Morning Poll: Chinese Food in Arlington

by ARLnow.com December 15, 2010 at 8:00 am 5,128 91 Comments

I have yet to encounter anyone who thinks the quality of Chinese food in Arlington is better than average.

Sure, there are some who will testify that the Chinese restaurants here are no different than anywhere else. But there are also plenty of people who have said emphatically that Chinese food was soooo much better wherever they lived before Arlington (New York City, for instance). For them, finding one — just one — comparable restaurant in Arlington remains a challenge.

What do you think? Feel free to share your restaurant recommendations in the comments.

  • Nick

    I’ve found that there’s lots of “decent” Chinese restaurants, but very few “excellent” ones. The only two that stand out in my mind are Hong Kong Palace in Seven Corners, and Uncle Liu’s Hotpot in Falls Church.

    Uncle Liu’s wins its category by default by being the only huoguo place in town (think “The Melting Pot”, except with Chinese food, and infinitely tastier), and fortunately being delicious to boot.

    • rft

      Everywhere I’ve lived over the past 10 years or so (NYC included) I’ve complained about a lack of good chinese. My theory is that thai & vietnamese have taken over the market for quality asian cuisine, and that chinese has been relegated primarily to the fast & cheap category.

      • Burger

        I lived in NYC and chinese food in NYC is better and it isn’t even close.

    • ESlater

      Hong Kong Palace is great, love going there. But as you said, it’s in Fairfax, not Arlington.

  • KalashniKEV

    Hmmm… I LOVE Chinese food, but I’m talking about delicious take-out style… NOT Chinese fondue-thing, a noodle shop, Thai, etc. The best I’ve found that approximates NY style Chinese food is the one behind Manee Thai on Col Pke. It’s sooo shady looking and sooo good! I wish there was a place like that in the corridor… and open late.

    • NPGMBR

      NY Style Chinese food? That statement alone just deflates the topic of discussion!

      • KalashniKEV

        Have you ever been to China? They don’t eat “Chinese Food” there…

        • NPGMBR

          Nope never been to China the author is talking about the quality of Chinese food in general. What you are doing is applying a lable to it that’s specific to NY by saying “NY Style”.

          • KalashniKEV

            NY Style = Good
            VA Style = Bleh
            (when it comes to Chinese Food)

    • South Arlington

      Tops China. I’m with KalashniKEV on this one. Tops China has the best take-out General Tso’s in the area, as well as pork dumplings. Friendly service also.

      • South Arlington

        Pretty sure my friends in Courthouse and elsewhere on the corridor have had delivery from Tops also.

        • Danielle

          Are you talking about the Tops in Alexandria? It looks really far away.

          • South Arlington

            No, it’s underneath Manee Thai off Columbia Pike. Almost next door to LA Bar and Grill.

      • HP2000

        +1 Tops is our favorite too.

      • Brandon C

        Your standards for good Chinese food must be extremely low or just influenced by the fact that this area doesn’t really have a dedicated Chinese neighborhood (real Chinatowns don’t have Hooters btw). Tops’ food is tasteless and uses poor cuts of meat.

        So far, the best Chinese I’ve had in this town was TNR Cafe (in Courthouse) up until a couple years ago, and Tasteful Delight in Pentagon Row which I still order from.

        • anon

          While Rockville isn’t a dedicated Chinese neighborhood, there is a pretty good concentration of Chinese restaurants and shops. Joe’s Noodle House is worth the drive from Arlington (on the weekends).

          • CMG

            Joes Noodle House in Rockville is fantastic. My sister lives in NYC and when she comes home to Arlington, she loves to go to Joes Noodle House because it’s just like Chinese food in NY. And based on the patrons of the restaurant, I’d say it’s probably not too far off from Chinese food in China because when we go there we are almost always the only people there who are not Chinese.

        • South Arlington

          Similarly, your standards don’t seem much higher since you prefer Tasteful Delight’s oily tasting meats, overly sweet sauces, along with their overstriving menu trying to offer Chinese, Thai, and Japanese foods (a surefire red flag for any Asian restaurant is this kind of Pan-Asian menu).

    • Lola

      Nope, not by a long shot. I used to live right there and, while it was the best I could get on the Pike, it still wasn’t good Chinese food.

  • CrystalMikey

    I actually like the spot in your photo, Eastern. Then again, it could be for sentimental reasons, since I used to order from there a ton when I lived in Ft. Myer during my first stint in Arlington.

  • Arrrrrlington

    Sichuan Wok @ N. Quincy and 9th in Ballston. It’s a little hidden because it’s in a house surrounded by high rises and they have zero parking. But when I get the hunger for some cha-cha-cha-chinese, I go straight there. I reccommend the sesame chicken.

    • Kyle

      This is my favorite place in the area as well – I’ve had most of the other places mentioned and I still don’t think they compare to Sichuan Wok. I used to live right next door to it and it was perfect to run down and pick up something delicious. I have no idea if they deliver to Courthouse, I should probably find out…

    • Radar

      I agree that Sichuan Won is a really great hole in the wall!

    • JamesE

      I walk by this place constantly and never go, maybe I shall. I also live right behind that hunan something right off stuart and fairfax and went there once in 3 years, not that good.

      • Chris

        I also live behind the Hunan place on Stuart and Fairfax, but will never eat there again. I walk a couple of blocks to the Sichuan Wok, infinitely better.

    • Sunny617

      That’s where I go, too. The sesame chicken is great!

    • a’town

      Sichuan Wok does it for me. Definitely best place in the ballston-va square area.

  • G::NativeArlingtonian

    First, I’d say that life here is not like life there… so adjust expectations. My vote is for the Peking Pavillion on Sycamore Street. They have solid food and the people are super nice. It means something when they ask how my 81 yro dad is if they haven’t seen him in awhile. Is it “authentic” Chinese food? No. But its good stuff in a nice place. Most Americans would be unhappy eating anything close to authentic stuff. For a good example of that head to A&J in Annandale. Yummy!

    • Lou

      Peking Pavilion is our family favorite, been going there for years. Very reliable food and service.

      I go to the Grand Hunan in Westover for quick take-home stuff, since it’s close, but honestly it’s just better than average. I also like Ghin Na Ree on Harrison Street, that’s Thai, but since I’m not into all the nuances of regional cuisines it’s interchangeable with the other places. Their food is really good though.

    • Burger

      Parents come down from Philly and if they want Chinese. That’s where they want to go. Sesame chicken is the best there.

  • Henry Spencer

    I can’t think of any in Arlington proper, but HKP and XO Taste in Seven Corners and Full Kee in Bailey’s Xroads are all very good.

  • Jenga

    I don’t know about Chinese, but I’m looking forward to Chilis or TGI Fridays coming to Clarendon.

    • mehoo

      Yuck! Olive Garden, please. Mmmm, unlimited breadsticks.

      • Notahoo

        I really hate it when people beat me to the punch line! How about an additional sports bar for Clarendon – there really is no place to go to get beer and watch sports in clarendon.

        • mehoo

          We need more sports bars and wine bars and “taverns” and bakeries and yuppies and coffee and $6 ice cream (sorry, gelatto) and $14 appetizers and brown flipflops!

          • JamesE

            I’m going to open a sports bar that only serves cupcakes

  • stephanie

    I like T&R Cafe in Court House for American-style Chinese food. It’s better than your average spot, but not fancy with hot pots. I grew up in NJ so was used to NY-style Chinese, and this is the closest I can find here.

    • KalashniKEV

      TNR is awesome… but it’s a noodle shop. Check out Top’s China for Chinese food.

    • Davidm

      I second TNR, it’s more than just a noodle shop…that’s just the bonus. They offer a full menu with a lot of American Chinese which works for most, and then has a few pockets on the menu that satisfy ABCs like myself. My only gripe is that they don’t offer Chinese greens.

    • Jason S

      I got to TNR every now and then for lunch, it’s not particularly good food, but they are nice people. Mostly it’s the service, but my husky coworker loves their General Tsos.

    • BallstonGirl

      TNR definitely gets my vote. Not out-of-this-world amazing, but definitely really good. The atmosphere is really subpar, but the food is always consistent. I also sometimes order from Oriental Gourmet, and that’s a decent option too. My favorite Chinese joint is in a Kingstowne strip mall where I grew up: House of Dynasty. AWESOME!

  • Erin

    My favorite is the Peking Gourmet Inn on Rt7 in FC. Not cheap, but always fresh and delicious, and packed!

    • Kim Crump

      Agree — it’s the best!

  • China Express take out on Lee Hwy. Always very good.

    • AZZI9

      Disagree with you on this. This place has awful chinese food.

  • G

    My favorite is Good Fortune on Columbia Pike. Didn’t get great reviews on Yelp, but I must have tried at least 5 different places along the Pike until I decided on this place. I think it’s take out only. I always get the General Tso’s chicken.

  • Aaron

    Good Taste Gourment (sic) between Courthouse and Clarendon was the absolute best. R.I.P. (now all that remains is Earl’s sandwich shop and a bunch of broken developer dreams). Tops and TNR are the best of the rest, I guess, but they just don’t compare to NYC or even better, suburban tristate Chinese.

    • HP2000

      I’m with you Aaron. When I lived in Colonial Village, Good Taste was the best… with their “U Like” sign in the window.

  • Arlthen

    We do Tops China, they are happy to customize ingredients. Everything else we tried in Arlington has been a disappointment. Peking Gourmet on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church is fabulous for special occasions, love all the kitschy photos of celebrity guests. As for real Chinese food, just remember to close your eyes — the snake will taste just like chicken.

  • Smy

    My current (take out not gourmet) favorite is Grand Hunan in the Westover shopping center. 2 that I used to love that are no longer around are China Rose that used to be in the space that Sawatdee now occupies and also the Chinese place that is in the space Minh’s now occupies. However, they were both replaced with restaurants with far better food.

    • Rob

      Agreed, Grand Hunan is pretty good. Reminds me of the kind of cheap-but-satisfyingly-good places I used to go in college.

      • Ryan

        yes, Grand Hunan is great, anything I’ve tried has been delicious. Oriental Gourmet in the Harrison Center is also really good but more expensive.

  • Radar

    P.F. Changs is my favorite chinese restaurant. Even though it’s a chain, it’s really good!

  • Chris

    Mark’s Duck House is pretty great.

    Charlie Chiang’s and Tasteful Delight are my guily greasy pleqasures.

    • Ali

      Agreed on both. I’ve been going to Mark’s long before I moved to the area and Charlie Chiang’s is a guilty pleasure.

  • Teyo

    I like Panda Express at Pentagon City mall. I once had Panda Express in NYC and the one at Pentagon City tastes just the same!

  • The Pope of South Arlington

    Everything in Arlington is hot garbage! If you want more than a mystery meat & cornstarch slurry you gotta go to Peking Gourmet in Falls Church.

    • Kim Crump


  • NH

    Hunan Gate, 4233 Fairfax Drive in Ballston…very good.

    • a’town

      ughhhhh. not sure I have ever seen a single person in that place. its horrible. I’d say its a front for __________________

      • lame

        That one is not good- you must be lame.

  • Maxine LUnn

    Nothing that doesn’t cause and instant stomach ache in Arlington – agree on Mark’s Duck House and Peking Gourmet = Sichuan Wok is probably the best I’ve found in Arlington. Oh, and in China it’s not “chinese food,” it’s just “food.” I still think most places are supplied by the same tanker truck of brown sauce and MSG.

  • Maps

    I like Hunan One in Clarendon. Best Kung Pao Chicken I’ve ever had. The Szechuan string beans are good, too. It’s also a crazy happy hour spot- you can get a 36oz Yuengling for 4.95 and half priced bottles of wine.

  • Karen

    HKP is awesome for their authentic Sichauan dishes. I am fine with some americanized-Chinese food, but I haven’t found any place in Arlington that is worthwhile.

  • SJ

    The ONE thing I have yet to find here in the Northern Virginia area is decent Chinese food. Maybe the previous places I lived were exceptions, but even in Saint Louis, out in the heart of the Midwest, I was able to find better quality and variety of Chinese food (particularly dim sum but also other “ethnic” cuisines). All other cuisines were better here in DC however.

  • AZZI9

    China Garden at the ABC 7 building is the best in Arlington. Its busy though so call in. Any rib dish is amazing. Across the river in Dupont, Dynasty is the best take out.

  • isadore

    I swear by China express on glebe rd, about a block from rt 50, and get withdrawal symptoms if I order from anywhere else. Sad to admit but true?

  • southie

    Tops China rocks. It looks scary but it is by far the best for delivery or take out. Is that chinese food place in the house between VA Square and Ballston still there? It wasn’t that great, I am just curious if it has been plowed under yet.

  • JamesE

    It is generally a good idea to ignore opinions from former NYC residents, even a bag of cheetos is somehow better there.

  • T

    +1 for China Garden in Rosslyn. Sunday morning Dim Sum just like back home in HK.

  • Jenny

    Hunan Village is the most consistent Chinese food restaurant in Arlington. It’s by Glebe and Lee Highway, but they deliver to most areas. 5 stars.

  • fitc_dc

    Peking Gourmet Inn – the BEST.

  • Elizabeth

    There are plenty of great Chinese restaurants in the NOVA area, operative word is Chinese. For American style Chinese, you cannot go wrong with Peking Gourmet. For authentic Chinese: Mark’s Duck House and A&J’s (Annandale) are fantastic. As for Arlington proper there used to be an amazing place across from the Clarendon metro that did both styles very well (forget name right now), but the owners changed it to Thai and mediocre Thai to boot.

    Ultimately I really don’t care if Arlington doesn’t have great Chinese when there are so many options very close by.

  • NorthAdams

    most food in arlington is mediocre. Sam & Harry’s sends their budget version to us and not the Zagat rated place downtown.
    Chinese food here is sad.
    I will say the big chinese place at National Harbor is probably the best chinese outside of NYC i’ve ever had.

  • MrStevens

    Honest question:
    Which Chinese restaurants/take out spots make their chicken dishes with WHITE meat only?

    • Heather

      City Lights of China in Dupont does take out and their quality is line none I’ve ever had. Great flavor, fresh, white meat and no extra grease.

  • chinese I am

    I am chinese and I think China Garden in Rosslyn is the best in ARLINGTON, not Falls Church, Alexandria or Bowie Maryland.

  • NorthAdams

    i’ve found that a huge problem is that once a chinese restaurant becomes good it is then sold and new people take over. It seems that “management” changes frequently and what might be good one year isn’t the next year.

  • George

    I live in LA now, but I spent my first 26 years in Arlington and DC. And while there are already too many comments to slug through to see if it’s been mentioned, Peking Gourmet is excellent, located near Bailey’s Crossroads, on Rt. 50. The pork & garlic sprouts are to die for!

  • CW

    Chinese food isn’t chinese food unless it’s a buffet, and it should not cost more than $8, max. The chinese food around here is dead to me.

  • reader

    I think it’s technically in Falls Church, but XO Taste off Arlington is amazing

  • Elmo

    China Garden. By a mile… My Taiwanese roommate used to take his family there anytime they were in town. Try a “Suffering Bastard” with the dim sum brunch…

  • Jake O

    I’m a big fan of Hunan BBQ Hunan BBQ Express at 6017 Wilson Boulevard. Purely a takeout and delivery place. Other than the egg rolls which are dry and not very flavorful, everything else on the menu that I’ve tried has been very good, fresh and reasonably priced. The lady who owns the place is very nice and accommodating to special requests as well.

  • Novanglus

    With a few exceptions (Peking Gourmet was already mentioned), Chinese food around here is lacking. I’ve had great Chinese food in towns with big state schools (Fort Collins, Ann Arbor, etc), but not around here.

    I think it has to do with immigration patterns: the DC area gets political immigrants (Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, and now SW Asia), while Chinese and Indian immigrants tend to start off on academic visas.

    DC Chinatown used to be full of great places, but I’d imagine post-revolution immigrants from the 40’s have passed away and their kids have moved on to other careers.

    • AZZI9

      Wow. What a broad statement. And which of these is out of place: (Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, and now SW Asia).

  • Steve

    I’m partial to Ginger Beef on Columbia Pike at 4 Mile Run. It’s not spectacular, but it’s a good combo of quality and price – plus their requisite coupons are decent. In the heart of Pentagon City I’m at the edge of their delivery zone, and I’m grateful for that. Others in my area are either overpriced (Tasteful Delight at Pentagon Row) or vomit-inducing (Top’s China, also on Columbia Pike).

  • Bender

    The problem is that it depends upon the chef/cook. Thus, a restaurant can be great one day and OK the next.

    And the other problem is that when you find a good place, it invariably closes within a few years. For example, a really good place that used to be next to the Rosslyn Metro, and another place between Courthouse and Clarendon that went Vietnamese. I’ve not been able to find any good substitutes since.

    And besides, HOW HARD IS IT REALLY TO MAKE GOOD KUNG PAO CHICKEN???? (pretty damn hard, apparently)

  • MC

    Ok, I’ve actually lived in Beijing, and New York for that matter. Arlington Chinese is is biaojun (mediocre) or worse. Basically one needs to go to Rockville to get good Chinese in the DC area. There is a massive opportunity for a Rockvillle-based Chinese restaurant entrepreneur to set up shop in Arlington. The biggest challenge is that Americans, especially the fast food/jumbo serving crowd, generally see Chinese as “cheap” and expect dishes to be priced accordingly. Chinese cooking done well is an art equal to French or any grand cuisine, and deserves to be paid for accordingly.

    • Katie

      You’re right about that. In Philly, the chef Lillian Ma has ensured that Philadelphians know what great Chinese food tastes like.

      • Ali

        I grew up in Philly and miss the Chinese food back home all the time.


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