You’d think Royal China, situated near Preston Hollow and catering to a mostly American clientele since 1974, would have been surpassed many times over by the new wave of Chinese restaurants in Plano, Richardson and other northern suburbs. But this Dallas institution is more than keeping up with the times. Chefs pull noodles and roll dumplings before customers’ eyes at a bar added in 2008, and the menu now expands well beyond Americanized favorites to include specialties from Wuxi, Sichuan and Shanghai. Dan dan la mian noodles are one of the city’s most essential bowls, and many of the pork and seafood specialties, like slow-braised Wuxi pork ribs, are just as good.
Top pick: Coming to Royal China and not ordering noodles is tantamount to sacrilege. Choose between the cold bowls of dan dan noodles or go for the meaty, super-savory lu rou mian.
The downside: Like many nonspecialist restaurants, Royal China is one-upped on individual dishes by its competitors, like the superior soup dumplings at Fortune House or spicy wontons at Wu Wei Din. But most of the competition is in the suburbs, and many Dallasites don’t like driving that far.
Fun fact: Nearing its 50th birthday, Royal China is the oldest restaurant on the Top 100. In recent years, it has survived more than just a pandemic; in 2019 a tornado passed within yards of the building, but the restaurant reopened weeks later.