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Food & Drink

Best Old-School Chinese Food 

Henry's Hunan

Once upon a time, before the recent rise of Xi'an cuisine, before Mission Chinese, before fiery Szechuan food trickled out of the nation's Chinatowns, there was Hunan food, and Henry's Hunan to serve it to the gourmands of San Francisco. The New Yorker called the original Chinatown location "the best Chinese restaurant in the world" in a 1976 Talk of the Town with only a slight whiff of hyperbole. Gourmet gave it a fawning write-up in 1977; Craig Claiborne called it "the most talked about restaurant in San Francisco" in The New York Times in 1979. Despite changing public tastes over the past three decades, Henry's Hunan has endured, though now its food is more predictable than cutting-edge. The smoked ham, a Hunanese specialty, is maybe a trifle salty; the signature meat pie a touch too oily; the dishes like kung pao chicken and hot-and-sour beef fairly indistinguishable from all the others you've ever had. But the restaurant is still a reliable Chinese-American delivery mainstay, if only out of nostalgia for the impression it left on a generations of eaters just awakening to the possibilities of Chinese food.

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(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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