Few things are more comforting than a bowl of Ramen noodles, a box of kung-pao chicken, or some mushu pork at the end of a long, hard day. And, as you probably very well know, being Chinese has nothing to do with it! Most of the dishes that Americans think are Chinese were invented State-side, as were Chinese takeout and Chinese food delivery boxes.
Today we’re going to take a look at all that, as well as at some of the best and most affordable places for American-Chinese food delivery across the U.S.. Finally, we’re going to give you some pro tips on how to find the best Chinese food delivery restaurants in your area. Nowadays, it’s not that hard to find good places nearby, which can soothe your craving for Tempe and which are open at any hour of both day and night. This is true regardless of whether you’re in Vegas, Miami FL, Portland, or San Francisco—and finding them can be as simple as running an online query on ‘good local Chinese places near me’. From San Antonio to Denver, on to Orlando, Chicago, Dallas, and Tucson, in San Diego and Raleigh NC, we’ve got the scoop on what you need to do for some great Chinese grub delivered right to your doorstep. Read on to find out!
The History of Chinese Food Delivery in the U.S.
The history of American-Chinese cuisine spans little more than the course of a century; however, it’s some 120 years rife with paradox and contradiction. It almost seems unbelievable that nowadays you can find some great Asian takeaway meals just about anywhere: in Columbia and Sacramento CA, in Boston, Killeen, Milwaukee, Worcester, and Jacksonville. However, don’t fall into the trap of believing it was always like this.
As is the case with many so-called ‘ethnic’ cuisines, its origin as an immigrant staple has determined Americans to develop a love-hate relationship with it. There was a time where Chinese food was only largely available in California—no mention of Columbus Ohio, Omaha, Seattle, Fresno, New Orleans, or Mesa. So here’s a handful of lesser-known facts about Chinese food in the U.S., and about how Chinese food delivery became such a popular choice:
- It was illegal for most Chinese natives to immigrate to the U.S. between 1882 and 1943. Those who did manage to come over were relatives or neighbors of pre-ban immigrants, most of them hailing from the rural area of Toishan, outside of Canton. As such, most of the food was specific to that area—that’s where chop suey, chow mein, moo goo gai pan, won ton soup, and egg foo young first originated. However, these foods were only characteristic of a small area in rural China and most Americanized versions emanated in California, where the first immigrants had settled for the Gold Rush.
- Initially, there were two types of Chinese dishes on the market. One type was more ‘genuine’, i.e. sour and hot, while the other was Americanized. In post-war America, sugar-laden canned goods were largely available, which led to the development of a new brand of American-Chinese cooking. This quickly became the mainstream.
- Chop suey is not Chinese. This popular favorite of Chinese food delivery menus was invented in California. Its name literally translates as ‘odds and ends’. It’s basically something made from scrap and leftovers and you won’t find it on the menu in China.
- Chinese food became popular during the late 1960s. This is the era that gave birth to mushu pork, hot and sour soup and General Tso’s chicken, all of them with their respective Americanized versions. This spicier cuisine can be traced to a wave of new immigrants, most of whom came from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
- Chinese food delivery boxes were created for oysters. They originated in the 1950s, for oyster pails. Soon thereafter, restaurants started using them for Mongolian beef and chop suey.
The Current State of the Chinese Food Delivery Industry
Though no specific data on Chinese food delivery per se was available at the time this article was written, Statista says the number of people who visit Chinese restaurants is fairly consistent. In the fall of 2009, some 94 million Americans had visited such a place, for either breakfast, lunch or dinner within the past 30 days. Though there have been some slight fluctuations over the year since, mostly owing to the recession, that figure has largely remained solid.
Similarly, Chinese food remains popular in the United Kingdom, states the same source. The amount of Chinese food eaten outside the home in the UK per week averaged around 14 grams in 2010. According to Statista, this number peaked at 15g in 2007 and 2008, then dropped (likely because of the global financial crisis), saw another boom in 2010 (14g) and has since stabilized at 12 grams (2014).
The Best Chinese Food Delivery Areas We’ve Sampled
The battle for the best American-Chinese food delivery restaurant is acerbic across the nation, from Springfield to Houston, Anchorage to Eugene, Corpus Christi, Minneapolis, and Nashville TN.
Chinese Food Delivery in Tampa FLA
Tokyo Japanese & Chinese Restaurant
Rating: 4.3 out of 5
Address: W Hillsborough Ave
Specialties: some of the most basic and simple staple meals in these two popular Asian cuisines
It’s great for non-pretentious diners, who are there for the chicken and the beer. One of the locals’ most popular dish is the house Bourbon chicken, but many online reviewers also swear by the sushi that can be enjoyed here. You can check out their Chinese food delivery menu here.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
Address: E Fletcher Ave
Specialties: your basic dim sum and seafood meals
Since it’s located inside a mall, one of the best things about this restaurant is that it’s got plenty of room to accommodate larger crowds. Reviewers have praised their crab mean corn soup, fish fillet with black bean sauce, and curry beef.
Chinese Food Delivery in Austin TX
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Address: 603 W Stassney Lane
Specialties: hot’n’sour soup, General Tso chicken, and all the other American-Chinese food staples
Many have praised 1st Wok as the best place for General Tso chicken in the area. Their egg rolls are also pretty famous in Austin TX, while most reviewers have lauded the restaurant’s lunch portion sizes, which are nearly as big as those they serve for dinner!
Rice Bowl Café
Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Address: 11220 N Lamar Blvd
Specialties: beef noodle soup, roast beef rolls, salt and pepper fish
This is your basic floor-to-ceiling diner, with an Asian menu. Many choose to come here for the Taiwanese selection, but most just love the portion size—which is just as hefty when ordering takeaway, too.
Chinese Food Delivery in Oklahoma
Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Address: 12400 N May Ave
Specialties: Chinese chicken wings, wonton, sweet and sour chicken, fried rice
Most reviewers will agree that the quality of the food here is great, even though the food itself is not at all expensive. Many mention the freshness of the all-organic ingredients, as well as the fact that the food comes well package and always arrives on time.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Address: 2336 Nw 23rd St OKC
Specialties: beef fillet (Bo Lu Lac), walnut shrimp, crab dishes, salty pork
This is one of the best family-friendly places in OKC that serves ethnic fare and the experience with its Chinese food delivery service is just as amicable. Regulars recommend ordering a crab course, since the place has its own live crab-fish tank. The restaurant will accompany all orders with several complimentary items, like the free cucumber salad.
These are our verified recommendations for the best Chinese food delivery places we’ve come across, but we’re sure you’ve got some hand-picked spots in your area. Tell us all about them, be they in Colorado Springs, North or South Carolina, San Jose, or Boise. Our readers will be looking forward to testing them!
How to Find the Best Chinese Food Delivery in Your Area: 3 Solutions
#1 In Yelp we trust
Search for ‘Chinese food delivery’ via Google, and you’ll get an automatically generated list of place names, based on where (Google thinks) you are. The first thing you’ll notice is that the top 5 or so results are from user-review portal Yelp. The Google partner has definitely earned a reputation about being committed to earning its trust chops. As such, you can be almost certain that what you see on Yelp is actually what you get: real reviews, written by real people, with plenty of detail to tell you all you need to know about your next favorite Chinese food delivery or takeout place. Complete with pricing points, ratings, full reviews, and pictures, Yelp should definitely become your number one stop when looking for any kind of restaurant online.
#2 Seriously serious about your eats
SeriousEats.com is a great foodie website, which comes with recipes, techniques, guides, and plenty of feature articles, to whet your appetite—pun intended. They’re also into the habit of publishing great resources of restaurants, organized according to their location. The site is perfectly optimized for mobile and it employs some of the most scrupulous food writers we’ve seen in ages. Check out their guide to the best Chinese restaurants in NYC, linked above: it’s got pictures, location details, maps, and is also integrated with going-out app extraordinaire Foursquare. As far as a perfect pairing between convenience and information quality goes, Serious Eats is definitely it. Of course, chances are it’s going to take them a while before they release similar guides for Oakland, Richmond, Tallahassee, or Albuquerque, but, for the sake of my fried rice order, past, future, and present, I can only hope that they do.
#3 A hub for your Chinese food delivery grub
If you’re hungry right now, you’re going to need a link to a website that can actually process your Chinese food delivery orders 24 hours a day, at restaurants close to your home. And what better place to do that than GrubHub? The website automatically generates user-curated lists of restaurants, based on prices, your previous orders, proximity, and, of course, cuisine. And no, it doesn’t matter in the least whether you’re in El Paso, Phoenix AZ, or Arlington VA. GrubHub can accurately list the closest and best restaurants to wherever you’re at.