Johnny Blanco! A man after my own heart! A legitimate (Old time - NY/NJ Surburban Cantonese style)Chinese food lover! First sign that a Chinese restaurant is going to be good...the table noodles and the duck sauce. The best places are not lazy! They fry won ton skins into the most wonderful table noodles. You sit down to a bowl of 3/4" wide wonderful greasy noodles ..Brooklyn's Chinese restaurants use to be famous for these. Richard Yee's, The San Pan, etc.
Then comes the duck sauce. It has to be doctored up! They all buy the duck sauce in 5 gallon tubs (we brought it for our restaurant for our Chinese Roast Pork on Garlic Hoagies). The good places add applesauce, fresh garlic and some even add pimento to the basic stuff to make it really taste great.
So, before you have even looked at the menu, you've downed the first bowl of these noodles and gone through the duck sauce. "Waiter? Can we please have more noodles and a bowl of the duck sauce?" He usually bitches silently, but returns with the goods. They have the most incredible, friendly personalities don't they? But, they sure as hell can cook and that's all that matters to me!
Then the next true test for any great "Old School Cantonese" Chinese restaurant is the Won Ton Soup. Are they lazy or do they do the right thing? The right thing is some actual pork filling within the won tons, lots of greens, legitimate pieces of roast pork and a really good broth. Put some scallions on top and we're good to go. Me, I like mine mixed with egg drop soup.
Then comes a great egg roll ( with pork and shrimp in it), great shrimp with lobster sauce (No peas and carrots) the standard to judge any Cantonese palce by IMHO, great ribs, roast pork ends, legitimate fried rice with big pieces of roast pork..NO PEAS AND CARROTS!
I've had Chinese plenty of times in San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. It's all been very good..No, never seen table noodles either. When you stick to the seafood dishes like dungeness crab with black bean sauce or salt and pepper crab on the Left Coast, it's good. Hey, why do anything else when you live on the East Coast. We never see dungeness crab...
I do like NYC's Chinatown better than SF's because I have not found anything quite as good as NY Noodletown or Big Wong's in SF. you never see noodles or duck sauce in Chinatown unless you ask and it's lousy duck sauce.
I wanted to clarify my post..It really is addressing the 1960's Chinese food I grew up with. It is not Chinatown Chinese. It's still around, but harder to find.
SF is really pretty good. And, if you live in Florida, either coast is REAL GOOD!