Power Ranking State College Chinese Food
A staple of the college diet, Chinese take-out hits the spot whenever and wherever. Whether you need something to help you power through late-night homework or to give you a pick-me-up after stumbling out of the Gaff, Chinese food is there for you. But where can you find the best beef and broccoli? What about the best shrimp?
To tackle this Great Wall-sized question, five of our staff’s noted Chinese food junkies scoured the restaurants in walking distance to campus on a quest to find the best restaurants and best dishes. These are their stories.
Sesame Chicken (Austin Smith)
No. 1 — Big Bowl: 8.5/10
The rice at Big Bowl complemented the chicken well, not to mention the included vegetables. The chicken was great, with an impressive consistency. Big Bowl is definitely a top option in State College.
No. 2 (tie) — Little Szechuan: 8/10
While the price of the sesame chicken wasn’t great, the actual food was. The sweet sauce makes the meal, and each piece of chicken has a chewy consistency. The rice alongside the meal was delicious, too, making it one of the better spots in town. The location isn’t ideal, but if you’re close by, I would check it out.
No. 2 (tie) — Beijing: 8/10
The sesame chicken here was awesome, but everything else in the meal wasn’t quite up to my standards. The rice didn’t seem very fresh, which degraded the overall quality of the meal. As far as the chicken goes, however, it’s one of the better options around State College.
No. 4 — Uncle Chen’s: 7/10
This Sesame Chicken was much better than I expected. The sauce had a great sweetness to it, and you get a ton of food. I’m not usually an egg roll guy, but they were pretty good, too. The fried rice was a little underwhelming, but overall made for a solid meal.
No. 5 — Chopstick Express: 6.5/10
This was the one restaurant on the list that I hadn’t been to, and I was pleasantly surprised with the result. The texture of the chicken was superb, though the sauce could have been better. It was a little too thick for my liking, making it harder to finish the meal. I’d say there are better options out there, but Chopstick Express definitely isn’t bad.
General Tso’s Chicken (Matt Fox)
No. 1 — Big Bowl: 9/10
Wow, that was some incredible General Tso’s. What stood out most to me was how well the chicken and rice were cooked. At most places, a few pieces of the chicken tend to be a little chewy, but not at Big Bowl. The General Tso’s sauce also has a little extra kick to it, which I loved.
No. 2 — Chopstick Express: 8.5/10
Unfortunately, Chopstick Express was very busy when we got there, so we had to wait for almost half an hour. However, the food was definitely worth the wait. The General Tso’s sauce had a nice spicy kick to it, and the chicken was cooked perfectly. The rice was really good, too.
No. 3 — Beijing: 8/10
This was the best chicken out of any place in State College. It was super crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Unfortunately, the rice tasted like it was made out of a packet, which is ultimately dragging the overall rating down.
No. 4 — Uncle Chen’s: 7/10
One thing’s for sure: Uncle Chen’s is a good Chinese restaurant. The General Tso’s was right on par with what I was hoping for. The rice, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. Overall, it was a solid meal with large portions.
No. 5 — Little Szechuan: 5.5/10
The food was about average and was significantly more expensive than any other place we’ve been to. If the prices were comparable to the other places, Little Szechuan would get a higher score, but it’s just not a good bang for your buck.
Beef & Broccoli (Navin Zachariah)
No. 1 (tie) — Beijing: 8/10
I was thoroughly surprised with Beijing’s beef with broccoli. I thought it was a nice large portion for a fair price and the sauce was great. There was just enough of the sauce, so it never seemed like it was overpowering the beef. The fried rice was great, and the egg roll was thick, crunchy, and filling.
No. 1 (tie) — Big Bowl: 8/10
I’m usually a Big Bowl fan, but the beef and broccoli was just okay — not great. I thought the beef was just drowned in the sauce and took away from the flavor of the dish overall. The egg rolls were great here, though, so that’s a definite plus. I’m giving my rating a tiny bump since I know how good Big Bowl is, but maybe avoid the beef and broccoli.
No. 3 — Uncle Chen’s: 7/10
I thought the beef with broccoli here was as good as you could find in State College. Unfortunately, the fried rice did not measure up as a complement to the beef. However, the egg roll was fantastic and really left an impression on me.
No. 4 — Little Szechuan: 6.5/10
The beef with broccoli was good here, although there was not quite enough sauce in the dish. The pork egg roll also served as a great complement to the meal. However, the price was way too high for quality State College Chinese food.
No. 5 — Chopstick Express: 6/10
I got the beef with peppers here and I simply didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It was good, just not as good as the other places I’ve tried the beef at before. Not only that, but the wait was long and I had to pay with cash since my bill was under $20.
Sweet & Sour Chicken (Matt Paolizzi)
No. 1 — Beijing: 9/10
I got a decent portion for $9. The chicken was tender and easy to chew, most likely from the small bite-sized pieces they use. The sauce was on the tangier side, but still tasty. The egg roll was nice and crunchy, but doughy in the center. Overall, Beijing was some of the best chicken, sweet/sour sauce, and rice you can get.
No. 2 (tie) — Uncle Chen’s: 8/10
This was some damn good chicken. It wasn’t too fatty or tough to chew like bad Chinese fried chicken is sometimes. The rice was a little meh, but pouring some of the sweet and sour sauce on it made up for this. Speaking of the sauce, it was a little thin for my taste, but delicious nonetheless. I was completely surprised by how good the egg rolls were, nicely fried and flavorful.
No. 2 (tie) Chopstick Express: 8/10
Chopstick Express did not have sweet and sour chicken, so I opted for the Sichuan Chicken with steamed white rice. We had a long wait, but it was worth it in the end. The chicken was tender and tasty, swimming in a thick spicy sauce with heaps of veggies. Plenty of rice was served on the side for a nice portion. The egg roll was delicious, crunchy with a soft, well-fried interior. Next to Big Bowl, Chopstick Express might be the best egg roll in town.
No. 4 — Big Bowl: 7/10
Big Bowl doesn’t have sweet and sour chicken, so tried the grilled teriyaki chicken with curry fried rice. The rice was great with plenty of peas and carrots, plus some onions and scrambled egg to add even more to it. The chicken was well cooked, a little fatty in some places, but overall paired well with the teriyaki sauce. The egg rolls were delectable, crunchy, and crisp all the way through.
No. 5 — Little Szechuan: 6/10
This place had lots of sauce, but not enough food to justify the price tag. While it wasn’t bad, Little Szechuan had a price jump over Uncle Chen’s ($11.50 compared to $8.50) that got you less food and of comparable quality.
Shrimp (Derek Bannister)
No. 1 — Little Szechuan: 9/10
This was my absolute favorite place to try. It was on the expensive side for sure, but the meal was well worth it. I ordered the Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, which I crave just about every day. The dish was spicy enough to add some kick but flavorful throughout. This is as good as it gets in my opinion.
No. 2 — Beijing: 8/10
Beijing comes in a close second for me. I thought the meal was extremely flavorful and tasted fresh for a good price. I didn’t really know anything about this place before we went, but I would highly recommend it to anyone near the east side of campus.
No. 3 — Chopstick Express: 7.5/10
I wasn’t expecting too much from this little place, but it most definitely delivered. This meal was solid all-around: The sauce was good, the vegetables tasted great, and the rice had something special about it. The meal didn’t feel too heavy, which I really liked. The ratio of rice to everything else was perfect.
No. 4 (tie) — Uncle Chen’s: 7/10
At Uncle Chen’s, I went with the Shrimp with Hot Sichuan Sauce meal. Maybe I’m partial to spicy food, but I was a big fan. I thought the sauce had a nice kick without overpowering the rest of the meal. Outside of Little Szechuan’s garlic sauce, this sauce was my favorite. The meal was a little heavier than I would have liked, but I still give it a “pretty good” stamp of approval.
No. 4 (tie) — Big Bowl: 7/10
I love Big Bowl, but this particular meal wasn’t amazing. I went with the Shrimp with Black Pepper Sauce, and it was decent. The sauce was quite good in my opinion, but the peppers and onions in the dish basically just overwhelmed everything else. The shrimp part of the meal seemed like something of an afterthought.
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