Food historians generally agree that the first Chinese restaurant in America was Canton, opened in 1849 in San Francisco. A second Chinese place, Macao and Woosung Restaurant, appeared later that year. Both are long gone, of course, but Pekin Noodle Parlor, established in 1911 in what was then a bustling Chinatown in Butte, Montana, is still in business — making it the oldest continuously operated Chinese restaurant in the country.
Today there are more than 40,000 Chinese eateries around the U.S., ranging from fast-food outlets and casual counter-service operations to elegant gourmet destinations. There’s probably at least one example in virtually every city or town of any size in the nation. Not surprisingly, when Chef’s Pencil, a website for chefs, analyzed Google Trends data last year, they found that Chinese was easily the most popular “ethnic” cuisine in America.
How authentic are America’s Chinese restaurants? Trying to define and quantify “authenticity” isn’t easy. The many regional cuisines of China are now well represented with at least some claim to credibility in some parts of the country (Southern California’s Orange County and the boroughs of New York City, for instance), but much of what is served might more fairly be called not authentic Chinese cuisine but rather authentic Chinese-American.
That category includes such ubiquitous dishes as chop suey, Chinese chicken salad, General Tso’s chicken, and of course fortune cookies — all prime examples of the many “foreign” foods that are really American.
In acknowledgement of the importance of Chinese — and Chinese-American — cuisine in our national diet, 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of the best Chinese restaurants in every state, based on Yelp reviews and ratings.
Included are dumpling and noodle houses; restaurants specializing in regional Chinese styles (Sichuan most commonly); and old-style Cantonese places serving dishes that have become popular with American diners over the years.
Where applicable, we have noted some of the limitations on the services offered by these establishments. (These are restaurant reopening restrictions in every state.)
Because these restrictions change constantly as infection rates rise and fall, and because some restaurants might impose their own rules in addition to those required, it is always advisable to call before planning a visit or trying to place an online order.
To identify the best Chinese restaurant in every state, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the top-rated restaurants nationwide in the Chinese category on Yelp. To be considered, restaurants needed to be in or near a city with a population of at least 100,000 people. In states with few or no cities of this size, restaurants in smaller cities were also considered. Restaurants belonging to large chains, food trucks, and takeout places without seating were eliminated from the list, as were Chinese markets — unless they had in-store restaurants — and Asian fusion establishments or those with extensive offerings from other cuisines, such as Thai or Japanese.