- There are quite a few Chinese fast-food or fast-casual restaurant options across the US.
- Many of these restaurants serve Americanized versions of Chinese food, like pork lo mein and fried rice.
- Pick Up Stix is a chain in California.
- Pei Wei Asian Diner was founded by P.F. Chang’s owners.
- Panda Express is a staple at food courts and shopping malls.
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While the US versions of Chinese food don’t always resemble the real deal, people still love Americanized dishes like fried rice or pork lo mein.
In addition to the many independently owned Chinese restaurants, there are also quite a few Chinese chain restaurants that are beloved throughout the country.
From fast food to expensive fare, here’s a look at just some of the Chinese food chains across the US to try.
Panda Express is one of the best-known American-Chinese food chains.
Panda Express has been around since 1983 when the first location opened in Glendale, California. Since the early days, the chain has always been known for its signature dish, the Original Orange Chicken, which has crispy chicken in a sweet and spicy orange sauce. It’s incredibly popular: since 2016, they have served over 80 million pounds of it, according to the company.
If you’re looking for traditional American-Chinese food anywhere in the US, Panda Express is perhaps the best-known place to go. The menu also includes chow mein and beef and broccoli, and also some of the company’s special dishes, like Honey Walnut Shrimp.
The company also has locations in other countries, including Mexico, Guam, South Korea, and Dubai.
P.F. Chang’s has more of an Asian fusion menu than just Chinese food.
There’s a lot more history behind P.F. Chang’s than you might imagine. The restaurant was first opened in 1993 by Philip Chiang and Paul Flemings, but Chiang was inspired by his mother’s Beverly Hills Chinese restaurant from the ’60s, which served celebrities like John Lennon and Yoko Ono. P.F. Chang’s also became the first chain restaurant in the US to focus on wok cooking.
P.F. Chang’s offers a wide variety of menu items, from American-Chinese classics like wonton soup and kung pao chicken to Asian fusion options like Korean bibimbap to more American foods like cauliflower tempura and Asian mac and cheese.
Pei Wei Asian Diner is a fast-casual spot that was once part of the P.F. Chang’s empire.
The success of P.F. Chang’s inspired another Chinese hot spot: Pei Wei Asian Diner. Created by P.F. Chang’s owners, Pei Wei was meant to be more of a fast-casual spot, while P.F. Chang’s would continue to be more of a restaurant. The first Pei Wei opened in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2000, and in 2019, it was sold to the owner of Leanne Chin.
At Pei Wei, the menu varies slightly based on your location, but you can expect to find everything from classic American-Chinese dishes to lower-calorie options with a more Americanized spin, like their cauliflower rice bowls. There’s also sushi, salads, and gluten-free options.
Leeann Chin is a Midwest staple that was named after the Chinese immigrant who founded it.
If you grew up in the Midwest, you’re likely familiar with Leeann Chin, a fast-casual American-Chinese restaurant. The Minnesota-based company was founded by its eponymous owner, Leeann Chinn, who was a Chinese immigrant who moved to Minnesota in the ’50s.
Since opening its first restaurant in the 1980s, Leeann Chin has expanded its menu and locations. It has beef, chicken, and shrimp dishes that range from mild to spicy, and is best known for its combination plates.
Manchu WOK is American-Chinese fast food.
Mostly found in shopping malls and airports, Manchu WOK is a fast-food restaurant with classic American-Chinese menu options. It actually began in Ontario in Canada back in 1980, where the first location was opened. It was so successful that it spread across North America and eventually made its way into the United States. In 2004, Manchu WOK locations opened in Guam and Japan.
The menu is full of the American-Chinese food options, including sesame chicken, beef and broccoli, sweet and sour pork, and lo mein noodles.
If you’re located in Southern California, you’re probably a big fan of Pick Up Stix.
You’ll have to travel to Southern California to get a taste of Pick Up Stix, but it might be worth it: with over 70 locations in that area alone, it’s incredibly popular.
The first spot was opened in 1989 by Charlie Zhang, a Chinese immigrant.
One thing that stands out about Pick Up Stix is that the food is cooked in an open-style kitchen, so you can watch your meal get made right in front of you. They’re known for their House Special Chicken, which is made with white wine, garlic, and soy sauce, as well as the Cream Cheese Wontons appetizer.
Mr. Chow is ideal for anyone looking for a more upscale restaurant experience.
While many of the options on this list are great for fast, casual options (whether you’re ordering takeout or sitting down for a quick meal), Mr. Chow is a little different. Created by Michael Chow, Mr. Chow is a more upscale restaurant that first opened in London and now has locations in New York City, Beverly Hills, Miami, Malibu, and Las Vegas.
Meals at Mr. Chow are typically served family-style and many of the dishes are Beijing-inspired, like their Beijing duck. Still, some are more original to the restaurant, like the chicken satay.
Chinese Gourmet Express sells dishes inspired by multiple parts of China.
In 1990, the first Chinese Gourmet Express opened at the Sherman Oaks Galleria mall in southern California. The owners, Sam and Monica Sim, wanted their new restaurant to stand out among the competition, so they added dishes inspired by multiple parts of China.
The concept did so well that they were able to expand to other parts of the country, opening restaurants in the Northwest, Texas, the Midwest, and the Northeast. And in 2002, the owners opened another similar restaurant called Sansei Japanese Cuisine as well.