Located on the edge of Chinatown through one of the side gates off Archer, the original Lao Sze Chuan - a member of Tony Hu’s Chinese food empire - is most definitely not fancy. It’s a standard and somewhat barren Chinese restaurant with an endless menu of traditional Szechuan style dishes. Is it actually traditional Szechuan? We say the answer is both yes and no, because it really depends on what you order. But rather than argue about authenticity, we prefer to focus on the fact it’s good food.
Lao Sze Chuan is comfort Chinese food, and the menu offers everything from the standards you know and like to a wide array of Chinese dishes with poorly translated English explanations. We generally like to stick with some of our favorites while experimenting with a new dish or two at the same time.
While Lao Sze Chuan is generally reliable for its food, the atmosphere isn’t always so easy to pin down. We’ve been on a number of Friday and Saturday nights when it’s crowded, likely due to the fact it’s BYOB, but we’ve also been at similar times when it’s dead. We honestly can’t figure it out, but what we do know is you can make the mood whatever you want. Show up in sweat pants and a hoodie, or come with a group of people ready to drink and hit the bar. Nobody will judge you, and at Lao Sze Chuan you shouldn’t care either way.
Don’t let the service ruin your experience either, because it’s a total hit or miss. On our last trip, half the staff sat down to eat Good Humor ice cream bars in unison late on a Saturday night, and there was nothing to do other than shrug our shoulders and laugh.
Focus on the food and people you’re with, and overall it’ll be a great Chinese meal.
A nice spicy side to have around for snacking.
You need something green, so vegetables mixed in a black bean sauce are a good way to go.
This dish is like 60% red chili peppers and 40% chicken, and if you like spice it’s a solid option. We kind of wish there was a better chicken to chili ratio though.
There’s a reason this is a standard menu special and also our favorite. The lightly fried chicken comes in a well-balanced sweet and spicy sauce, highlighted by Chinese peppercorns and chili peppers. Order it.
A thick lobster based sauce with shrimp that’s meant to be eaten over rice. We dig the seafood flavors.
We are fans of Lao Sze Chuan’s hot pots, particularly for lunch. Mix and match the available meat, seafood, veggies, and noodles that you like best in a spicy or non-spicy base.