Best Restaurants to Celebrate Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month


Photo by Carter Yang

Asian-American and Pacific Islander Month is celebrated every year in May. Photo by Cater Yang on Unsplash

Luke Bellinger, Staff Writer

Asian-American and Pacific Islander Month is upon us and it is time again to celebrate all things AAPI. Every city in the United States has some form of Asian/Pacific Islander community with its own rich history and culture. I’m lucky enough to grow up as an Asian-American with a reasonably diverse upbringing, so I am here to provide my favorite Asian food recommendations for what I do when I want to celebrate.

Lao Sichuan
2001 Coit Rd, Plano, TX 75075

Located in a strip mall in Plano, Lao Sichuan consistently creates the best regional Chinese cooking in the metroplex. I’ve been going to this restaurant for as long as I can remember, and I have many fond memories of eating there on a Sunday afternoon with my family, or on my birthday, or when anyone wanted to celebrate. If I could recommend a single restaurant to anybody who asked, it would be Lao Sichuan. This is where I’ve celebrated every birthday, every achievement, every time I did something worth eating out for. Some of their best dishes are: “Crispy Spicy Fish”, “Chong-Qing Crispy Spicy Chicken”, “Fu Qi Fei Pian”, “Dong-Po Pork Elbow”, and “Steamed Pork with Chinese Pickle”. All food is served family-style, where the table orders large dishes that are put in the middle of the table for everyone to eat. The “Chong-Qing Crispy Spicy Chicken” is, hands-down, my favorite food on this planet. I may be biased, because my grandfather is from the city of Chong-Qing where this dish comes from, but the crispy, spicy chicken on the hot rice really warms my heart. If you do order that dish, make sure to pick out the chicken alone, and don’t eat the dried chili peppers, or the peppercorns. Those are just there for flavor.

Al Rayan Kabab & Gyros
5504 Matlock Rd #150, Arlington, TX 76018

Every few weeks, I have to get an injection from an allergy clinic for my allergies. Across from that clinic is the best middle eastern food in the metroplex. Al Rayan is a humble no-frills eatery serving various sandwiches and platters. The portions are very big—the gyro sandwich usually comes with nearly a pound of meat—and the owners are friendly. Most importantly, the food is delicious. I usually get the Beef Shawarma, which comes with fries, homemade pickles, and garlic sauce, but the most underrated menu item they have is their hummus. If you’ve never had real hummus that didn’t come out of a plastic tub, then you’re missing out. Seriously, the hummus costs $6.00, but it is worth every penny. They also have good vegetarian options, the best of which is the “Falafel Mix” sandwich, which includes falafels, fried potatoes, fried eggplant, fried cauliflower, homemade pickles and cucumber salad, all in a giant Iraqi Samoun. Who said vegetarian food had to be boring? (Halal)

First Chinese BBQ
2214 S Collins St, Arlington, TX 76010

This is another nostalgic spot for me, another restaurant I’ve been going to since I was a tiny ABC. First Chinese BBQ, which specializes in southeast chinese cuisine and roasted meats, is an excellent, albeit jarring, restaurant to go to. When you enter and look to the left, you will see a display case with several ducks hanging by their necks. Below the ducks is a counter covered in dismembered carcasses of roasted chicken, pig, and sometimes cuttlefish. When the server runs by you screaming in Cantonese, that’s how you know it’s a good meal. Their best items are the roast duck (obviously), the roasted soy sauce chicken, the barbeque pork lo mein (white people, this is the only excusable place to get lo mein), “Slice Pork with Chef’s Special Sauce”, and the Wonton Soup. I remember countless times when I would go here and be comforted instantly by their incredible wonton soup. They make the stock out of all of the bones from the roasted animals, and their wontons are the size of tennis balls, and filled with pork and shrimp. (The wontons may contain some tendon, but you can just spit that out). Here are some tips—order the “Wonton Soup” and not the “Wonton Soup with Noodle” because they cost the same price, but the Wonton Soup (alone) has 12 wontons. Also, order the roasted meats alone, and not “over rice”, because you can order another dish, and they’ll give you as much rice as you want (for free) in a plastic bucket. You can also return that bucket to the waiter to get more rice. Also, don’t order orange chicken, or fried rice, or any dishes whose names you recognize. The jankier the translation, the better the food.

IndoPak World Market (Cafe)
808 SW Green Oaks Blvd, Arlington, TX 76017

Some of the best, most economical restaurants tend to be inside grocery stores. It is with that ethos that I recommend IndoPak World Market and their cafe as the best Indian/Pakistani food in the area. When walking in, there are aisles and aisles of specialty foods you won’t find at any other grocery store, and past all the checkout lanes, the humblest, most unassuming grocery store cafeteria cranks out the best biryanis, rolls, patties, and curries in the area. Every time I go, I usually get the Chicken Biryani, which is a flavorful rice dish dotted with chunks of bone-in chicken. They also have a Lahori Fish Fry, which is chunks of Beltfish fried in a thin, spiced chickpea flour batter. For something cheaper, all of the rolls are giant and delicious, filled with skewers of beef or chicken to your liking, and their patties and pakora are especially delicious. Sometimes it takes 15-20 minutes to get the food out, so I usually do my weekly shopping in the meantime. (Halal)

I’ve had the benefit of growing up in one of the most multicultural places in Texas, and as a corollary, I’ve also had the opportunity to eat at dozens of local Asian restaurants over the course of my lifetime. Out of all of those, these are the best DFW Asian restaurants I can recommend. Some of them you won’t find on Google—Lao Sichuan goes by the English name “Sichuanese Cuisine” and doesn’t even have a website. But these humble, unassuming restaurants make some of the best food I’ve ever had, and I hope that you—the reader of The Rider Online—don’t just read this article. I hope you actually patronize one of these small businesses because they deserve to continue operating, but also because their food is genuinely incredible. In the pandemic, over 90,000 restaurants closed nationwide, and I don’t want that fate to befall any of these incredible restaurants. So, for real, the next time you consider going to Applebee’s, or Cheddar’s or Chili’s, consider going to these restaurants instead. They’re the same price, with much better food, and they need your support. Happy AAPI month. Gong Xi!