I have a confession. I have driven past this little place a million times ... and never tried it. It sits in the little plaza on Vineville that has housed many various businesses, but China Inn has outlasted nearly all of them. Maybe something about that longevity makes you think it will always be there, that you can try it later but then never do. Here’s the news: It’s worth the stop.
First, it’s much nicer inside than you might imagine. We had already planned to take away, but it was so pleasant and clean inside that we nearly reconsidered. Interestingly, they stayed constantly busy while we waited for our order, yet no one stayed to eat in the restaurant. As far as I can tell, this is more out of habit than any reflection on the dining area. Phone and online ordering is so streamlined and easy that it’s a once-a-week habit to just pick up dinner.
The next thing you’ll notice is that everything is made fresh to order in front of you. Whether you order from the Japanese hibachi menu or the Chinese section, you can watch your dinner being made. We started with the homemade spring rolls for $1 each and the $1.25 crab rolls, which are pretty much crab Rangoon but longer. Both were a little greasy but a paper towel will take care of that. We also tried the miso soup, but our taster wasn’t used to having seaweed in it and preferred the clear version.
Our first entree was the hibachi chicken for $8.29. The all-white meat was tender and the generous amount of onions complimented the grilled flavor perfectly. We also tried the hibachi steak and shrimp for $12.99, and it was at least as delicious as the chicken. For that price, you get an ample amount of large shrimp and lots of juicy steak.
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The shrimp in the Chinese teriyaki is much smaller, but there is plenty of it. It comes with fried rice, unless you specify otherwise, and mushrooms in the vegetables. The other Chinese dishes are equally high quality, such as the Hunan beef and General Tso.
For dessert, we had an order of the doughnuts (which were great on the car ride home) and the sesame bean cakes. Unless you’re feeling adventurous, I’d stick with the doughnuts.
My general impression is that China Inn has a loyal following and with good reason. The food is fresh, fairly fast and moderately priced. You probably can’t make it cheaper or better at home and you will probably have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Stop by this little gem next time you’re driving by and see why it’s been there for so long,
Address: 3268 Vineville Avenue
Hours: 11-9 Mon-Sat, closed Sun
Payment: cash, credit
Kids Menu: yes
Noise Level: low
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Health Rating: 100
Price range: $5.39-$12.99
Rating: 3 stars