by? :)

      I'll be sure to check out Chinatown Express. It rings a bell, hopefully I haven't already tried it and didn't like it. ;)

      8 Replies
      1. re: atrac

        "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life."

        I'm just showing you where to do your "fishing".

        Sam Woo BBQ is as low($) as I'm willing to go. I like their food and I consider it pretty Americanized. One day I was at the one in Monterey Park and almost every table had the sweet & sour pork.

        Costco Alhambra has frozen orange chicken in the frozen food section that might satisfy your cheap fix. I've had it and it isn't bad. Fully cooked and heat in your microwave.

        1. re: monku

          Actually I had used google and went to several different cheap chinese places that came up on it over the past several months...mostly east of Alhambra. They were pretty bad so I was hoping maybe someone had a secret "greasy spoon" that the knew of close by. ;)

          I like the whole experience of walking in and seeing the food ready to go (aka no wait time). I usually order Orange Chicken and BBQ pork with steamed rice.

          Sam Woo BBQ has terrific Char Siu, but they of course don't have Orange Chicken.

          Unfortunately I don't belong to Costco. :(

          Someone else mentioned Trader Joe's Orange Chicken in a different post I made so I'll be trying that too.

          1. re: atrac

            Your orange chicken search shouldn't be that difficult. Orange chicken is a pretty standard dish that's hard to mess up. I've had it at places where they use too much cornstarch to "bulk" up the chicken and its like eating a lump of dough. Otherwise the recipe for the sauce is very cheap, simple and common. So the only way for it to be bad is if its been sitting around in the steam table too long.

            Here's a cheap place that's good and a place I think you'll appreciate. Little mom & pop take out place. Besides the implied dim sum they have different dishes they stir fry or cook to order. Maybe they have orange chicken? I usually get dim sum and chow mein type stuff there. I think its pretty Americanized Cantonese. They have the biggest shu mai I've ever seen. They got a few tables outside in the back or you can eat it in your car.

            Dim Sum Express
            326 N Garfield Ave (just south of the 10 freeway)
            Monterey Park, CA 91754
            (626) 307-5800

            1. re: monku

              Unfortunately, DSE does not have orange chicken. Various teriyaki dishes, chow mein, fried rice, and even udon, but no orange chicken.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Ah, yes...I have been to Dim Sum Express many times and I don't believe I saw Orange Chicken there either.

                It is *the* place I go to for cheap Dim Sum though...although some how I always end up spending a lot of money there. It's so easy to check off things on that menu and then get home and say WTF have I done? :)

            2. re: atrac

              If you like your orange chicken crunchy and kind of sweet, head west into Lincoln Heights and the newly opened Dragon Express Rico Chinese Bistro (that's actually what the sign says), 2706 N. Broadway. Not buck a plate like some of the places in South L.A., but I think it's well worth it. Also you can search this board for an orange chicken thread from last year where I mentioned a buck a plate place around Figueroa and Slauson that had great orange chicken.

              1. re: Chandavkl

                Coming from Alhambra, that is probably as far as I can go without having it cold by the time I get back to my apartment to eat it, but I'll give it a shot as it does sound quite intriguing. Thanks!

              2. re: atrac

                Trader joe's Orange chicken is way vinegary. If you like it sweeter, stay away.

          2. Check out OK Chinese Restaurant in Highland Park (right off of the 110, on Figueroa just north of York)

            OK Chinese Restaurant
            6320 N Figueroa St
            (323) 259-2414

            4 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              WOW. I was literally at the 99 cent store right next to that place like two weeks ago on a Wild Goose chase.

              I saw that place AND across the street a Chinese Buffet....I was DYING to try both but I was alone (and feel uncomfortable eating at a buffet by myself -- the ultimate in low self esteem) and I also wasn't feeling well and just wanted to get the hell out of there. :)

              I can see now that I need to go back!! I seriously will probably go there tomorrow (to the OK one). I hope I can get back to my apartment before it gets cold. I do have one of those inexpensive Trader Joe's insulated bags in my trunk so I can probably stick it in there until I get back to Alhambra (near Atlantic and Valley).

              1. re: atrac

                I tried OK Chinese today. And here I go with a cliche -- It was "OK." I got the orange chicken and, for the price, I cannot (and should not be allowed) to complain. So I won't. :)

                I was interested in ordering some BBQ Pork as well, but when I saw it looked like the soggy/too much red dye version that I am not too fond of, I decided to go with the one item combo (which included steamed rice and egg roll -- $3.19 out the door!!).

                Oh, and I saw the name of the buffet I mentioned earlier: "Super Panda China Buffet!" It's across the street and a little bit east of OK.

                Bonus: a visit to OK Chinese and you will undoubtedly be asked for spare change from the locals!

                1. re: atrac

                  Don't bother with Super Panda. It's not very good. For many years that used to be the location of an old fashioned Chinese restaurant called Jade East, but that was a while back.

                  1. re: Chandavkl

                    Thank you for that warning. Honestly, it's not the kind of area I like to spend too much time in, and since it's a buffet, that would have meant more than my 15 min maximum. :)

            2. Actually, Trader Joes has orange chicken (I thinks it's $4.95) in their frozen foods and it's pretty good along with their fried rice options (heat the chicken in a saute pan and then add the sauce mix). You can always count on TJ's and the size of the portion would satisfy any craving plus allow for leftovers.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BasilKitty

                Ah, yes, someone mentioned I should try that in my Cashew Chicken thread (to use just the chicken and then my own gravy and cashews).

                I can see now that I *definitely* will need to go buy some..and actually use the orange chicken sauce too.

                I am a "good" Alhambra resident, so indeed I have my own rice cooker that I love to make Jasmine rice I'll be all set with that as well when I don't feel like venturing out for cheap chinese (Orange Chicken without steamed rice for me is like pizza without a crust)! Thanks!

              2. I live on Mt. Washington and we will go to Super Panda China Buffet. It's close by. For less than seven dollars (lunch) you will get your orange chicken fix. It's pretty good when they first bring it out, which is pretty often. The rest of the stuff is mostly fried but for lunch they always have a homey stewed dish like black bean pork. That is my favorite. There is usually way too many shrimp dishes, but the shrimp are fresh and I've never had a bad experience there. JUST DON'T EAT TOO MUCH!