Merrill Shindler - Senior Zagat Editor

Merrill Shindler

L.A. Senior Zagat Editor

For Whom the Bell Chang’s

To survive in the highly competitive world of nationwide restaurants, you have to strike a careful balance between consistency -- and a willingness to change. A Big Mac is a Big Mac is a Big Mac. And yet, with regular irregularity, fans of Mickey D's show up for McRib sandwiches -- a break from routine, that makes everything taste that much fresher. In the case of PF Chang's, diners can always count on Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps, their Salt & Pepper Calamari, their Northern-Style Spareribs, their Crispy Honey Chicken. But these days, there's something more -- more for those who crave something more.

Gently, carefully, PF Chang's has begun to explore the very tasty world of the cooking of Southeast Asia with a handful of dishes from Thailand -- and an acknowledgement of the flavors of Vietnamese as well. These days, the menu includes such temptations Thai Basil Greens Salad, Vietnamese Crab Salad, Thai Chicken Noodle Salad and, for a limited time, Pad Thai Noodles (with chicken, shrimp, or both). Very tasty stuff -- and hopefully a harbinger of more to come. At the same time, there's also a Gluten-Free Menu, with 16 "GF" dishes -- including Crab Fried Rice, Chang's Spicy Chicken, and Singapore Street Noodles. Making what was already America's most popular family-friendly Chinese restaurant -- that much more family-friendly.

With dozens of branches from coast to coast, from Boston to Boca Raton and Bethesda to Bellevue (including several dozen in California), it's time to stop viewing the PF Chang's China Bistro chain as a clever novelty (born in the very non-Asian enclave of Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993) – a clever attempt at creating an authentic Chinese restaurant in a user-friendly setting that won't scare away those who find Monterey Park a little too real. In a very real sense, PF Chang's is how many American perceive Chinese food. It may not be as ubiquitous as the Panda Inn chain. But it also comes across as more serious in terms of its cuisine. Chang's is the bellwether for where we're going, en masse, in terms of the diverse cooking of China.

The menu is large at Chang's, even though it's something of a greatest hits list, offering about 130 dishes – minimalist in terms of local Chinese restaurants, but still plenty to choose from), with a Pan-China selection of dishes from Canton, Shanghai, Szechwan, Hunan and Mongolia. This is a Chinese restaurant for those who want cloth napkins, waiters who ask if they're enjoying their meal, a glass of something other than generic white wine poured from a gallon bottle.

At PF Chang's, the style is brisk, breezy, open, light and very, well, California. If anything, this is a child of Chinois on Main, with its seats at the kitchen counter, allowing diners to spend a pleasant evening watching the chefs do what they do.

In terms of food, PF Chang's walks a careful line between..

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3265 West Market Street, Suite 100A
Akron, OH 44333
(330) 869-­0560 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Akron on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Affordable Dining, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations
131 Colonie Center, Sp. 305
Albany, NY 12205
(518) 454-­0040 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Albany on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Family Style, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations
4440 the 25th Way, NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109
(505) 344-­8282 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Albuquerque on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Affordable Dining, Family Style, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations
215 W. Bethany Dr.
Allen, TX 75013
(972) 390-­1040 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Allen on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Affordable Dining, Family Style, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations
7925 N. Point Pkwy
Alpharetta, GA 30022
(770) 992-­3070 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Alpharetta on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Affordable Dining, Family Style, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations
321 W. Katella Ave. Ste. 120
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 507-­2021 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Anaheim on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Affordable Dining, Family Style, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations
307 Sail Pl.
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 573-­2990 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Annapolis on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Affordable Dining, Family Style, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations
215 E. I-20 Hwy
Arlington, TX 76018
(817) 375-­8690 See the location of P.F. Chang's - Arlington  on a map Map
Cuisine: Chinese
Services: Affordable Dining, Family Style, Online Take Out , Private Dining, Catering, Takeout, Reservations