East Meets Texas
It's a little tricky to find quick, convenient Chinese food in Austin, but during our hungry explorations we've discovered some true gems. These six spots offer some of the best — and most authentic — Chinese food in town.
Chen’s Noodle House
8650 Spicewood Springs Rd. #127
This tiny hole in the wall churns out delicious homemade dumplings and handcut noodles. Definitely try out the famous leek pie, which features plenty of the sauteed green onions and some glassy noodles sandwiched between fried pancakes (think of it like a green onion pancake, but structured like a panini instead). Unlike most Chinese restaurants, Chen’s offers lamb as a protein; try the popular grilled lamb skewers or a hearty lamb noodle soup, which comes full of greens, fresh cuts of tomato, tender lamb and plenty of fresh, handcut noodles.
Chen’s now has a location down south called Chen Z (in the old Your Mom’s Burger Bar spot) and a restaurant called Shabu on Anderson Lane — a more upscale concept which features hot pots in addition to some of the classic dishes. But if you haven’t been to the original, this is the place to start!
2712 Bee Caves Rd., Suite 124
As a successful restaurateur in Austin for more than 30 years, Ronald Cheng must be doing something right. His latest location of Chinatown just opened in Westlake this summer, ironically in the same building where he got his start. He’s renovated the interior to be colorful and stylish, with a spacious floor plan and lots of vivid modern art. The weekend dim sum includes favorites like chewy fried sesame balls, tender shiitake pork and shrimp dumplings, succulent Peking duck buns and adorable bites shaped like carrots and bunnies.
The addition of a very talented and experienced sushi chef has also brought some truly original sashimi and sushi creations to the table. Chinatown also unrolled a weekday happy hour menu from 3-6 pm with food and drink specials including a rotating surprise item which is announced on Facebook each week.
Rice Bowl Cafe
11220 N. Lamar Blvd.
Rice Bowl Cafe could get away with serving only one dish and we would still come back repeatedly. That dish would be the intoxicatingly delicious roast beef rolls. Picture warm shredded braised beef, crisp lettuce and red onion rolled up into crispy green onion pancakes and accompanied by a savory hoisin sauce. The noodle soups are also winners; try the pork chop noodle soup for something a bit different. The fried chop is served on the side as to prevent any sogginess, the thick round noodles are a great consistency, and the broth has lots of depth and flavor to it, almost like an oxtail broth used in pho. There is also a selection of Taiwanese-Chinese dishes on the menu, such as the three cup chicken, which has huge chunks of fresh ginger, whole garlic gloves, and leaves of basil.
Julie’s Handmade Noodles
2512 Rio Grande St.
It may take a couple of tries to get to this trailer when it's actually open, but when you do, you'll feel like you struck gold! It’s hard to believe Julie is churning out these rich, delicious broths, thick and chewy hand-pulled noodles and scrumptious homemade dumplings from such a tiny space. Portions are sizable, and the meats used in her soups also come in huge, tender chunks that break apart when you spoon them. Ask for yours spicy at your own risk.
11005 Burnet Rd.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss the little entrance to this place tucked into a strip mall on far North Burnet Road. However, the menu is anything but small and is guaranteed to offer more than a couple things you’ve never tried before. Start off with an order of Shanghai soup dumplings (xiao long bao) if you know what’s good for you. The spicy dan dan noodles are also a must. Available protein entrees range from duck (braised in beer sauce, smoked tea Szechuan style) to pork (shredded with black fungus, preserved with dry bamboo) to beef (with bitter melon or ten sauce) to lamb (with cumin or green onion) to white fish (sliced with fiery sauce or pickled peppers) to frog legs and edible sea snails. Needless to say, there’s a lot of variety from which to choose. Fear not, vegetarians: there are also plenty of soft tofu and mapo tofu dishes, and veggie options like Szechuan fried string beans, eggplant with spicy garlic sauce, and mushrooms which arrive sizzling on a cast iron platter.
Ho Ho Chinese BBQ
13000 N IH-35
Most everyone has been to Din Ho at least once or twice, but Ho Ho is another Chinese barbecue restaurant further north. Like Din Ho, Ho Ho features tanks of live shellfish, a rotisserie meat station and large lazy Susan tables for meals shared with large groups. Barbecue specials include whole or half Beijing ducks, barbecue pork and marinated chicken and come with steamed buns, shredded green onions and sauce. A variety of different regional noodle dishes such as Cantonese-style fried rice noodle, Singapore style fried noodle, Shanong noodle soup and braised yee mein with yellow leek and black mushroom are offered. Seafood ranges from honey walnut shrimp and abalone with sea cucumber to clams with ginger onion sauce and crab fried rice. On weekends, Ho Ho runs a congee special, with toppings like preserved egg, filet fish and ground pork.