Does Columbus have any ‘real’ Chinese food?

This question finds its way to us with increasing frequency, both online and in person, from dismissive newcomers to Central Ohio as well as jaded locals. We have plenty to say about it, but first, lets talk about this idea of what’s ‘real’. 

‘Real’, in this context, is almost always used as a synonym for ‘authentic’. To the extent that anyone has the authority to categorize any Chinese food as authentic, it certainly isn’t us. 

What we can do, though – with a little help from our friends – is to distinguish the restaurants that are cooking menu items for the Chinese palate from those that are not. In other words, while we’re not fools enough to believe that we can measure any given restaurant’s success in maintaining absolute fidelity to Chinese culinary tradition, we do believe that our merry band of grazers can discern the intent to appeal to a Chinese audience. And, we can share our thoughts on what we enjoy.

OK, so back to the original question. We have to admit that it evokes a mild sense of indignation in us, as we’ve been enjoying the fruits of many of the city’s delicious Chinese kitchens for years – often with Chinese dining companions – and have felt some measure of pride in the range of options available to a city of our size. I mean, ‘Are there any?’ Of course! How many? 

Time to make a list. 

This was a process full of surprises. Once we made our initial list, and then continued searching, we were astounded by how much it grew. There’s an awful lot out there, and far more than we’ve had the opportunity to experience.

Sounds like a new food adventure to us! Over the next year, we’re going to visit/revisit each one of the restaurants on the list (linked below), and we’re going to try them with as many people as is practically possible so we can try as broad of a range of dishes as possible. We’ll post a brief accounting of each here, and hopefully put that pesky question to rest once and for all. 

The List:

Well, almost there. Please bear in mind that while we’re trying to be complete, we may not have caught everything. If we missed something let us know! Also, please understand that some of these restaurants will only have Chinese-American offerings shown on their website. You have to explore their broader menu in person to get the full story – which is exactly what we intend to do.

After the full list (which also includes markets and bakeries), we’ve taken our first stab at categorizing restaurants by their specialties. This will be refined as our adventure progresses, but is intended to illustrate the breadth of regional and culinary specialization found among the city’s Chinese offerings.

Columbus Chinese Food Guide 


8 responses to “Does Columbus have any ‘real’ Chinese food?

  1. Moy’s has been my go-to since my undergrad years, before they even had a sign out front and you wouldn’t ever know it was there if you weren’t looking for it (and sometimes even if you were)

  2. I agree! Moy’s is a must try if you haven’t been there before. The owners are very friendly!

  3. Alfred R Cicone

    You failed to mention Sesame Sea in Dublin and Windchimes on Frantz Rd. Both of these restaurants are superior in the quality of their Chinese preparations!

  4. I am dying for some red-cooked pork in Columbus, which I think is a Shanghai specialty? The only place that has come even close so far is China Dynasty on Lane Avenue, both with their glazed rib appetizer and the twice-cooked pork entree. Most places just seem to serve pork with some barbecue sauce slapped on it. If y’all could note some places that have good red-cooked pork belly or pork hock in your guide, I would be so delighted. Thanks so much for this website, BTW. Wonderful resource for adventurous eaters!

  5. @Kim Briscoe Only place I know that has great pork hock is Siam Cafe in Cleveland.

  6. Anyone know of a Chinese kitchen in Columbus that delivers, but I heard you have to order via WeChat? Menu is Chinese only.

    • There are a couple of delivery services that specialize in Chinese food like Ricepo and Chowbus but we haven’t heard of a delivery only kitchen. There are a lot of new micro-food businesses operating so we wouldn’t be surprised if there is one!

  7. Yes, there are many restaurants in Columbus that provide authentic Chinese food.

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