Best Chinese Food
There was a man whose patient gaze used to preside over all who stroll along the student shops and bars of South University. Garbed in chef’s white, he used to stare out from a fading placard with the sort of solemnity that would inspire trust even in casual passerby. Chef Jan’s noble visage has since inexplicably disappeared from the front window of the China Gate Restaurant, but his legend lingers on.
If Chef Jan does remain something of a minor Ann Arbor celebrity of only because of the store’s display, it’s certainly not for his modesty – China Gate’s window and menu both proudly list his slew of culinary competition victories (2001, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1983) as well as his former wins as a Michigan Daily favorite (1998-2001, 2006) and many stop before the restaurant’s bright facade of red, white and blue to puzzle over the possibility that a decorated chef may have actually set up shop on this student strip. The accomplished chef himself, however, is decidedly elusive. Jan’s longtime absence from the restaurant leaves him as a sort of emblematic figurehead, a status which only adds further to his mythic allure.
Whether or not Chef Jan himself really is slinging the beef with broccoli back there in China Gate’s kitchen, the restaurant remains Ann Arbor’s favorite destination for Chinese food, an undeniable step up from East University’s Lucky Kitchen, and miles above the Union’s unfortunate Magic Wok. China Gate offers a full array of classic Chinese dishes, reasonably priced from seven to 12 dollars, as well as what must be the fastest sit-down service in town. Conveniently situated near the heart of campus on the corner of South University Avenue and Church Street, China Gate’s place on this year’s list of local favorites continues a long streak of well-deserved popularity.
– Kristin MacDonald