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When you recommend SGV for Chinese food, are there particular cities you're generally talking about?

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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.

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chandavkl

      Wow - speaking of the gwai! ;)

    2. 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.

      1. WOW! I guess we'll have plenty to choose from. So is western SGV reasonably convenient to LB? Not like driving just down the road :) But a nice go to lunch and then come home?

        5 Replies
        1. re: bobcam90

          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

          1. re: bulavinaka

            Thank you SO much. Makes the search that much easier.

            1. re: bobcam90

              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.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                We avoid weekends and eat dim sum as breakfast rather than lunch so no problems in that regard. Thanks for the 411 :)

            2. re: bulavinaka

              For Shanghai food, I would suggest Shanghai Xiao Chi (the English name is "Wok and Noodle", I think) or Shanghai Yu Yuan on Valley.

              For dim sum, were at King Hua (menu) today, which was pretty good.

              -----
              King Hua Restaurant
              2000 W Main St, Alhambra, CA 91801

          2. This census map gives a good sense of the distribution of Chinese restaurants in the SGV:

            http://t.co/5qjfvMa

            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)
            - Walnut
            - Puente Hills, south and east of Rowland Heights (primarily residential)

            1. 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

              Ding's Garden
              534 E Valley Blvd Ste 10, San Gabriel, CA 91776

              1 Reply
              1. re: scottca075

                Thanks for all the recs. Also love Vietnamese food so that's really welcome.

              2. I think all that needs to be said has really been said by others up above.

                But just to add my 0.02 about some things that have not mentioned, but should.

                You want to think about the SGV in two distinct parts: West SGV and East SGV.

                West SGV encompasses cities like Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, Arcadia, Temple City, and parts of El Monte.

                East SGV would be places like Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Industry and maybe even places as "west" as Covina, West Covina and Azusa.

                That said, Most of the gems of the SGV remain in the West -- the East is sort of a newcomer, and has many of the offshoots of West SGV mainstays, such as Lu's Garden, Seafood Village, etc. There are some unique gems like Manie's and Earthen (and Earthen Fast).

                if you want dim sum, I think your choices are better and more diverse in the West SGV with 888, Ocean Star, NBC, New Capital, and the new East Gourmet -- all of which are cart-style. If you want to go menu-style, there is Elite and Sea Harbour.

                Same if you want Sichuan food, stay in the West SGV, and go to places like New Chong Qing, Shufeng Garden, Lucky Noodle, and Yunnan 168. The best Sichuan in East SGV remains an oldie-but-a-goodie with Manie's.

                Shanghainese food is sort of a mixed bag. Places like Mei Long Village and J&J in the West SGV offer up traditional XLB and other Shanghainese type dishes (e.g. rice cakes, eel, etc.) but I wouldn't really consider them hard-core Shanghainese restaurants. Chang's Garden in Arcadia bills itself as a Shanghainese joint, but it's slipped so bad in recent months I simply can't recommend it in good conscience.

                The only place worth going for Shanghainese in all of the SGV (west or east) is Yu Garden in San Gabriel (near the intersection of Valley and Del Mar, across the street from Hawaii Supermarket). Makes one of the finest Shanghainese egg rolls and pork belly dishes around.

                -----
                New Capital
                8823 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA

                Yunnan 168
                1530 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                New Chong Qing
                120 N San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775

                3 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  > stay in the West SGV, and go to places like . . . Shufeng Garden

                  Did Shu Feng reopen in the western SGV? Last I read, it had been replaced by "Happy Eating Restaurant":

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/762827

                  I know they're still open in the eastern SGV (Rowland Heights).

                  1. re: Peripatetic

                    No, you're absolutely right. If you want Shufeng go to Rowland Heights.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    These are all good suggestions, but no love for Taiwanese?

                    And, ipsedixit, don't you mean Yunnan Garden instead of Yunnan 168? I'll also recommend Yunchuan Garden for good Sichuan dishes.

                    -----
                    Yunnan Garden
                    545 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                    Yunnan 168
                    1530 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                  3. I view the SGV as a large Chinese suburb with tons of good authentic regional Chinese restaurants scattered across it, few if any of which are standouts. This is especially true for Sichuan cuisine.

                    There are two significant strips along which there are many good restaurants and other foodie places: Valley Blvd and Garvey Ave. I would say the heart of these east-west strips runs from about Garfield Avenue to San Gabriel Blvd, both of which are exits off the 10 freeway.

                    1. I'm getting such terrific info here. The LA freeway system with accompanying traffic can be quite daunting so getting headed in the right direction - literally - is wonderful. The few times I've been there I've tended to not get on the roads before about 10 and head 'home' by around 3. Thanks all.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bobcam90

                        When traveling out to SGV foodie heaven, dont forget: the address #'s change/restart/get weird as you travel down a street and cross cities...i went looking for Elite not long ago and though i was at the right street address, i was in the wrong city....torture worse than waterboarding.

                        1. re: lapizzamaven

                          Great point, LAPM... I forget how torturous it was for us when we first started venturing out to the SGV with so many block number changes as we'd go down Valley, Garfield, etc. No that we know the general area better, it's becoming second nature. GPS is a plus.

                      2. Laguna Beach is a LONG ways from the SGV. It's at least 40 miles one-way, so a trip to the SGV will be a day trip, particularly if you are going mid-week. That said, I hope you do go, as the other posters have listed some fantastic places to eat.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: martyR

                          Oh, we're definitely going. That's why I asked here. Stumbling around looking for places to eat is NOT my favorite thing to do. Good info here. I'm sure it will help others in the future also.

                          1. re: bobcam90

                            Best to go with someone who speaks Chinese (either Mandarin or Cantonese, or even Taiwanese).

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              That's probably not possible, unless I pick someone up on the street!, but I smile and point alot and am a VERY adventuresome eater. Once I learned how much I like chicken feet at dim sum, I wished I'd been ordering it for years. Not only cause it tastes good but because the Chinese staff and patrons kick such a kick out of me eating it. Same with pig intestines, ears, etc. I've been warned off spleen however.

                        2. The SGV is a large area. There are Chinese restaurants all over the place, but they tend to reflect the food preferences of the immediate vicinity. The best Chinese restaurants are clustered near the western end of the SGV (e.g. Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Gabriel) and toward the southeastern part (e.g. Hacienda Heights).

                          Between these two general clusters, good Chinese restaurants can be found, but you have to be careful. There are some great ones, such as Seafood Harbour in Rosemead, but they are mixed with mediocre ones.

                          There are many choices, so it would help if you could identify any additional requirements, such as the cost, ambiance, and any other specifics. The good restaurants can be anything from hole-in-the-wall joints or pretty nice places.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: raytamsgv

                            You will also not find much good Chinese food in the more north-western parts of the SGV - Pasadena, Monrovia, Sierra Madre, etc.

                            1. re: raytamsgv

                              This is all such good information and I appreciate people taking the time to spell it out.

                              We're kinda lunch time, hole-in-the-wall, not crazy expensive, only Caucasions there type people if that helps any. Nothing we don't eat and no particular cuisine that we're opposed to. We tend not to get Cantonese when we travel cause we can get or cook decent versions of that. The skies the limit really. Have I been vague enough :)

                              1. re: bobcam90

                                Perhaps this thread has some information of use to you.

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/774989

                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                  Fantastic thread. Thanks, Chandavkl. I was looking for general orientation but am enormously grateful for all these specific recs.

                            2. You've got a lot of excellent information. I do want to point out that while the SGV is unrivalled in its excellence, for Sichuan in particular you do not need to go all the way to the SGV. Chong Qing Mei Wei is (in my extremely humble opinion) the equal of Shu Feng, and is off the 5 and Jeffrey in Irvine, about 10 minutes' drive from Laguna Beach.

                              I agree, incidentally, about the dim sum in Orange County—while I love where I live, we are not a dim sum-enabled place. Taiwanese and Sichuan, yes... there are also branches of SGV restaurants down here (101 Noodle Express, for example, opened up right next to Chong Qing Mei Wei).

                              -----
                              Shu Feng
                              18459 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Having dim sum right now at New Capital off Jamboree as we speak. The cart style dim sum is as good as 888 in SGV if not a bit cleaner and less greasy. Only clearly bested by Elite and Sea Habour. In a blind taste taste, it would be near impossible to distinguish the har how. The specialty items and twists on traditional items at Elite and Sea Harbour set them apart. But unless one is a serious dim sum snob, New Capital in Irvine is more than adequate.

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  *deleted*

                              2. There's a lot of turnover in the SGV. Places open and close pretty fast and the better chefs may move around. I'd try to verify first if you find an enthusiastic review more than a year or two old. If you were local you could eat your way along the main food strips as Jonathan Gold did on Pico many years ago, but for you it's about an hour drive so you're more dependent on reviews and blogs.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: LADave

                                  Fortunately we read TonyC's column in Eater LA which keeps up with these changes on a real time basis.

                                  1. re: Chandavkl

                                    Actually, I just read you.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      +1