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Best Chinese in Baltimore?

I accidentially stumbled upon the AA asian supermarket on Security Blvd. this weekend. I was surprised at all they had... the cooked food wasn't as good as what I see at Maxim or Kam Sam in Rockville, but the selection of some of the other things was better.

So, now that I know Baltimore has a somewhat better than half-way Chinese supermarket (note, Chinese based, but carried the misc other stuff from Asian countries and Latin America), I'm wondering what the best Chinese restaurant is?

Does Baltimore, city or burbs, have something that compares to say Joe's Noodle House in Rockville or Silver Fountain in Aspen Hill? Or maybe Hollywood East in Wheaton.

Where can you get the best Chinese food in Baltimore?

PS - the supermarket had these huge buffalo fish (live)... anyone know how to cook one or what it tastes like?

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  1. Easy! Grace Garden in Odenton, run don't walk there!


    1 Reply
      1. Baltimore notoriously had no good Chinese restaurants. Chinatown Café on Park Ave (downtown) is OK but has been closed before for health code violations (so has the supermarket that you mention). I would recommend Café Zen near Belevedere Square, but they are pretty greasy. I would love to be proven wrong by more knowledge people on this board, but I am not holding my breath…

        1 Reply
        1. re: green_chili

          Used to love Cafe Zen, but I witnessed some unsavory things. Ding How on Broadway used to be pretty good, but I haven't been there in years.

          Lately, we have been going to Bamboo House in Lutherville and it's been pretty good.

        2. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll have to try Grace Garden sometime. The fish noodles sound great.

          I was hoping to find something close to Catonsville. Any ideas about someplace close to there?

          2 Replies
          1. re: burkemic99

            Asian Court further down Rt 40? Decent dim sum, and have heard pretty good reviews of their Cantonese style dinner dishes. Haven't had any of the entrees off the menu... but as far as I know that's the only non-americanized Chinese in that vicinity. Not what I'd call the "best in Baltimore", though, but you've narrowed down to Catonsville specifically.

            ps - thanks for the rec/mention of AA supermarket. I too have been looking high and low for a good Chinese supermarket around town and kept coming up empty. I'll have to check it out this weekend!

            1. re: bluepig1

              I have to say really good things about Asian Court in Ellicott City.

              I moved here from Philadelphia a number of years ago (which has a decent-sized and pretty varied Chinatown), and was appalled at the total lack of decent Chinese restaurants anywhere in Baltimore. For a time, I gave up altogether, and ate Thai and Korean food (not a bad thing, mind you). I shop weekly at the Han Ah Rheum market down route 40, and had taken to making my own Chinese food, which, while not bad, was not restaurant quality. Since the Asian Court opened, things have changed considerably.

              I live near the shopping mall that houses the Asian Court (9180 Baltimore National Pike, just up route 40 from its intersection with route 29), and the restaurant that was previously there was mediocre at best. Not so the Asian Court. They have been a pleasant surprise since they opened. First of all, they have a good variety of Dim Sum, which can be gotten every day (I think cart service may only happen on weekends). There seem to be at least 50 options. Delicious different-flavored dumplings, rice rolls, pork buns, sticky rice and other, more exotic yumminess (tripe,etc) . Also, their main courses, while slightly pricier than their local competitors, absolutely outshine them. Prices tend to run 11.95 for chicken dishes, 12.95 for beef, and 14.95 for seafood. In addition to the usual standbys, chef's specials (mmmm....steamed whole fish with ginger and scallions), there's a huge variety of noodle dishes, and lots of veggie options for those who are so inclined. Their Kung Pao Chicken alone is worth a trip. You know how Kung Pao Chicken so often just tastes like heat (lots of hot pepper, but not much else?). Theirs has a wonderful savory flavor underneath, mixing with the spiciness--overall a more complex flavor. Really delicious.

              I should also mention how friendly and helpful the staff is; someone always greets you at the door, and makes sure you are seated comfortably. They take some effort to get to know their customers. On one recent visit, I saw one of the owners up front helping a local schoolkid out with his Chinese homework.

              I think this place is terrific, and hope others will visit --I want my Kung Pao to stay right where it is!

          2. I'm no Chinese food expert (at all), but I've always loved Panda Gourmet at Falls and Lake. They have eat-in and carry out, and a great menu.

            2 Replies
              1. re: hon

                panda closed, replaced by sushi hana, and asian court has been for sale from time to time. szechuan house in lutherville is the best we've got, not a hole-in-wall either--a place you could have a family celebration meal, and cheap.

            1. I divide my time between Montgomery County and Baltimore and have to say, the answer is no. Think of it this way. The Wsahington area, from Gaithersburg throughout the city and Northern Virginia, is swimming in great Chinese options of all kinds at every price point. Baltimore has the best collection of bars with good food I've ever experienced. Each city has what economists call "comparative advantage," and that's a good thing.

              I'm not dismissing Grace Garden, but it's not in Baltimore. If you're coming from Catonsville it's probably nearly as fast to go to Rockville or Wheaton anyway, and then you have oodles of options..

              5 Replies
              1. re: jkosnett

                If by nearly as fast you mean twice as far (45 vs. 23 minutes by Google maps), then yes.

                Unless the DC beltway is a little crowded, in which case it's closer to three times the trip :-)

                1. re: Dmnkly

                  Ok, I exaggerated -:) But I can't put Odenton in Baltimore no matter how fast you can drive on 695... a city as great and large as Baltimore should not need to send people to Anne Arundel County to get Chinese food.. Oh, also, no need for the D.C. beltway. Take I-70 to Route 27 and go through Damascus to Gaithersburg and thence to Rockville. Much, much quicker...

                  1. re: jkosnett

                    I live in the middle of Baltimore City (Hampden) and just went to a Chinese New Years dinner at Grace Garden on January 25th, it took me all of 25 minutes to get there - it's worth the trip people.
                    Here are pictures from that dinner if anyone is interested:

                    1. re: hon

                      I definetely want to try Grace Garden for my sons BD dinner, the menu looks great! I would however like to find a decent egg roll in the Balto area that doesn't taste like someones cut grass in a semi crunchy wrapper.

                      1. re: ec rocker

                        Best eggroll in Baltimore is definitely the Golden Dragon on Liberty RD....the place has been there for at least 40 years and they make a great egg roll

              2. I will be the second to recommend Bamboo House in Lutherville, I've never had a bad meal there. I have friends who have been raving about The Szechuan House in the Towson area, but I have yet to go there.

                3 Replies
                1. re: dsteil1

                  I think Baltimore chowhounds are suffering from the culinary equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome. The Chinese food is so bad that we consider it praise to say that "I've never had a bad meal there." (This is not criticism of dsteil1 -- before Grace Gardens, I included myself in that crowd.)

                  Go to Grace Gardens. Whether or not it's in Baltimore, you'll be glad you did.

                  1. re: lawhound

                    i would have to agree with lawhound. I have come to be satisfied with Chinese food that is "not bad". It may not be good, but at least it is not bad. That said, Mr. Chan's in Pikesville has some interesting vegetarian options that are "not bad", almost good as a matter of fact. You might try their seiten or yuba offerings.

                  2. re: dsteil1

                    Szechuan House is good but Grace Garden is way better.

                  3. Listen up, DC hounds. Grace Garden is ours, we found it first, even if we didn't. You get everything up to Laurel/Burtonsville. I thought this was decided a long time ago. ;-)

                    I have always get brocolli from Beijing on Balt Natl Pike. It's a bit sweet, but w/o gloppy sauce. Will explore them further and report back.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bmorecupcake

                      What is this DC v. Baltimore thing? One board, indivisible, with deliciousness and variety for all!

                    2. I have loved and cherished this little hole-in-the-wall Chinese the last twenty years: Szechuan South Charles; very tiny and not fancy...best Whole Fish, usually Rockfish, I have eaten in the world. Fresh only, not fried hard-as-a-rock, call first to make sure they have it.

                      It seemed better here when you could bring your own wine, now they have a beer/wine license I drink their oriental beer. Everything is good if a bit dated, and if you are still young enough to eat spicy Chinee, Kirby will spice it up for you. Kirby and Linda have raised a couple kids on this place their parents opened long before the foodie scene-it remains not a foodie place, thank you. Intimate, tiny, a little tacky but satisfying. Solid, tasty standard Szechuan fare when the mood strikes, unassuming and really inexpensive-NO SUSHI (Japanese is down the street).

                      Don't drive from DC (please) for a life-changing experience but comfort food like this puts the charm in Charm City. In the block of S Charles south of Cross Street Market.

                      Szechuan Restaurant (1125 S. Charles St., [410] 752-8409)