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Jan 9, 2006 04:46 PM

Chinese food around mid-Santa Cruz County

  • m

Any thoughts on the state of Chinese food in Aptos, Capitola, Soquel, and Live Oak? So far, everything I've had around here is "just okay" or really bad.

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  1. Omei might satisfy your craving for chinese food but its on the expensive side. its on mission st. on the left past safeway if ur heading north.

    Little Shanghai on ceder st. in downtown santa cruz might also do the trick if your looking for a lower price range.

    Otherwise go over the hill to cupertino and the san jose area and check out the sf boards before you leave. tong dumpling pot is pretty good if you want dumplings :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: tom

      Just ate at Omei tonight and had a fantastic meal. I found the food simple but very delicious. There is not another Chinese restaurant in the area that compares. I will definitely be back. The basil eggplant and sweet potato appetizer were awesome. Check it out.

    2. What places have you tried?

      Last time I ate Chinese food in SC County was at O'mei several months back. It was better than I expected and there were a couple of dishes that I quite liked, but that hasn't motivated me to return. I posted a report here so search if you're interested.

      Besides O'mei, I've tried Panda Inn at the Deer Park Center in Aptos over a year ago. It fell into the "ok" category, but I thought it was a little overpriced for take out Chinese.

      Also tried Mayflower in the strip mall w/ Trader Joe's and Fresh Choice in Capitola for lunch once. Not bad but not much desire to return.

      I've decided the next time I'm desperate for Chinese food in SC, I'm going to try either China Schezwan on Cathcart in downtown or Mei Garden on Ocean. The latter looks HUGE from outside...anyone out there tried? I've heard that Golden Rickshaw in Watsonville is decent.

      At this point, I just go over the hill if I'm craving Chinese food or make an attempt at home cooking. Two places on my to try list are Ocean Delight in San Jose and South Legend Sichuan in Milpitas.

      18 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover

        I was hoping to find a good Chinese place closer to me than the Westside, Felton, or Watsonville.

        Uncle Kwok's and the "Panda Express style" places at the mall were bad. Mayflower was "okay." But, I can think of at least ten places in the mid-county region that I still need to try.

        1. re: Matt

          Thanks. Please keep us posted on your hits and misses. FWIW, a guy whom I work with likes the Chinese place around the shopping center w/ Safeway in Aptos. I wish I could remember the name...

          1. re: Carb Lover

            I believe that would be Uncle Kwok's. I used to eat there years ago and remember it being fine. But, the two times I've tried it since being back in the area have been very disappointing. And I had ordered two simple, straight-forward dishes: fried rice and chow fun.

            1. re: Matt

              I don't think it was Uncle Kwok's b/c he said the name and pretty sure that wasn't it. I thought it had the word "dragon" or "buddha" in it, but I'll ask him for more info when I see him. You should try Panda Inn and see what you think. Probably the best option if you want to stay close to Aptos...

              1. re: Carb Lover

                Was it Golden Dragon? If so, I have made it a point to dine there anytime I am in the area. Can't remember the name of the noodle dish with shrimp.pork and chicken that is wonderful! I live in O.C. with tons of Asian restaurants but have not found any I like as well.

                1. re: marti

                  OOps! I think the name I meant was Golden China. The one i refer to is at the inside corner of the shopping center with a grocery chain as one of the stores and there is a free standing mexican restaurant in front of the center.

                  1. re: marti

                    Golden China is located at 1866 Main Street in Watsonville. Their ad says they were voted best Chinese cuisine in the county. I'll have to try it.

                    1. re: Matt

                      Below is the link to Golden China's menu, although not sure how current it is. This Menustation website looks like a helpful local resource; has anyone ever used the online ordering service before??

                      BTW, is another helpful resource but it's just getting off the ground.


                    2. re: marti

                      To confuse matters even more, I googled and found Golden Buddha in Soquel. This may not be what you're referring to, but anyone try this place before?

                      Linked their menu from menustation website below. I think it's current b/c there's a 2006 copywright at the bottom. The dragon's nest noodle dish sounds like what you were describing, but I'm sure many restaurants have a version of this...


                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        Of course. Its there. It has Chinese-ish food. Most interesting is the layout with winding dark rooms. Helpful, huh... :)

                        I will be shocked if anyone finds a good chinese place in the county. I think the best you can hope for is you find a place that does decent versions of the chinese-american standards that you like or you get lucky and pick the couple of best choices out of a 100 item menu on your first or second trip. I do hope one of you can prove me wrong.

                  2. re: Carb Lover

                    Maybe it's Lucky Dragon. It's in Aptos on Soquel Drive. Although It's not that close to Safeway. Uncle Kwok's is the only Chinese place near the Aptos Safeway.

                    Lucky Dragon and Panda Inn were next on my list to try.

              2. re: Matt
                Midori in Santa Cruz

                I like China Little House on Portola. Their chef used to be at the Chinese restaurant next to Pink Godzilla (the owners moved and opened Red Lantern). This place falls under the Chinese-American food category, but it's good for what it is. The prices are reasonable, the food isn't heavy and greasy like many Chinese restaurants, and the staff was friendly. It's a good neighborhood place.

                I like getting the Wor Won Ton Noodle Soup for myself on a cold summer night. It's filling, has lots of veggies, shrimp, and chicken, and is a good portion. I found that they give you less if you get it to go.

              3. re: Carb Lover

                I've tried Mei Garden but found it to be quite mediocre. China Schezuan is an SC institution. They've had the same family owners for over 20 years, and same chefs so the cooking is very consistent. Although they might have changed chefs in the last 2 years (my taste guess) it's still classic cooking.
                Best deal is their lunch menu, incredibly around $6 a plate. The place desperately needs remodelling, though.

                1. re: ahong

                  My family thinks China Szecuan had a full time chef in the old days but when they left the cooking reverted to family members and never regained its past glory- hard for me to remember since I was but a wee lad and my tastes have changed a lot over the years. They are nice people though- unfortunately it seems like they are reaching the end of their desire to be in the rest. business and have been flirting with selling the business over the past couple years.

                  Are you a long time SC resident? I grew up here and can remember dining there in the mid '80's when the place was always packed and they frequently used the overflow room to the right that probably has not had a diner in it in over a decade. Tastes seem to have clearly moved from westernized Chinese to westernized Thai...

                  1. re: Nathan P.

                    Yeah, I remember China Szechwan from the mid-80s. They were just alright back then too. I always preferred King Chwan over most of the other places, if I didn't want to pay the price of dining at Omei, but that's not saying a whole lot. Actually in the mid-80s, I had some of the best Chinese food I ever had in a restaurant in Santa Cruz that's probably long gone and forgotten now. I mentioned it in the linked post.


                    1. re: Eric Eto

                      I've not been to O'mei for so long but will always remember their Gan Pung Chicken. Have tried to reproduce it many times at home but not successful yet.

                    2. re: Nathan P.

                      Yes I also remember of having been in the overflown room. And yes their best was in the 80's. I've been in SC since 1980, from UCSC. As a student I felt in love with their kung-pao chicken (best to my taste for many years -- smaller diced, with brocolli core and very peanutty -- perhaps due to "primacy effect". I've been staying over the hill on and off, and now this dish has changed in the last year or so. Their hot and sour soup, though, is still very well-balanced.

                  2. re: Carb Lover

                    South Legend, Milpitas is excellent. I also love Hunan Taste, on N. 4th Street in San Jose. Both specialize in heat. My mouth is watering.

                  3. Since I've made some less than positive comments on O'mei in the past I thought I should add that I had the best meal I have eaten there a couple of weeks ago. Now I still don't think it is a great restaurant and the complexity and execution of the dishes I have had at China Village in Albany blow the doors off of this place, but a decent meal can be had if you order well. Previously I thought the food was mediocre for asian/fusion/bistro type places but the balance of flavors and use of chiles and sicuan peppercorns was much better on every dish I tried. What we ordered was:
                    Dumpling in Red Oil
                    Sha Cha Beef
                    (these ^ 2 were Carb Lover's recs.)
                    Ma La Smoked Chicken- This was sort of a chicken succotash but the chicken was very good- lightly smokey, still juicy and with a nice bit of ma.
                    Kung Pao Prawns

                    I don't think there is anything special about any of the regular places in town. I tend to go to China Szechuan the most: Gan Bian greenbeans, szechuan shredded beef, potstickers, and broccoli with shredded pork and garlic sauce.

                    Second most common is King Chwan where I swear some of the food tastes like mexican chinese! They have HK fried noodle which I like even if it is not that good. They also do a decent half chicken on the bone with soy/ginger/scallion.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Nathan P.

                      Glad that you came away w/ a positive feeling after your recent meal at O'mei. What I do like about them is that they use fresh ingredients across the board. Now I'm suddenly craving that sha cha beef and red oil dumplings. I remember liking the squid last time too. Will have to try that ma la smoked chicken. They had some interesting ice cream flavors for dessert too, but I'm not sure if they make them in house.

                      Have you ever eaten at Mei Garden on Ocean or know what the scoop is?

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        I think I ate at Mei Garden many years ago but found it overly salty. That was a long time ago so don't let that scare you off. My problem with O'mei was always that unbalanced and odd tasting sauces IMO, outweighed any benefits of the lightness of preps and freshness of vegetables. This visit the sauces came together much better for me. The smoked chicken would make a nice cold plate if they offered it that way.

                    2. I've had a couple of very good meals at Panda Inn over the last few months. Uncle Kwok's is still bad. Lucky Dragon is still solid. I like the fried rice at Hong Kong Garden, but that's all I've had from them.

                      I noticed a new Chinese place being built on 41st near Portola. I'll check that out after it opens.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Matt of Aptos

                        Thanks for the update. King Chwan on Ocean in SC has become our go-to place for Chinese food cravings. We usually stick w/ the spicier Schezuan fare, but sometimes it just is too oily or salty for my mood. When we've ordered from the lighter dishes, we've been pleasantly surprised. Overall, I find them to be solid to very good on execution, value, and freshness. Take-out is always fast and reliable.

                        1. re: Carb Lover

                          King Chwan is definitely better than anything else I've had in central/eastside Santa Cruz or Scotts Valley. I still have not tried anything on the Westside or downtown.