Best Chinese Food Mainstay That Never Gets Old (2002)
We'll admit it: We're partial to this place because it's one of the few places--OK, the only place--in town where we feel, well, a little special. Not that we are or anything (even our own mama tells us we're not daily), but Kai-Chi Kao, known to regulars as "George," has a way of making us feel like Dean Martin at Musso & Frank's; he's there to welcome friend and stranger alike with a hearty how-do, and the waitstaff never forgets a name, face or favorite drink (ours is sake, more please). Kai-Chi, whose poppa Buck founded the joint in 1974, is hip to everything that makes an eatery divine: amazing food (do not miss the general shrimp, as crispy as it is sweet, or the dry-stirred beef, which we swear is a dessert), warm atmosphere (kitschy, but whimsically so) and rock-crit-cool music (Kai-Chi has the best CD collection this side of, well, us). And this is how we know Royal China deserves a Best Of: Every time we take people there, they always return without us--which we don't take personally, at all.