My family has been in search of good Chinese take-out food in the South Bay for 18 years. While we’ve never quite come up with that authentic, hole-in-the-wall classic that we dream of, we have come to rely on several restaurants for good food that satisfies our Chinese cravings. Depending on our mood and budget, we have come up with four favorites, ranging from pricey, fresh and contemporary to inexpensive, classic fare.
China Grill, Manhattan Beach
This is the best Chinese food in the South Bay. While you’ll find traditional Chinese recipes like Kung Pao chicken on the menu, what distinguishes China Grill is an array of non-traditional dishes like lamb loin with Szechwan spicy sauce, seared Ahi tuna, fresh pork lamb chops and a great Thai barbeque noodle salad. It’s all set in a casually upscale atmosphere, with an outdoor patio and an extensive wine list. The food is fresh, light, and delicious with none of the heaviness or greasiness of some Chinese cooking. You get what you pay for, so expect much higher prices here than at the other restaurants on this list. China Grill is located in the Manhattan Village Mall complex, next to California Pizza Kitchen. Designated take-out parking spots are right out front. 3282 N. Sepulveda Blvd. 310-546-7284. www.chinagrillbistro.com
Szechwan Palace, Playa del Rey
Tucked into a stretch of Culver Blvd. packed with restaurants and apartments that comprise the heart of beachside Playa del Rey, Szechwan Palace offers good, no-nonsense Chinese at reasonable prices. Szechwan has a brisk lunchtime following from local business types who come for the dirt-cheap lunch specials. For dinner the restaurant is often fairly empty, so you should have no problem getting in and relaxing in the plain but quiet room that, beyond the parking lot, overlooks the Ballona Wetlands nature reserve. Among the best dishes on its standard Chinese menu are the Kung Pao chicken and vegetable fried rice. Szechwan offers speedy free delivery within four miles (with a minimum $15 order). Otherwise, it’s a great spot to call ten to twenty minutes ahead for pickup, particularly if you live in the South Bay and are making the drive home from the Westside of Los Angeles. (This will make your spouse happy). 431 Culver Blvd. 310-827-2066.
Chong’s Chinese Cuisine, Hermosa Beach
Owned and operated by the Chong brothers, the same family that runs China Grill, this quick-service restaurant features traditional dishes like orange chicken and broccoli beef, without the traditional greasy or fried heaviness, much like its pricier sister restaurant. While there are a few tables for dining in, this is mainly a takeout place. Entrée choices are ready to go and displayed in a hot buffet case so you can see what you want to order. Chong’s also operates Ws China Bistro in Redondo Beach. 2516 Pacific Coast Highway. 310-376-3859. www.chongscuisine.com
Szechwan, Manhattan Beach
Practically everyone in Manhattan Beach has eaten here at one point or another. Szechwan serves average-to-good Chinese food in a retro 1970’s-1980’s style, sit-down restaurant setting. This is a fine place to bring the family for an authentic Chinese dining experience, complete with egg rolls, won ton soup, good tea and fortune cookies. If you’re ordering takeout, just don’t confuse this Szechwan’s phone number with Szechwan in Playa del Rey as I have, and gone to the wrong place to pick up my order. There is easy take-out parking access from the large parking lot behind the restaurant. 926 North Sepulveda Blvd. 310-370-9712.
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, El Segundo
While this is a national chain familiar to most, I would be remiss to leave it off of this list since it serves consistently good Chinese food and is a great take-out option in the South Bay. Located in a business/movie theater complex, with the exception of weekend evenings you can usually find parking in the adjacent lot for quick take-out pick up. If you’re eating at the restaurant, go for the great, lunchtime “bowl” specials. 2041 Rosecrans Ave. 310-607-9062. www.pfchangs.com