While many of you are eating your turkeys and hams, opening presents and spending quality family time, there is a whole contingent of us out there that have our own tradition on Christmas: Chinese food and a movie. From where this tradition comes is up for debate, but it’s easy to surmise that since Christmas isn’t a big holiday on the Chinese calendar either, there was no reason to close, and everyone knows about Jews’ affinity to Chinese food.
Regardless of how old this tradition is, much has been written about it, and the “I Eat Chinese Food on Christmas” video explains the phenomenon quite succinctly!
If your Christmas plans include Chinese food, here are some of our favorite spots in the East Bay (in alphabetical order by city). Tip: call to make sure your choice is actually open on Christmas — not all of the restaurants listed have websites, although those that do are hyperlinked.
China Village, Albany
Albany’s China Village serves Northern Chinese food, and some claim it’s the most authentic around. Diners also appreciate the new remodel and the fact that it has a bar, which many Chinese places do not. While this one specializes in some of the more obscure specialties like jellyfish salad, they do the classics well, too, and according to some, the hot and spicy five spice pork shoulder is not to be missed. China Village, 1335 Solano Ave., Albany.
Renee’s Place, Albany
Some say Renee’s Place is the best of all the Chinese establishments along Solano Avenue, while others complain it’s too Americanized. Featuring Niman Ranch meats and Petaluma Poultry chicken, this is one of the few Chinese restaurants in the area to offer humanely raised meat, and as one would expect from such a place, they are also very vegetarian friendly. Renee’s Place, 1477 Solano Ave., Albany.
King Yen, Berkeley
Some say King Yen is some of the best Chinese in the Bay Area. Others beg to differ. A Berkeley mainstay, it offers what many call “Americanized Chinese food,” with many Elmwood families making it their “go-to” for years. Recommended: the crispy tea duck, mu shu pork and won ton soup. 2995 College Ave., Berkeley
Great China, Berkeley
The Peking duck at Great China is considered by many to be among the best in the Bay Area. Also its “double skin,” which is mung bean noodles mixed with a variety of vegetables, seafood and pork a close second. Diners also like the new location and renovation and large menu, though some occasionally complain about the service. Great China, 2190 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. [Update: Note that Great China is closed on Christmas day itself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it any other day around the holiday season, except Tuesdays.]
Shen Hua, Berkeley
A favorite of Elmwood-ers for years, the reviews on Berkeley’s Shen Hua are nevertheless mixed. Many five-star reviews say it’s one of the best in the area (people often comment on its spaciousness, especially compared to so many other Chinese places) and its “delicious” and “almost Chinese-fine-dining”-like qualities while others say service is lacking, the portions are pricey, and there is sometimes too much MSG. You decide. Shen Hua, 2914 College Ave., Berkeley. Connect with Shen Hua on Facebook.
Little Shin Shin, Oakland
Little Shin Shin often gets voted Best Chinese in the East Bay, and those who agree love its lollipop chicken with hot garlic sauce, while those who disagree say it’s in dire need of a remodel. It receives high marks from most, especially for its extensive vegetarian-friendly menu. Little Shin Shin, 4258 Piedmont Ave., Oakland.
Bay Fung Tong Tea House, Oakland
Salt and pepper dishes seem to be a favorite at Bay Fung Tong Tea House in Oakland’s Uptown, as well as the huge portions of seafood for very low prices. Many claim that they are often the only non-Chinese people eating here, which is always a good sign. Don’t expect much from the décor, but two can share a whole lobster for less than $20. Bay Fung Tong Tea House, 1916 Franklin, Oakland.
Shanghai Restaurant, Oakland
Xiao Long Bao, or soup dumplings, are one of those foods with a cult following, and for those that love them, Shanghai Restaurant in Oakland is one place they head. As one Yelper said, the dumplings are “juicy with a lot of meat inside.” Though there are others who say they don’t do the dough quite right. Their stinky tofu is another favorite, though this is definitely a “hole in the wall” kind of place, with less than exemplary service, according to many diners. Shanghai Restaurant, 930 Webster St. Oakland.
Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant, Oakland
Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant is known for hand-making its own noodles, which you can see happening as you enter, the texture of them is “to die for and oh so chewy,” according to one Yelper. But others complain the same noodles are too thick and doughy. Their dumplings are another favorite. Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant, 328 10th, Oakland.
Chef Lau’s, Oakland
One Yelper considers Chef Lau’s an extension of her mom’s dining room. That might be enough for some readers, but its low prices and complimentary soup and dessert appeal to many more. The preserved egg dishes are a favorite here. Chef Lau’s 301 8th Street, Oakland.
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