Six Chinese-American restaurants for shameless fans of crab Rangoon, egg rolls and kung pao chicken
Wing Hoe Tall, pink, “Malaysian” cocktails garnished with tiny umbrellas? Check. Huge platters toppling with toothsome shrimp, hefty egg rolls and creamy crab Rangoon, all encased in a thick coating of golden batter? Check. Impressively cooked dumplings, sauteed until one side is browned and crispy? Of course. Sweet, tender pork ribs? Garlicky Yu Shan beef? Sweet-and-sour wontons? Naturally. How else do you think Chinese-American places like this have sustained such brisk business all these years? 5356 N Sheridan Ave (773-275-4550). El: Red to Berwyn. Bus: 92, 147, 151. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $11.
Shanghai Inn When you don’t feel like Szechuan tendon or chicken feet, and you’re in need of honest crab Rangoon, try this 40-year-old Cantonese spot where everything from the paper lanterns to the zodiac place mats is stereotypically perfect. Egg rolls are crispy pockets of five-spice pork, and pineapple chicken has enough sour to offset the sweet. For a dose of different, get the see jee som kow, barbecue pork, chicken, shrimp and vegetables caramelized in black-bean garlic sauce on a sizzling skillet. 4723 N Damen Ave (773-561-3275). El: Brown to Damen. Bus: 50, 81, 92. Lunch, dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $9.
Orange Garden Back when chop suey was considered ethnic food and sweet-and-sour chicken was regarded as spicy, Orange Garden was born. From dragon-heavy decor to the sodium-laden menu, this place hits all of our nostalgic Chinese-food buttons. When we want a ridiculously large portion of kung pao chicken, crispy crab Rangoon and all the free, watery tea you can drink, this place always delivers with brusque, efficient service. For reasons we can’t explain, we crave the spicy mapo tofu, in all its inauthentic, messy, gloopy pork-and-tofu glory. 1942 W Irving Park Rd (773-525-7479). El: Brown to Irving Park. Bus: 11, 50, 80. Lunch, dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $8.
Friendship Chinese Restaurant After his father passed away, Alan Yuen renovated his family’s chop suey house (even installing beautiful hardwood floors himself) and set about turning out solid Canto-American classics. Sesame beef and honey-walnut shrimp are joined by creations like stir-fried seafood in a shredded potato “bird’s nest,” pan-seared salmon with lemongrass curry, and boneless Peking duck with Grand Marnier sauce. Don’t want to go out? Take advantage of the brisk delivery service. 2830 N Milwaukee Ave (773-227-0970). El: Blue to Logan Square. Bus: 56, 76, 82. Lunch (Mon–Sat), dinner. Average main course: $12.
Cantonesia The old-school (and awesome) sign and awning date back to this staple’s midcentury debut, but the recently remodeled interior is brand-spanking new. In an apparent attempt to remind hungry Chinatown wanderers this is still a viable option, the owners have created a very comfortable setting, replete with lacquered black tables and romantic dimmed lighting. The menu happily remains old-school Cantonese, with specialties like crispy shrimp roll, sizzling rice seafood soup and kung pao chicken. Some items (such as the ying yang shrimp) are a bit sweet for our taste but can be countered with the ultratart house specialty—mai tais. 204 W Cermak Rd (312-225-0100). El: Red to Cermak/Chinatown. Bus: 21, 24, 62. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $11.
Emperor’s Choice For almost two decades, this simple dining room has been the safe bet for Americanized favorites like chop suey and egg foo young. But take a cue from the smiling fish on the menu: Seafood’s the real draw. Sea creatures from shrimp to lobster are fresh, especially the fish of the day (largemouth bass, recently); ask for it steamed whole with ginger and onion. The lobster’s affordable and can be prepped seven different ways. Spicy salt-and-pepper prawns are huge, lightly battered and crispy, and go great with an order of the garlicky young pea shoots listed on the specials menu. 2238 S Wentworth Ave (312-225-8800). El: Red to Cermak/Chinatown. Bus: 18, 21, 62. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $12.