How will you celebrate tonight's opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics? If you're anything like us, you'll be piling up on the couch with some mood-setting Chinese takeout. We've all got our strip-mall favorites, but if you crave something a little more filling, here are our picks for the 10 best Chinese food joints in Tampa Bay.
1. Yummy House, Tampa: It doesn't look (or sound) like much, but this unassuming strip-mall joint produces authentic, amazing Hong Kong-style cuisine. The Peking duck and salt and pepper tofu are absolute winners, plus you can bring your own wine or beer and drink without a corkage fee. Trust us: The name fits. 2202 W Waters Ave., Suite 1, Tampa; (813) 915-2828.
2. China Yuan, Tampa: It's cheap, it's simple, it's been incredibly popular for years — and last fall, it got even better, with an expansion and remodeling. The duck is the draw here, pan-fried or Peking, but feel free to go nuts with some sea cucumber, jellyfish or shark fin soup. 8502 N Armenia Ave., No. 1A, Tampa; (813) 936-7388, chinayuanrestaurant.com.
3. ABC Seafood, St. Petersburg: One of us has a mother-in-law who is Vietnamese, with plenty of Hoa Chinese influence in the family, and she loves it. Fresh fish in the tanks (including eel!), polyglot menus, mandatory chopsticks and huge tables complete with lazy susans for family-style gorging. Get there very early or very late in the evening, lest you are forced to battle for a seat with the throngs who show up to eat, drink and be merry in languages not often heard Tampa Bay eateries. 2705 54th Ave. N, St. Petersburg, (727) 522 1888.
4. T.C. Choy's Asian Bistro, Tampa: This South Tampa favorite boasts a fantastic array dim sum and elegant entrees, with fresh seafood (it's a partner of the Oceanic Trading Supermarket north of downtown Tampa) filling out a neverending menu. And though its prices are affordable, its decor is as snazzy as its SoHo address would suggest. A great date destination. 301 S Howard Ave., Tampa. (813) 251-1191.
5. Ho Ho Choy, Tampa: Relocating from a spot on Dale Mabry, Ho Ho Choy is a purveyor of appealing and straightforward Chinese dishes as well as an array of less familiar dim sum. The fried and steamed dumplings are served all day (whereas in China the small dishes are served primarily for lunch), offered in small, individual portions. Dishes feature lean meats and still-crisp vegetables in simple preparations that are easy to eat for the chopstick-impaired (read: non-Asians). The food is health-conscious, clean and unfussy. 1441 E Fletcher Ave., Tampa; (813) 962-2159.
6. China City, St. Petersburg: Its prime Fourth Street real estate has for decades given China City a leg up on its competitors near downtown St. Pete, but the menu remains a draw for those looking for a smorgasbord of Chinese dishes in an unfussy dinerlike setting. Where else can you get sweet and sour grouper, a Sino-Floridian dish if ever there was one? 1221 Fourth St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 822-3713, chinacitystpete.com.
7. Pei Wei Asian Diner (three locations): This little sis of P.F. Chang's is a chain, yes, but it's increasingly popular thanks to quick, contemporary pan-Asian dishes like rice and noodle bowls and entrees that come in under $10. Tampa: 217 S Dale Mabry Highway, (813) 207-1190. Carrollwood: 12927 N Dale Mabry Highway, (813) 960-2031. St. Petersburg: 1402 66th St., (727) 347-1351. peiwei.com.
8. Zen Forrest, New Port Richey: This Asian fusion eatery does a good job with the Chinese basics (pot stickers, General Tso's Chicken, Crab Rangoon), but it also pays homage to Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam. The Taiwanese mussels and Korean bul go gi (sliced sirloin) are popular. 4148 Rowan Road, New Port Richey; (727) 372-9545, zenforrest.com.
9. Big Bok Choy, Oldsmar: It's more of a pan-Asian foodfest than a strictly Chinese joint, but the veggie-heavy Big Bok Choy offers a diverse array of flavorful soups, sauces and sushi. The teriyaki chicken and mu shu veggies with pancakes and plum sauce make great takeout options. 3730 Tampa Road, No. 6, Oldsmar. (813) 854-1961.
10. Ivory Mandarin Bistro, Dunedin: It might not be authentically Chinese, but it's authentically Cantonese-American — that means familiarities like chow mein, fried prawns, orange beef and hot and sour soup are all solidly prepared and unlikely to throw off crowds used to plain-jane fried rice. The 15-year-old restaurant has a cadre of devoted North Pinellas regulars. 2192 Main St., Dunedin; (727) 734-3998, ivorybistro.com.
Contributing: Laura Reiley, Jay Cridlin, Joshua Gillin, Chris Sherman, tbt* archives