You’ll be surprised to know that the relatively unknown city of Mexicali is home to some of the best Chinese food outside of China. Delicious Chinese food isn’t what you’d typically expect to eat in Mexico, but Mexicali’s Chinese food lives up to the hype. This is because Mexicali has historically had the largest population of Chinese people in all of Mexico.
Brief History of the Chinese Presence in Mexicali
After migrating to the U.S. in the 1900s to work on U.S. Railroads, a large Chinese population settled in Mexicali–a border city situated between California and Baja California–after the railroads were completed. Shortly after settling in Mexicali, the Chinese built a large underground China Town–dubbed “La Chinesca“–consisting of underground tunnels snaking below the streets of Mexicali.
While La Chinesca’s existence is largely forgotten today, this underground community was once a necessity for Mexicali’s Chinese population due to the persecution that they experienced, living underground to escape a much crueler fate. They lived in these tunnels until they were forced to flea due to flooding in the 1970s, but the tunnels still exist to this day and can be visited through organized tours.
All this is to say that the Chinese people and culture have a long and complicated history in Mexicali. The incredible Chinese food that you can eat in Mexicali today is the result of the tenacity of the Chinese people in Mexicali–important to remember when you’re chowing down on that delicious Lo Mein.
We spent a sunny Saturday afternoon trying some of the best Chinese food that Mexicali has to offer. Here are our favorite spots:
Best Chinese Restaurants in Mexicali
Restaurante Pekin was our favorite Chinese restaurant in Mexicali, in part due to the incredible food, but also because of the friendly service. The restaurant is very modern and large, with high ceilings and ample seating.
The food at Restaurante Pekin was truly incredible. We ordered the Mandarin Chicken with a side of fried rice, both of which were absolutely delicious. The chicken was warm and crispy, and the fried rice was so tasty and flavorful–some of the best we’ve ever had.
The server was even kind enough to bring us some chipotle chicken on the house. The chicken was perfectly fried, and the spicy chipotle sauce on top made it extra juicy and delicious. While everything we ate at Restaurante Pekin was amazing, the friendly service was what truly made our experience.
Beijing Restaurant had the best atmosphere out of any restaurant that we went to. Their back wall was beautifully decorated with a mural of the Great Wall of China, and modern panels of art flanked the ceiling. They also had a bar in the back of the restaurant displaying various bottles of Chinese alcohol.
We decided to order a few appetizers at Beijing Restaurant since this was our first stop of the day. The crispy cheese wontons were absolutely delicious, dipped in a sweet and sour sauce for an extra pow of flavor. The spring rolls that we ordered were equally delicious; so crispy and fresh that the roll broke apart as you bit into it.
Restaurante China House
We had high hopes for Restaurante China House since the reviews that we saw online were stellar–it didn’t disappoint. This was the busiest of the restaurants that we went to, and for good reason. China House has a bustling, modern atmosphere, with large TVs featuring sports games for patrons to enjoy.
Throughout the restaurant, we watched as each table was brought massive stacks of delicious looking Chinese food. The large portion of the dishes is truly MASSIVE–it looks like it might fall off the plate it’s stacked so high!
We ordered the small portion of the vegetable lo mein, and it was absolutely humongous! It was plenty of food for two people. It was fresh and hot and tossed in a light sauce that really completed the dish. They also served the dish with a plate of fresh streamed rice. We would definitely go back to China House and recommend it to anyone who loves Chinese food.
Restaurante Imperial Garden
Restaurante Imperial Garden was yet another incredible Chinese restaurant in Mexicali. This place felt a little more traditional than the other places that we tried, and we appreciated the authenticity. The entire room was decorated with beautiful Chinese accents, including the beautiful ceramic sculptures on display at the back of the restaurant.
The food at Restaurante Imperial Garden has more of a focus on seafood than the others, so this is the place to go if you love shrimp. We ordered the Won Ton Soup Especiale, with a side of chipotle won tons. Both were delicious, but we loved the chipotle won tons the best–the sauce was delicious.
Dragon Restaurante is clearly a very popular spot among locals–the place was packed when we stopped by even though it was 3 PM. We had stopped by for a light dessert since we were stuffed at this point, and they unfortunately don’t have any dessert. Even though we didn’t get to try anything, we felt compelled to include Dragon Restaurante on our list for its popularity and excellent reviews.
The Chinese food scene in Mexicali is every bit as delicious as we had hoped it would be. The reasonable prices were also a huge selling point, we didn’t spend more than $20 USD (including tip) at any restaurant that we went to. It made it even better to experience knowing the rich history of the Chinese people in Mexicali.
One thing that we loved is that nearly every restaurant brought us out some fish chips to snack on while we waited for our food. They aren’t Jack’s favorite, but I love them and appreciated the free snack.
You can check out our full adventure eating Mexicali Chinese Food in our video!
If you are ever in the area, we highly recommend stopping by Mexicali to try some truly amazing Chinese food. It’s a hidden gem in Baja California and the world should know.
Here’s a few other posts about Baja California that you may enjoy:
- 16 Incredible Things To Do In Tijuana, Mexico
- 19 Amazing Things To Do In Rosarito, Mexico
- Perfect Baja California Itinerary: Roadtrip to Tijuana, Rosarito & Ensenada
- Popotla Fishing Village: Beachside Seafood in Mexico
- La Bufadora: Exploring Ensenada’s Marine Geyser
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