China Best is just up the hill from Cal State East Bay (formerly Cal State Hayward), up on the hill in Hayward. It’s in a small shopping center with a quickie mart, a Subway, a pizza joint, a dry cleaners, and a rotating variety of relatively unmemorable shops. China Best is by far the greatest thing about this shopping center; I’ve been coming here since they opened their doors in 1999.
CB is actually quite a disputed spot; I know people who do not like it there at all for a variety of reasons. I, however, do like it. It’s clean, the service is friendly and ridiculously fast, and the menu has a good selection of veggie and non-veggie items. Patrons order at the counter where there are always the same two ladies taking cash and serving the food—literally every single day for 11 years I think these two ladies have been stationed in the same spot behind the counter. I have never seen them missing; it’s almost eerie.
The menu is divided up into sections: seafood, chicken, beef, and vegetables are the main items, in addition to appetizers, soup, rice, and noodle dishes. They offer a “luncheon” deal that includes an entree, steamed rice, and a won ton, a “combo” meal that includes an entree, rice, and chow mein, or “a la carte” dishes that are just a huge plate of a single entree. It’s a pretty good system; I always order the combo to get a little bit of everything.
My old go-to was always the sweet and sour chicken, back in the day. Shows you how long I’ve been going to China Best. Since my veggie years began, I have typically ordered the dry fried string bean dish, which is green beans fried in a light, salty sauce, with plenty of garlic chips sprinkled throughout. It’s delicious. Other veggie dishes include string beans with tofu, mixed fresh veggies in black bean or curry sauce, garlic tossed fried broccoli, hot and spicy tofu, and eggplant, zucchini, or asparagus with tofu. The variety of meat dishes is even more extensive; they certainly offer something for everyone.
I’ve recently taken a liking to Sliced Fish Filled in Orange Peel Sauce; it’s tasty though not very sweet or orangy (in a good way). Boyfriend orders sweet and sour prawns which are very generously covered in deep fried batter, slathered in sweet and sour sauce, and topped with veggies and pineapple. It’s not health food, people, but it’s good.
The chow mein is something of a contested item—you either love it or you hate it. With a combo meal comes a portion of chow mein noodles with nothing in it. No carrots, no meat, no bean sprouts (take a deep breath, Dad). Just soft, delicious noodles. If you like them, they’re great. And I like them. The rice is standard, not much to discuss. With each meal also comes a bowl of hot and sour soup which is excellent. I used to crave it when I was away from home.
Overall, I think China Best is great. It’s not somewhere you go when you’re on a diet. It’s not somewhere you go every night. But now and again, for a quick (and I mean quick) bite of yummy Chinese, it certainly hits the spot.