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Where's the best Cheapinese?

The more I explore authentic Asian cuisine, the more I love it. The flavors and textures are completely unlike anything most Americans ever experience. However, as much fun as it is to go for cha siu bau, beef tendon, fiery mapo doufu, and chicken feet, every now and again I want American Cheapinese. You know the kind I'm talking about. It's served on a styrofoam plate (or box), comes with fried rice and an egg roll, and rarely costs more than $7 including a beverage. What can I say, it's a guilty pleasure, and I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one around here. Where around town am I going to be most satisfied giving in to my hoi polloi cravings? As far as location... I'm not terribly picky. The Jestermobile finds itself most often in a wide swath going from central Phoenix over to the Biltmore area and then heading out towards the east hinterlands of Chandler and Gilbert. But if you have a good one somewhere else, by all means share!

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  1. Siu Wok -- located next to Fez on Central Ave. Most of their business is delivery, but if you eat on the premises, it's very much a "cheapinese" experience with a combo meal served in a foam clamshell. Lunch combos are about $6 and dinner combos are about $8.50. Drinks are separate. Food is good for what it is -- shameless American-Chinese. I particularly like their Kung Pao Two.

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    Siu Wok
    3815 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012

    1. My guilty pleasure Americanized Chinese is China Village, 27th St / Indian School.

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      China Village Restaurant
      2710 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      1. I'm totally enamored of the term "Cheapinese."

        No suggestions (yet), other than to fully support the idea that the appreciation of cheap Americanized Chinese and authentic regional Chinese need not be mutually exclusive.

        1. I think the quintessential dish of "Cheapinese" has to be orange chicken.

          And for that, I think Chen Wok Express is prety darn good (and cheap).

          3 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Where is Chen Wok Express?

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            The Wok Express
            4835 E Greenway Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85254

          2. Chopstick express, guadalupe and rural. Actually surprisingly decent and the lunch special is about 5.50 pre drink. Comes with fried rice, egg roll, and cream puff. It's fast casual style. I go there for lunch quite a bit and it fulfills my cheapinese cravings.

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            Chopstick Express
            939 E Guadalupe Rd Ste 1, Tempe, AZ 85283

            1. It is NW, but Chino Bandito is worth checking out. It is a unique take on what you are looking for and very good.
              http://www.chinobandido.com/order.html

              It also has great Snickerdoodles. Seriously

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              Bandito
              4920 W Thunderbird Rd, Glendale, AZ 85306

              2 Replies
              1. re: PaqpIn

                Oh I looooove Chino Bandido. Been a while since I've had myself a Jade Red Chicken quesadilla. I'm RIGHT in between both locations. They're a definite spin-off from traditional Cheapinese food.

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                Chino Bandido
                1825 W Chandler Blvd Ste 2, Chandler, AZ 85224

                1. re: PaqpIn

                  ... and the snickerdoodles are free!

                2. We use Red Dragon Chinese Food on Alma School just north of Warner in Chandler. I like the egg rolls, my husband likes their fried rice. The sweet and sour chicken is all white meat and no weird parts but the sauce could use some serious flavor help- I add soy sauce to mine.

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                  Red Dragon Chinese Food
                  2160 N Alma School Rd Ste 114, Chandler, AZ 85224

                  1. I used to love Golden Canyon, NEC of Southern / Dobson when I lived in Mesa. Anyone been recently?

                    1. I work right next to China Lite and for "Cheapinese" it does the trick. : )

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                      China Lite
                      6941 N Hayden Rd Ste B2, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

                      China Lite
                      6140 W Chandler Blvd Ste 3, Chandler, AZ 85226

                      1. Bejing on Alma School & Germann... $4.99 lunch specials 7 days a week from 11am-3pm. All specials comes with your choice of a drink, soup or eggroll. Eggrolls are blah... but soups are decent... egg drop, wonton or hot and sour. I usually get the General Tso Chicken here... crunchy, sweet and tangy... yumm...

                        1. I used to love Go Go China on Tatum & Thunderbird. I could order an entree plate (comes with rice and eggroll) and an order of sesame noodles for about $15. Easily enough food for 2-3 meals.

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                          Go Go China
                          13636 N Tatum Blvd Ste 10, Phoenix, AZ 85032

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: ajs228

                            Red House on Via Linda and 90th st is worth a visit. They have a large offering of Asian specialties and their lunch specials include a soda or soup! Under $7
                            http://www.redhouseaz.com/

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                            Red House Restaurant
                            , Scottsdale, AZ 85250

                            1. re: ajs228

                              Go Go China was awesome back in the day. No longer. Must be new owners.

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                              Go Go China
                              13636 N Tatum Blvd Ste 10, Phoenix, AZ 85032

                            2. I just recalled another place worth mentioning.

                              Wong's Chinese on Buckeye (between 11th and 12 streets)

                              I only noticed it on my trips to Sky Harbor. It's this sort of red shack in the middle of a desolate stretch of Buckeye -- sticking out like a sore thumb.

                              Good and cheap food, and there's a good rendition of Orange Chicken which I believe on the menu is called Special Chicken (or something).

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                There's a Wong's on Broadway, is that the one you mean? Has an associated market, very seedy-looking? If so, I agree, their house special chicken is quite good. I love that in my neighborhood more often than not you have to look for a "Comida China" sign rather than "Chinese Food." And you know it will be cheap and hot and satisfying.

                                I am not as enamored of Chino Bandido as most but I will surely second Chopstick Express in south Tempe.

                                It might date me, but does anyone else here remember Autumn Moon? It was a small local chain (2-3 stores) that had a $6 lunch buffet that you could get take-out and they would pile that thing with about two pounds of food and the gloppiest orange sweet-and-sour, oozing into the lo mein. My sister and I, back when we were broke and sharing a $500 studio apartment, would get one buffet take-out and that would feed the two of us for four meals.

                                And then we would go donate plasma. Ah, broke as hell, those were the days.

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                                Chino Bandido
                                1825 W Chandler Blvd Ste 2, Chandler, AZ 85224

                                Chopstick Express
                                939 E Guadalupe Rd Ste 1, Tempe, AZ 85283

                                1. re: themis

                                  No, the Wong's I'm referring to is on Buckeye ... right next to a fish 'n chips place.

                                  1. re: themis

                                    OMG Yes! I remember Autumn Moon! I quit going after they had a bad review from the Health Department, but yes! I remember! I could get lunch and seriously eat off it for two days. Ha! Good memories!

                                    And unfortunately, yes, I remember donating plasma . . . .

                                2. I so have to stop reading this thread..I'm a chinese food addict as it is!

                                  Last Friday I tried Chino Bandido for the very first time. THX god it is not close to me I would be 500 lbs eating that all the time. It was delish. Ordered the Jade chix burrito style and had the emerald chix as well.

                                  I love that they give you samples to try before you buy. My husband went with the most amazing thing. it was the spiciest chix enchilada style. just how Guy from the FN recccomended. Damn that was good. I must say I didn't like the cookie at all, I ended up tossing mine. This is a great spot none the less.

                                  Thx for all the recs on this board there are some I haven't been to yet. They are on my list.

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                                  Chino Bandido
                                  15414 N 19th Ave Ste K, Phoenix, AZ 85023

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: drewb123

                                    You didn't like the cookie?! That snickerdoodle may be the best cookie I've ever eaten. If I saw you toss half a cookie I may have dove in the trash basket after it.

                                    1. re: ajs228

                                      Sometimes they're a little overcooked. I still happily devour the whole thing anyway.

                                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                        I think we need a separate thread on everyone's favorite combo at Chino Bandido.

                                        Every time I go there it's a total guilty pleasure -- probably the same feeling Obama gets every time he sneaks a smoke outside the watchful eyes of the press, Michelle, the kids ...

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                                        Chino Bandido
                                        1825 W Chandler Blvd Ste 2, Chandler, AZ 85224

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Tried Chino Bandido last night for the first time. The cookie was very good- moist and almost fluffy.

                                          But I wouldn't go back, because the cookie was the only thing I liked. Partially my fault, I'm super-picky about the pieces of meat I eat, and their chicken and pork had too many pieces of skin/fat/gristle/? for me. Also, the pork fried rice was sweet, which was not appealing.

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                                          Chino Bandido
                                          1825 W Chandler Blvd Ste 2, Chandler, AZ 85224

                                          1. re: contemporaryscarlett

                                            I"m also incredibly picky about fat/gristle and I usually have no problems at Chino. Maybe you hit them on a bad night. We love their food, but the gutbomb after effects usually send us into catatonia. I love the carnitas and mahaca myself. And I'm always surprised how well the fried rice and beans taste mixed together.

                                      2. re: ajs228

                                        I swear I love sweets, and it had a really weird aftertaste like tinfoil??? even my hubby didn't like.

                                        1. re: drewb123

                                          Metallic aftertaste in baked goods usually means too much baking powder. I'm going to guess it was just a bad batch, since I haven't had that metallic taste with their cookies before.

                                          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                            I've had metallic-y snickerdoodles from Chino too. But it's not always, just sometimes.

                                            The chocolate chip ones aren't bad. The, um..."volcano" I think?...are pretty good but way too much powdered sugar on top, so they taste mostly like powdered sugar and not much like chocolate (also, I don't know what's volcano-y about them but hey, whatever). Note: non-snickerdoodle options are available only on weekends.

                                            To stay on topic, China Chili has a lunch special that's in the $7-9 range I think. Come to think of it I haven't had the lunch special (keep thinking about it, tho') but generally speaking they're my go-to CenPho Chinese place. I don't think they're GREAT, but they're as good or better than anywhere else I've tried in this part of town (tho' for the record I'm sure there are plenty of places I haven't tried...).

                                            1. re: Bax

                                              I believe I had the Kung Pao Fish at China Chili on Monday, for lunch, and I was sweating like George Costanza. The soup was Hot and Sour, but, I don't know if that is on a fixed schedule. You can opt a couple of other rice choices for $1.00 extra. I don't know if I'd call it "Cheapinese", but, it's certainly a good value.

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                                              China Chili
                                              302 E Flower St, Phoenix, AZ 85012

                                              1. re: johnseberg

                                                Hmmmm, yeah...maybe not guilty-pleasure-y enough (or cheap enough) to be "Cheapinese."

                                        2. Golden Wok -- Cactus and Tatum -- is well above average and is not very expensive.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: misohungrychewlow

                                            Super Dragon-- 12th st. and Northern--is abouslutely delicious. Is it cheapinese? They have orange chicken but no MSG, which may disqualify.

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                                            Super Dragon Restaurant
                                            1212 E Northern Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85020

                                            1. re: jezebeljones

                                              China Chef @ Combs and Gantzel (Ironwood) in Queen Creek is awesome for Cheapinese. Most lunch specials are $5 and include fried rice and your choice of a drink, egg roll, or soup. The Hot and Sour is one of the best I have had.
                                              Try the Mongolian Beef, it is "melt in your mouth" tender. yum :)

                                              It has an added bonus for those of you that don't live in Queen Creek. It's a mile or two down the road from The Pork Shop, located in the Fry's shopping center.

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                                              China Chef
                                              85 W Combs Rd Ste 110, Queen Creek, AZ 85240

                                          2. Siam Oishi on Northsight and Raintree has re opened as Noodles and Rice w/ 2 locations,
                                            The price point looks right!
                                            http://www.noodleandriceaz.com/1501.html

                                            1 Reply