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Beyond our biggest cities, seeking out the best Chinese restaurants in America can be like looking for needles (or better yet, noodles) in a haystack, only to find yourself grasping at straws. No doubt the entire history of the Chinese immigrant experience in America can be glimpsed in the fact that the best restaurants for Chinese food are likely to be mom-and-pop affairs that don’t cater to Westerners—they’re a little like our best Mexican restaurants in that way. Whether this dim sum parlor makes unreal char siu bao or that hole-in-the-wall serves dandan noodles to make you cry, their discovery by English speakers typically happens through word of mouth, actual or virtual. That said, these 17 restaurants—some new sensations, others decades-old icons—stand out for helping to define (or redefine, as the case may be) Chinese cuisine in their communities. From dim sum restaurants in New York to high-end restaurants in downtown L.A. to a local legend in Falls Church, these are the best Chinese restaurants in America—start planning your pilgrimages now. Follow Time Out USA on Facebook; sign up for the Time Out USA newsletter