If you're not familiar with one of China's ultimate comfort foods, it's time to meet Little Sheep, a popular Mongolian-born chain specializing in a style of hot pot cuisine that was invented 1,000 years ago by nomadic tribes traveling through China. Somewhat like a Chinese version of fondue, hot pot is a communal affair where diners dip an array of thinly sliced raw meat, seafood and vegetables into a cauldron of bubbling stock which has been infused with a blend of ingredients like black cardamom pods, whole garlic cloves, goji berries, jujubes and ginseng. And the best part? It's an all-you-can-eat feast for only $21.99. Note that there are locations in Plano and Grand Prairie.
Recommended for Chinese because: Little Sheep is where to go when you're dining with a group.
Ilene's expert tip: Ladies can score half-price AYCE (all you can eat)($10.99) from 5-9 p.m. on Thursday nights.
In the mood for Asian food, but not sure which type to choose? Then Secret Recipe may be just the ticket. This self-service eatery boasts a menu that spans an array of all things pan-Asian. That means you can dig into the likes of roti canai (flatbread with curry), Shanghai duck, Malaysian laksa (coconut-curry soup), Hainanese roast chicken rice, Indonesian rendang goat and Singaporean pepper crab. Evidently, the secret to Secret Recipe is the offerings cover just about anything Asian food aficionados could desire, plus the prices are low and the portions are big. What's not to love?
Recommended for Chinese because: Secret Recipe Asian Bistro is one of the few places in the DFW metroplex serving Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian food.
Ilene's expert tip: Secret Recipe offers lunch specials ($6-$9.95) Monday through Thursday. The Plano location is the best, but there's also a Secret Recipe in Carrollton.
Craving Chinese barbecue? Got a penchant for Peking duck? Then this no-frills Richardson stalwart will be your new happy place. In fact, First Chinese is so popular for its roast meats that it's a go-to spot for some of the city's high-profile chefs on their nights off. Along with roast duck, pork and chicken, diners will find a huge menu crammed with everything from rice and noodle dishes to seafood, hot pots, Sichuan specialties and more. Adventurous eaters can also dig into things like duck feet in black bean sauce and combo plates filled with marinated pig intestines, ears and tongues. The best part is that most meals are priced under $10, plus its BYOB.
Recommended for Chinese because: First Chinese BBQ offers phenomenal Cantonese-style barbecue and regional Chinese fare at rock bottom prices.
Ilene's expert tip: Note that the Richardson location is not listed on the website. Other locations include 1927 E. Beltline Rd, Carrollton, TX 75006 and 3304 Coit Rd, Plano, TX 75023. This is a cash-only restaurant, but there is a gas station with an ATM across the street.
It may look like just another Chinese restaurant from the outside, but once you step past the red lanterns, you'll soon realize this place is anything but average. Located in the Las Colinas area of Irving, Fortune House specializes in Shanghainese cuisine with dumplings (especially soup dumplings) taking center stage. But the extensive menu incorporates something for everyone, from familiar dishes like ginger beef and mu shu pork to ones with a Shanghai flavor such as pan-fried pork buns, Liang Xiang chestnut chicken in hot pot, sweet & sour jellyfish and more. You can't go wrong with the eight-treasure rice pudding or the sticky rice roll with red bean for dessert.
Recommended for Chinese because: Fortune House is well known for its authentic Shanghainese cuisine.
Ilene's expert tip: Fortune House offers a lunch special (main dish, soup, rice and spring roll) for $9.50, Monday through Friday.
If you're looking for something authentic, go elsewhere. But if you're in the mood for fusion Chinese-slash-American cuisine, then this trendy Greenville Avenue eatery will be right up your alley. Dive into everything from pastrami bao buns, rock sugar-glazed nine-spice ribs and chargrilled pork sandwiches to rice bowls of crack chicken (fried nuggets tossed in fermented chile and mala sauce) and wagyu New York strips. Equally innovative is the beverage list, which includes large-format cocktails like the Hello King Kong with vodka, yuzu sake, plum brandy, raspberries, lemon and lemongrass. Save space for coconut cream eggrolls.
Recommended for Chinese because: Gung Ho is a great place to go for a date night.
Ilene's expert tip: Gung Ho is open late (until 2 am.) Friday- Sunday, plus there's a walk-up window for take-out orders. They also serve a phenomenal Sunday brunch.
For top-notch wontons, noodles and other Taiwanese specialties, look no further than Wu Wei Din, a buzzy little eatery in Plano that's known for serving huge portions at ultra-reasonable prices. In fact, most everything on the menu is priced around $10 or less. We're talking spicy pork & shrimp wontons, braised beef noodle soup, dan dan noodles and pork chop fried rice alongside preserved eggs, scallion pancakes, golden kimchi and ma-po tofu. Your best bet here is to come with a group of friends and order as much as you can. Bonus: It's BYOB.
Recommended for Chinese because: Wu Wei Din is the place to go for authentic Taiwanese fare.
Ilene's expert tip: If the wait is too long at Wu Wei Din, you'll find many of the restaurant's menu items available at QQ Teahouse (same owners) next door.
This massive Cantonese restaurant in Richardson not only provides one of the best pushcart dim sum experiences in the metroplex, but it also offers it every day of the week. The extensive selection features around forty options, ranging from soup dumplings to taro cakes, congee, barbecue pork buns and chicken feet. In addition to dim sum, diners can also order specialties like braised grouper belly hot pot and Peking duck-by-the-slice. Keep an eye out for more treasures on the buffet tables in the front. Be prepared to wait for a table, this place always packs a crowd, especially on the weekend.
Recommended for Chinese because: Kirin Court is one of the area's best places for dim sum.
Ilene's expert tip: Kirin Court offers a lunch special which includes a main course, soup, egg roll and rice for $8.95.
Don't let its suburban shopping strip location put you off, this sleek little gem offers some of the best renditions of modern Cantonese cooking in the metroplex. Here, diners can tuck into everything from fried tofu tossed in truffle oil and seared scallion pancakes to Sichuan-style osso buco and Beijing style duck. Pay particular attention to the noodle and rice dishes: the Hong Kong style crispy noodle (fried noodle nest filled with vegetables and chicken, beef or shrimp) is especially good. If you want to stay in familiar territory, the orange chicken and Szechuan style Kung Pao shrimp are also excellent options.
Recommended for Chinese because: Mah-Jong Chinese Kitchen is where to go for upscale Cantonese cuisine.
Ilene's expert tip: Note that the entrance for staff is at the front and for customers at the back.
Located in the Chinatown Shopping Center in Richardson, Jeng Chi is one of the metroplex's top destinations for dumplings, which come in around a dozen varieties, ranging from vegetarian and curry chicken to lobster & pork. The offerings don't stop at dumplings, though, also expect to find a wide array of dishes from Taiwan and mainland China such as hot pots, sizzling plates and noodles galore. Oh, and did we mention this place specializes in desserts? Think pastries, cakes, macarons and Taiwanese snow ice. Wash it all down with craft cocktails, imported beer, tea, coffee and kombucha.
Recommended for Chinese because: Jeng Chi is the best place in the metroplex for a dumpling fix.
Ilene's expert tip: Jeng Chi is partnering with the Instahap app to offer happy hour specials from 4 -6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
A stalwart of Dallas' Chinese food scene since 1974, this family-run restaurant is perennially popular for regional Chinese dishes. While you can expect to find iconic Americanized favorites such as moo-goo-gai-pan and dry-stirred beef, the rest of the menu offers more modern Chinese specialties. Items like hand-pulled noodle dishes and Shanghai-style Xiang Zao pork belly are always good choices, but the biggest draw can be found at the dumpling bar where each pillowy parcel is made-to-order. Options range from pan-fried dumplings, soup dumplings and steamed beef buns to xian bing, a crispy Chinese-style crepe filled with meat.
Recommended for Chinese because: Royal China is the best place in Dallas for homemade noodles and dumplings.
Ilene's expert tip: Come early, otherwise expect a wait, which can be especially long on weekends. Royal China offers free delivery within a 3-mile radius.