When you recommend SGV for Chinese food, are there particular cities you're generally talking about?
I'm going to be in Laguna Beach in a couple of weeks and have never been to the San Gabriel Vallley. Understand it to have some of the best Chinese food anywhere. Looking at my map of SGV, it's a pretty big area. Are there particular cities/towns that the really good food tends to "cluster" in and about? Especially like dim sum and Sichuan and Shanghainese. No, I'm not avoiding searching but would appreciate some geographic guidance. Also it looks like it's only 50+ miles to some parts of SGV from LB but I know that distance means little in the LA area. Is it practical to go for lunch? I appreciate any guidance. Thanks.
Well it started in the late 1970s in Monterey Park, then spread to Alhambra. A decade later San Gabriel joined the Chinese food parade followed in the next few years by Rosemead, Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights and El Monte. In the 1990s Arcadia and Temple City were added to the mix.
The SGV does encompass a huge area, and probably the most popular and traditional areas for Chinese cuisine for the most part have been Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Rosemead. But the general trend seems to be moving further east in this valley, and that I am not familiar with. Posters like Chandavkl, Ipsedixit and raytamsgv immediately come to mind as the true authorities on the current status of local Chinese cuisine.
The Long Beach freeway terminates at the west end of the San Gabriel Valley - Alhambra. From there, you'll be five minutes away from really good food, and the deeper you go, the better it gets.
You've mentioned dim sum, Sichuan and Shanghainese. This would be my quick & dirty, but I hope the SGV experts chime in to refine/edit:
Dim sum - cart-style: 888, Ocean Star
Dim sum - menu-style: Sea Harbour, Elite
Sichuan: Lucky Noodle King, New Chiong Qingi
Shanghainese: Mei Long Village or J & J (general Shanghainese/xlb), Dean Sin World (for excellent xlb)
J & J Restaurant
301 W Valley Blvd Ste 109, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Mei Long Village
301 W Valley Blvd Ste 112, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Dean Sin World
306 N Garfield Ave # 2, Monterey Park, CA
Lucky Noodle King
534 E Valley Blvd #10, San Gabriel, CA 91776
If you're doing dim sum, the earlier you go, the easier it will be to get in, particularly on weekends, but the selection - particularly at the cart-driven places - tends to get better mid-dim sum day. If you choose Sea Harbour or Elite, try to show up before 10AM or the lines get exponentially longer every 15-20 minutes. They're interchangeably #1 and #2 in terms of quality - can't lose at either. Sea Harbour has the nicer dining room. Elite - a little more avant garde in offerings.
This census map gives a good sense of the distribution of Chinese restaurants in the SGV:
While the map shows concentrations of Asian populations, it's not far off from the distribution of restaurants. You can see the two major clusters: the Monterey Park/San Gabriel/Arcadia cluster and the Hacienda Heights/Rowland Heights cluster.
There are a few locations with population clusters that don't correspond with restaurant clusters:
- eastern San Marino (primarily residential)
- Puente Hills, south and east of Rowland Heights (primarily residential)
If dim sum is what you are after, I would agree on taking the 710 Freeway and heading towards Monterey Park, but if you are just looking for good Chinese, you don't need to go that far. You can come up the 57 or 605 Freeways that hit the 60 Freeway that through the SGV.
Shufeng Garden in Rowland Heights is excellent Szechuan style food, so is Ding's Garden. JJ Noodle House, not too far from Shufeng Garden is a good Shanghaiese restaurant. Tan Cang Newport Seafood is more a hybrid of Chaozhou Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian, but great too.
And while Orange County doesn't have great dim sum, it does have the best Vietnamese around because of Garden Grove & Westminster and Irvine & Newport have some very good Chinese like Chong Qing Mei Wei Szechwan Restaurant, A&J Restaurant and Yu's Garden, it is more Taiwanese, but still very good and infinitely closer than the SGV.
Good Vietnamese in OC would be Pho Quang Trung, Pho 79, Pho Nguyen Hue and Pho Kimmy for starters.
Newport Seafood Restaurant
18441 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Tan Cang Restaurant
18441 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Pho Nguyen Hue
10487 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683
Pho Quang Trung
10072 Westminster Ave, Garden Grove, CA 92843
534 E Valley Blvd Ste 10, San Gabriel, CA 91776