Best Chinese (American) in Chinatown
I'll be in the city this weekend with my wife and 4 kids (all under the age of 10--yes, we're nuts). My kids LOVE General Tso's chicken, and I want to take them someplace in Chinatown that has the good stuff. The catch is, for me, Chinatown is hit or miss. I have stumbled into 'authentic' Chinese restaurants, and had horrible meals. If I'm eating Chinese, the meat (?) better be deep fried, and the sauce should have a few pounds of sugar in it.
Sorry to offend any purists out there...with any other cuisine, I'm a purist myself--just not with Chinese food. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
These replies are largely missing the mark. I don't know what the other posters are doing bringing up the likes of Nice Green Bo or Joe's Shanghai. You want familiar Americanized dishes, just looking for above average renditions. The truth is, you're probably not going to find it in Chinatown. As the other posts allude to, Chinatown is good for authentic regional cooking of Canton, Fujian, and Shanghai. Those cuisines merely bear a resemblance to what you seek. The restaurants that specialize in these authentic regional cuisines don't do a particularly good job with the Americanized style or at least interpret it in a different way than what I imagine you are accustomed to and prefer. In short, I think you're unlikely to be especially satisfied in Chinatown. That isn't to say that you can't have something decent if you're just looking for a fix while you're in the neighborhood. (Note but, I don't know about Mr. Tang, it might work out for you.)
For food you'll really enjoy you should look elsewhere in Manhattan for Chinese restaurants that cater to non-Chinese. If you're willing to drop a little coin there are several 'upscale' places to consider that serve rarefied versions of Chinese American staples. In midtown check out Shun Lee, Mr. K's, or Chin Chin. You can also throw Wu Liang Ye into that mix (it is actually a pretty authentic Sichuan place but they also do some delicious stuff that fits in very well with your typical Americanized fair). In the Village is Chinatown Brasseire which might be a particularly good for what you're after (although I have a personal vendetta against it due to some abdominal service issues).
If you're not looking to spend that much dough then you basically want to stick to what us locals would consider neighborhood Chinese joints. Just look for one that might be a cut above the norm. I like Yummy House in the Village and I think others like Pig Heaven on the Upper East Side.
I will temporarily suspend my snobbishness (I think you're missing out on some wonderful cuisine, but since my partner is Chinese, I've had some guidance that you've possibly not had) in order to recommend NICE GREEN BO on Bayard Street. It's Shanghai cooking, which means they specialize in Soup Dumplings, Rice Cakes, and other things you may not have had before. But, the Hot & Sour Soup, and especially the General Tso's Chicken are amazing!!!
I have been to Mr. Tang's a couple of times. I think it sort of has a Chinese American taste to it. You might want to double check their menu before heading in but I think General Tso's and other Chinese American dishes are on their menu. Address = 50 Mott St (at Bayard St), New York, NY.
Peking Duck House (at 28 Mott St.) has a Chinese American menu too. It maybe a little more expensive than Mr. Tang's and the ambiance might be a little more "upscale". If you go, you may order the entrees and skip the peking duck, if you dont' wish to order it (the Peking duck is really good though). They have plenty of entrees in the Sweet-and-Sour / Sesame / General Tso category so you should be able to enjoy it. I remember their Grand Marnier shrimp was quite good too. You can check it out.
Both restaurants have English-speaking waitstaff and they are more accomodating to non-Asian diners (compared to other really "authentic" places) so you and your family should be in good hands.
Well the vast majority of restaurants in Chinatown are Cantonese and Fujianese so you'd have to eliminate them in your quest for General Tso's chicken. A lot of them won't even have it on the menu, and even if they did you'd violate the cardinal rule of never ordering dishes from a different regional cuisine at a Chinese restaurant. (This rule is applicable to Americanized Chinese restaurants, as well as more authentic ones.) Consequently you'd be limited to the non-Cantonese or Fujianese restaurants, such as Nice Green Bo.