Smile Politely

A plethora of tasty options at Golden Harbor

Table food: overlooking a table full of plates of food featured in the article
Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

I find Golden Harbor to be a bit of an enigma. Half the time when I ask someone about it, they say it’s their favorite place for Chinese cuisine in town. The rest of the time, the person has never been there. So this review will probably make some readers go “duh,” and for the rest, I hope this is convincing to go out to eat there.

Find Golden Harbor on Neil Street, just east of the library. Chances are that you drive by it almost every day.

Golden Harbor building: A large white building sits off a street. Red lettering reads “Golden Harbor” over a black sign reading “Authentic Chinese Cuisine.”
Remington Rock

The restaurant seats many and offers something for just about everyone.

Menu Wall: A red-painted wall is covered in dozens of black slat signs with white Chinese symbols painted on them.
Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

I say that because they have four different menus: Chinese-style, American-style Chinese, Taiwanese stir-fry, and vegetarian. If you can’t find something appetizing from literally hundreds of options, then I don’t know what to tell you.

It can feel overwhelming at first with all the options. I advise narrowing down what you might be in the mood for — whether that’s beef, chicken, tofu, or veggie. If you find yourself really hungry, maybe just pick a number and get ready, because the portions are also generous, and I’ll get to that in a bit.

Menus: A rack of many different types of menus offering different cuisines: American Style Chinese, Authentic Chinese, Taiwanese stir fry, and vegetarian.
Remington Rock

We spent the most time deciding what to order. We spent the least amount of time waiting for food — it came out incredibly fast. We had just enough time to get complimentary water and hot tea before the food arrived at our table. We dined on two appetizers, a tofu dish, and a brisket main.

Two egg rolls on a plate beside bright red sauce.
Egg rolls at Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

We enjoyed the vegetable egg rolls ($3.50 for two) first. The crispy fried shell was filled with classic veggies like cabbage and carrots. The food came out piping hot, so being able to dip the egg rolls in sweet and sour sauce helped relieve a bit of that heat (because I’m impatient and can’t wait when it comes to egg rolls). They were delicious, and the best part is that — unlike many other egg rolls — the filling didn’t spill out after that first bite. The veggies stayed put, making it a pleasant intro to the meal.

Dumplings: a plate holds eight pieces of dumplings and a small cup of soy sauce.
Dumplings at Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

The other appetizer chicken-filled fried dumplings ($8.75 for 8 pieces) weren’t as crispy as I personally would have liked, but the softness of the inner shell was complementary to the savory filling. They came with soy sauce for dipping which made for a nicely salty option.

Tofu: a plate holds cubes of fried tofu and vegetables covered in a brown sauce.
Tofu at Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

After trying to not fill up on fried appetizers and ignore the incredible smell of fresh food on the table, it was time to dig into the kung-pao fried tofu with fried rice ($18.50). Deliciously spongy texture with slightly crispy outside, the sauce was the boss on that dish. It was juicy and salty and everything I’d hoped for — I ordered it based on recommendation from more than one coworker. The accompanying vegetables of celery, green pepper, and onion were perfectly cooked. I had a difficult time not eating them all. You know when you’re so full but can’t stop eating because everything is just too tasty? That was me. The dish also came topped with peanuts and pepper flakes. The peanuts gave it a nice, salty crunch. Even though the dish was delicious, I was a little disappointed only because I intended to order the fried tofu with snow peas, and no peas were to be found. But no loss, it was still delicious.

Brisket with mala: a white bowl holds noodles topped with meat covered in peppercorns and chili sauce.
Brisket with mala at Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

My partner was the brave one, having ordered the beef brisket with mala noodles ($22). In addition to beef, it also came with tripe. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with mala, but it’s literally mouth-numbing seasoning made from Szechuan peppercorn and chilis. He’s silly. Anyway, I did try it for the sake of this review, and I will say, I suppose I understand why someone who loves spicy food would order it. It wasn’t just spicy for the sake of being spicy; it was a complex, dense flavor that really lifted up the dish. I mean, would one enjoy eating tripe if it didn’t have a little pizzazz to it? It was a really well-cooked tripe, not like eating a rubber band (my concern). The noodles and meat were coated well. It wasn’t something I could eat the whole bowl of, but my partner did really enjoy it.

Tea: a metal pot beside a ceramic mug with small flower detail.
Tea at Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

This next portion was the second longest of the meal. After packing up our leftovers — trust me, you’ll have them, we sat to digest while enjoying a pot of jasmine tea. The complimentary tea available was that and oolong. Sipping light, hot tea after enjoying all the complexity of our meal was so delightful and a nice ending to a lovely dining experience. I absolutely love eating “family-style” and ordering a diverse mix of dishes for everyone to share. If you’re ever in a group with different tastes and big appetites, then I definitely recommend Golden Harbor. They even have large lazy-susans in the middle of their bigger tables, which would be optimal for sharing, savoring, and socializing.

For those who can’t dine in at the restaurant, they also offer carryout. Hopefully Golden Harbor becomes less of an enigma and more of an institution. It really is one of the most robust dining options in town. I’ll return to tackle more of that menu soon.

Table food: overlooking a table full of plates of food featured in the article
Golden Harbor; Photo by Remington Rock

Golden Harbor
505 S Neil Street
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. + 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Su 11:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. + 4 to 7:30 p.m.

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