Slideshow: Staff Picks: Our Favorite Chinese Restaurants in Chicago

Sun Wah BBQ
Sun Wah BBQ
For me, Chinese food is all about three components: rice, noodles, and meat. My go-to Chinese restaurant, Sun Wah BBQ, satisfies my criteria. All of the dishes are made fresh in the kitchen, where you can actually peer through the large glass windows to witness the whole process. Their meat combination over rice and pan-fried noodles with shrimp are my favorite meals to order. The meat combination includes pork and roasted duck, and yes, the skin is still on both. The skin is crispy and the duck meat is tender. The juices from the pork and duck create their own sauce that engulfs the rice. They also add soy sauce on top of the rice that was used to marinate their chicken, which adds a tasty punch. The pan-fried noodles are piled high on a plate with large, succulent shrimp mixed in. It's worth mentioning that their portions are very large—a small plate costs between $5.50-7.00—and will feed at least two people. This is a great place to go with friends or family, and you can eat well without burning a hole in your pocket. Chelsea Ross

Sun Wah BBQ, 5039 North Broadway Street, Chicago, IL 60640 (map); 773-769-1254; sunwahbbq.com‎

[Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Lao Hunan
Lao Hunan
When it comes to Chinese food in Chicago, there's no place I like better than Lao Hunan in old Chinatown. Everything at the bright, primary-colored space is meant to be enjoyed family style, as evidenced by the round communal tables that are more Lazy Susan than anything else. The best approach is to grab a bowl of rice, spin the table roulette style, chopstick out bits of what you want onto said rice, and repeat until you're close to bursting. I can't possibly leave you with only one dish, so I'll give you the requisite foundation to any meal I enjoy at Lao Hunan (I rarely ever go with less than 3 people): cool, appetite-whetting Jade Tofu, hot and funky Famous Hunan Chili in Black Bean Sauce, rich and gelatinous Chairman Mao's Favorite Pork Belly, and Dry Chili Fish Fillet, a plate of fried fish that will forever change the way you think about tilapia. Joe Roy

Lao Hunan, 2230 South Wentworth Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616 (map); 312-842-7888; tonygourmetgroup.com‎

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Phoenix
Phoenix
Phoenix is the place you go when you want to see elderly Chinese men taking shots. Or when you're an elderly Chinese man, and you want to take shots. Or when you want amazing Chinese food. As much as I love fried something with goopey brown sauce at cheap Chinese restaurants, Phoenix is good because it mixes in more authentic dishes. If you're smart you go with the BBQ half chicken or the Szechuan twice cooked pork. My favorite is the beef with fried dough. Simple, delicious, and it still has something fried. Eric Singerman

Phoenix, 2131 South Archer Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616 (map); 312-328-0848; chinatownphoenix.com‎

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Sun Wah BBQ
Sun Wah BBQ
You know, I hardly eat Chinese food; I don't have anything against it, it's just not something I eat very often for whatever reason. However, the one bite I always, always, always go back for, is the Peking Duck at Sun Wah BBQ. I've definitely written about it before; I love it so much. It's not the biggest secret in Chicago, but whenever I think about the first course of those pillowy steamed white buns with the fatty crispy duck skin, those sweet and tart pickled vegetables, the fresh slivers of carrot and green onion, and the sweet funky hoisin sauce, I die. Chinese or not, it's one of the most perfect bites on the face of this planet. Dennis Lee

Sun Wah BBQ, 5039 North Broadway Street, Chicago, IL 60640 (map); 773-769-1254; sunwahbbq.com‎

[Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

Chiu Quon Bakery
Chiu Quon Bakery
I have a few nicknames, but the one that I have truly earned that I don’t mind is Barbecue Pork Bun (.92), though it sadly only applies at Chiu Quon Bakery. What you can taste is the moist goodness of the copious, brick-hued pork against the plush, subtle sweetness of the egg-washed buns. What you can’t taste is the addictive chemical they somehow work in there that leaves you completely satisfied, yet wanting more. I’m more than happy to share the nickname. Josh Conley

Chiu Quon Bakery, 1127 West Argyle Street, Chicago, IL 60640 (map); 773-907-8888; chiuquonbakery.com‎

Ginger and Garlic
Ginger and Garlic
My pick for favorite Chinese restaurant would be Ginger and Garlic in Naperville. Go suburbs! The service leaves a lot to be desired, but the decor is modern, the restaurant is spacious and clean, and the food is great. Like with many Chinese restaurants, some of the best dishes are only on the Chinese menu. Ask for the kou shui ji or "spicy slobber chicken" as an appetizer. This Szechuan specialty is served at room temperature with spicy chili oil, cilantro, peanuts, and green onions. Be warned that it is very oily though, hence the "slobber" in the name, but delicious in small doses. Salted egg yolk fish fillet and shrimp are on the English menu as well, and the egg yolk lends a delicate grainy texture to the crisp outer skin, while leaving the seafood inside soft and fresh. Plus, you get extra protein! Amber Gibson

Ginger & Garlic, 1633 North Naper Boulevard, Naperville, IL 60563 (map); 630-799-3888; gingerandgarlicrestaurant.com‎

[Courtesy of Ginger and Garlic]

Lao Ma La
Lao Ma La
I'm something of a Tony Hu groupie, so whenever I start to crave Chinese food, I immediately think of his many restaurants first. Thing is, even after eating at all seven of his Chinatown restaurants, I find it hard to pledge my allegiance to any single place. But I do have three that I love a little more than the rest: Lao Sze Chuan, Lao Hunan, and Lao Ma La. Considering the first two have already been discussed, I'll focus on Lao Ma La, Hu's love letter to chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. Both are dramatic ingredients on their own, but when combined, the two are responsible for the numbing-spicy sensation that makes your mouth feel like it is simultaneously on fire and completely disconnected from your body. It's hard to go wrong with the spicy fish in pan, but don't forget about the grilled skewers. Nick Kindelsperger

Lao Ma La, 2017 South Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60616 (map); 312-225-8989; tonygourmetgroup.com‎

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]