For many people in the Chattanooga area, going out for Chinese food means one thing: the buffet.
There are several, all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets in the area, and many of them are quite good. But that's not the only way to enjoy casual Oriental dining at a good price.
Best of China, located in the Food Lion shopping center on Ringgold Road, is a small restaurant serving a la carte Chinese food that is simply presented, reasonably priced and quite tasty.
IF YOU GO
Where: Best of China, 4340 Ringgold Road, East Ridge.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Price range: $1.99 (vegetable egg roll)-$6.75 (crispy shrimp).
Best of China's menu states the restaurant offers Mandarin, Szechuan, Hunan and Cantonese cuisine, and most of the familiar Chinese dishes are available. Pork, beef, chicken and seafood main dishes are available, and appetizers include egg rolls, wonton and crab Rangoon.
Soups available are hot and sour, wonton and egg drop as well as a vegetable soup.
Noodle dishes with various meats are available in crunchy chow mein and soft-noodle lo mein varieties, and most dishes come with either fried rice or plain steamed rice.
Iced tea and soft drinks are the only beverages offered.
The menu is nothing fancy, and the number of selections is not as ample as at other Chinese restaurants, and this is a good thing. Limiting the menu to those items that can be done well is certainly better than having more options than the restaurant can handle. But all the basic Chinese dishes most area diners would want are available.
The price for entrees runs from $4.50 to $6.75 and includes a choice of soup and an egg roll at lunch. After 3 p.m., soup and egg roll will cost you an extra dollar.
On a busy midweek at lunchtime, I ordered the Hunan chicken. Lunch at Best of China is served with steamed or fried rice, choice of soup and an egg roll. With a drink, the total for a generous amount of food is less than $7.50, which competes favorably with Chinese buffets in the area.
The hot and sour soup is something special at Best of China. The soup actually is "hot" and "sour," and the bamboo shoots and mushrooms seemed fresher and crisper than those found in the big pots at most buffets. It is one of the better versions of hot and sour soup in the area.
The Hunan chicken was prepared to order in a flavorful and spicy sauce and served with snow peas, broccoli, water chestnuts, mushrooms and baby corn. The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the sauce had a nice kick to it without being overly spicy.
It was a plentiful and tasty meal.
Located in a supermarket shopping center, Best of China is situated next to a pizza delivery place, a discount clothing story and a nail salon.
The restaurant is basically furnished and certainly nothing fancy, but the tables are clean and the walls feature photos of children of longtime customers.
The staff at Best of China is friendly and attentive. Drink glasses are kept topped off, and any problems with your meal are handled in a courteous manner.
It's the basic Chinese restaurant set-up, but food is served quick and hot. The experience is quite casual but also quite pleasant.
Certainly, you have the option to eat a wider variety of food at a Chinese buffet, but Best of China illustrates the benefits of having your food cooked to order.
The dishes at Best of China seem fresher and more carefully prepared. Vegetables and meats seem fresher, and the sauces have a more unique taste and can be seasoned to order if you want more or less spicy flavor with your meal. And with a price that comes in at well under $10, it's hard to beat the value considering the amount of food you are served and its quality.
And don't forget the hot and sour soup. It's really special.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...