When it comes to picking the best Asian restaurants in Inver Grove Heights, local residents are a fickle bunch. Longtime residents are sure to dismiss any positive review of Super Work, Little Asia Bowl and A&L Chinese because they are set in their ways and no matter what a review says, they believe Peking Cafe is the best.
That’s fine and all, but Peking Cafe is in South Saint Paul (Address: 1521 5th Street, St Paul, MN 55075) and doesn’t qualify for a best Asian restaurant in Inver Grove Heights article.
So that leaves the three Asian restaurants in town left for debate as the best Asian/Chinese/Cantonese restaurant in Inver Grove Heights. There is never a one-size-fits-all answer that will satisfy every reader. And we won’t try to tell you what we believe is the best Asian restaurant in Inver Grove Heights, because every person has different qualifications, tastes and likes. We love Super Work and the taste of their shrimp pan noodles, hot and spicy shrimp dishes, chicken lo Mein, chicken fried rice and Moo Goo Gai Pan, as well as their lunch combination meals. Others love the Pho at Little Asia Bowl and IGH lifers love Peking Cafe’s cream cheese wontons and chicken chow Mein.
Whether your favorite is Super Work, Little Asia Bowl or A&L Chinese, we just know this:
We finally gave A &L Chinese a chance, and it was good. Really good. Located next to the McDonald’s near Upper 55th, at 5800 Cahill Ave, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076, A&L Chinese has suffered because of the poor reputation of past Chinese restaurants in that location. It’s changed names and owners over time, and it’s hard to believe that A&L Chinese has been in IGH under that name for three years now.
But on a cold night just before the New Year, we stopped into A&L Chinese. It was about 7 p.m. on a Wednesday and the restaurant was empty. One family was eating, but while we were there four people came in to order takeout.
We were surprised to learn there isn’t a buffet at A&L Chinese. But it was a pleasant surprise. Chinese buffets are hit and miss, and that late at night, who knows how long the food could be sitting there. The best part was, we got fresh food cooked to our order. And that’s what’s nice about A&L Chinese.
We ordered shrimp lo Mein ($8.95) and asked for it to be extra spicy. It came out hot, loaded with vegetables, sauce and was definitely spicy, but a good spicy and not overwhelming. The vegetables were crisp and crunchy and the taste of the sauce was exactly what we would expect with lo Mein. We would have liked some more shrimp in the dish, and possibly bigger shrimp, but it was worth the price.
We then also ordered the prawns with salt and hot pepper ($14.95). This was basically 12 butterflied, deep fried shrimp, which comes with a very taste side of fried garlic and bell peppers that looks like couscous but tastes much better – that is if you like fried garlic. The breading on the shrimp was light and flavorful, but it had more of a coconut shrimp taste than salt and hot pepper. One negative was the shrimp was cooked with the shell on – why restaurants do that baffles us. Our friendly server tried to show us how to remove the shell and keep the breading on, but it didn’t seem possible. The shrimp dish would have benefitted from additional sauce options. They provided sweet and sour sauce and we had soy sauce, but even a tartar sauce or cocktail sauce would have been great (but that isn’t very authentic Asian so no surprise that wasn’t available). All of this also came with the traditional side of white rice.
Our server was very knowledgeable and friendly and did a great job of explaining the menu, different options and providing suggestions. Next time we go there we are going to try the steamed prawns with garlic sauce – those would be some nice sized steamed shrimp to try. In fact, there is no restaurant in Inver Grove Heights that offers as large of shrimp as there is available at A&L Chinese.
The menu is full of authentic and traditional Cantonese dishes, such as crab meat and fish tripe soup, shrimp ball rice noodle hot pot and shredded roast duck. There are the traditional chicken, beef, pork, tofu, noodles and rice dishes that are popular at all Asian restaurants (sweet and sour chicken, chicken or beef broccoli, Szechuan chicken, sesame chicken, orange chicken, chow Mein, egg rolls, cream cheese wontons and much more) and lunch combo meals are available for $6.25 Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There’s also plenty of unique menu items like pig stomach with chili bean black soup, deep fried crispy intestine and deep fried crispy chicken. A&L Chinese has been recognized in various food reviews and articles for having some of the best dim sum in the Twin Cities and others have commented on the Congee, which is a type of rice porridge or gruel popular in many Asian countries.
It took us three years to try A&L Chinese in Inver Grove Heights, but we wish we didn’t wait that long. The inside of the restaurant is nice, featuring traditional Asian restaurant decor and there is room for large groups or small parties and individuals.
You may not think A&L Chinese is the best Asian restaurant in Inver Grove Heights, but we liked it and recommend you give it a try. You could be pleasantly surprised. We sure were.
Hidden secret: A&L Chinese may be the best Asian restaurant in Inver Grove Heights