Still the best Chinese food in town

General Tso’s Chicken is served on a bed of broccoli.

When Mike Mak’s father, S.K., and mother, Nancy, emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States, the couple was looking for the perfect city to start a new restaurant. After living in Chicago for a short time, S.K. hoped to find some place with a little more temperate climate.

“He didn’t like the cold weather,” Mike says.

After walking in what was, at the time, the Peking Chinese Restaurant at 3135 Calder Ave. in Beaumont, the Maks were sold. They’d found the perfect spot. With a major hospital in Christus –St. Elizabeth right across the street and direct access to I-10 less than a block away, a customer base was readily available. Thus, Great China was born.

That was 1979, and the restaurant is more popular than ever. There is nary a day that the restaurant isn’t packed during lunch hour, and the carryout counter is always bustling.

“About 70 percent of our business comes from our carryout,” Mike says. Waiter Moses Garfias, who has worked for Mike for more than 10 years, added that Fridays and Saturdays easily see around 500 orders in a day, and weekdays average around 250.

Besides the fact that the restaurant serves both traditional Mandarin-style and Cantonese Chinese food, the large portions for reasonable prices are probably one of the biggest perks when visiting this restaurant.

You’ll probably find this out on your first visit when you opt for a large order of the restaurant’s famous Shrimp Fried Rice ($7.95) versus a small ($5.95). Don’t let the “Small” label fool you. And the large is literally big enough to feed a family of four.

When asked why Great China, one of the first Chinese restaurants opened in Beaumont, according to Mike, hasn’t tried to reduce these portions over the years, Mike says he understands that some family budgets don’t allow for spending a lot eating out, and he wants them to enjoy both quality and quantity when they visit his restaurant.

The variety of menu options turns new customers into regulars, as a new food experience awaits them with every visit.

When asked about some of the most popular dishes on the Great China lunch menu, Garfias didn’t answer with one or two. There are nearly 10 menu items that customers regularly enjoy, he says.

The General Tso’s Chicken ($6.35) is always a solid choice. It has a little kick to it, as the chicken is prepared with a spicy sauce, but the bed of broccoli it is served on helps curtail the burn.

Let it be known that we have tried Mongolian Beef dishes from the casinos in Las Vegas, Lake Charles and many fancy restaurants in between, and without a doubt, Great China’s version ($6.35) is by far the best we have ever had. The beef is perfectly tendered and portioned, with a nice seasoning kick, and is complimented with another favorite of ours — fried rice. No worry about onions; this is exactly what you want in a fried rice, and it’s very light on the grease. “Perfect” is rarely used to describe food, but you can’t go wrong with this dish.

The Kung Po Chicken ($5.95) is another savory choice. Also served with a spicy sauce, this dish features water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers with your choice of fried or steamed rice.

And if you are looking to try something a little more creative, give the Seafood Bird Nest from the House Dinner menu a shot. A mix of crab, shrimp, scallops, baby corn, snow peas, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, and other veggies is sautéed and served on a deep fried noodle in the form of … yep, you guessed it, a bird nest. At $12.95, this, like all dishes at Great China, is reasonably priced and well worth the cost.

With all the success Great China has seen over the years, you would think the restaurant would open more locations or expand its business, but Mike says for now he is content with the perfect spot his father found on Calder more than 36 years ago. He and his wife, Amy, took over ownership of Great China when S.K. passed away in 1985 and haven’t looked back.

“We love it here. Beaumont is my hometown,” Mike says. “We’re happy, and the customers are happy too.”