Chinatown in San Antonio?

Not a real Chinatown, just a Chinese restaurant in a strip center.

I confess. Great Chinese food is a real treat for us. And it's impossible to make it at home. Our chef friends tell us you really need a very, very hot special burner for the wok, which most people don't have. However, we are considering it in our next house that I promise will have the ultimate kitchen.

But I'm not talking about lemon chicken and certainly not sweet and sour pork. And not even beef and broccoli.

I really like authentic Chinese food, which is hard to find in San Antonio. But thanks to a few foodcentric friends (thanks Julia and Jason), I have been enjoying eating at an authentic Chinese restaurant for several years.

And since there are so many of you who have sung the praises of El Bucanero and Erick's, I've decided you've now earned the right to this secret spot as well.

But, you've got to promise...promise me one thing. You promise, right?

You've got to promise me that you'll ask for the Chinese menu and ONLY order from the Chinese menu because if you order from the lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork menu, I'll never share another one of my secret spots with you again. (If you order from the regular menu, they write your order down in English, but if you order from the Chinese menu, they write your order on the ticket in, right?)

Phoenix Chinese Cafe is located in a strip center at the corner of West Avenue and Blanco, where the old Albertson's used to be—just across the street from Little Italy. The address is 11821 West Avenue and the phone number is 210-525-1961. They are open seven days a week from 11 am until 10 pm.

Helen is our favorite waitress. She only works on Wednesdays and Sundays, and she knows what we like, how we like it and always takes exceptional care of us. It's funny, sometimes we don't even order, she just says what she thinks we want and we're done. Old habits die hard...

The Chinese menu is chock full of all kinds of things from recognizable dishes to the bizarre and not generally for gringos.

It would be wrong not to begin this authentic experience with our favorite dim sum dish which is available all day, every day...not just on the weekends.

Chinese eggplant stuffed with shrimp
and topped with an amazing brown sauce

Chinese eggplant stuffed with shrimp is the things memories are made of. The brown sauce absolutely makes the dish sing. Three come to an order, which means if there's two of you, you'll likely fight over the last one, but just ask for a knife (they will give you one upon request) and cut the damn thing in half to be fair about it. You'll also want Helen to bring you some rice so you can soak up the sauce, because I can assure you it's that amazing.

On a cold day, we recommend a piping hot bowl of rice noodle soup with roasted pork, but I am betting that all of the soups are equally amazing. There's even soup with things like fish balls and beef balls, but I will leave that for Andrew Zimmern.

David has ordered the duck once or twice, but being that I am a pescatarian (who also eats pork...oops!), he is mostly forced to share a seafood dish.

We have had a whole fried fish that we devoured in mere moments, although we generally order the Stir Fried Double Squid dish that comes with a few vegetables and a clear sauce. And we always get it with $2 of's a long story...but trust me, it's the way to go.

And since I love Asian vegetables, we will usually get a half order of vegetables—bok choy, choy sum, Chinese broccoli or snow pea leaves with garlic are some of my favorites.

The dishwashers love us here, and I just know they'll love you, too.

Buen provecho!
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