Historic Downtown Wheaton embraces many of the boutique gift stores, chic spas, and diverse culinary offerings that populate the historical storefronts of the western suburb’s walkable central shopping district. Before embarking on a day of checking off gift lists or simply sightseeing, slip under the colorful awnings at Front and Hale Streets to sneak a breakfast bite at the Egg Harbor Café, where The Handler sandwich tucks egg, bacon, and cheese onto a gourmet pretzel roll ($8.95). Eco-friendly gift shop It’s Our Earth's “buy recycled” philosophy unfolds space for ample creativity in the form of Snack Journals ($7 each)—fun notebooks reimagined from SpongeBob and Spiderman snack boxes that make the dog eating one's homework a slightly likelier excuse.
Before touching down on the dining-room tables, plates greet diners with the wafting aromas of authentic Chinese-style veggies, spices, and sauces. Equally adept at sautéing tofu, shredding pork, and crisping duck, the cooks can accessorize their entrees' savory flavors with spoonfuls of sweet 'n' sour plum sauce or fiery scoops of hot-chili paste, which burns as intensely as a bonfire full of matchbooks. For added doses of transpacific flavor, they can also stir in traditional Chinese ingredients such as water chestnuts and stir-fried string beans.
Since 1980, Golden Wok Restaurant's chefs have used zero-trans-fat vegetable oils while preparing spice-filled Cantonese and Mandarin cuisine. At dinner, the restaurant's tables fill with dishes of sizzling barbecue pork egg foo young, chow mein and lo mein, and Cantonese–style lobster tails.
Veteran chefs prepare Stir Crazy’s Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes on sizzling woks right in the dining room. So while diners-to-be ponder the menu of more than 50 traditional and innovative Asian creations, they'll witness knives quartering veggies and flames lapping at the edges of the wok as the sights, smells and sounds of the kitchen come alive around them. Should your taste buds riot at the sight of all this mouth-watering action, satisfy them with an appetizer like the Ahi tuna and avocado poke ($8), a spicy stack of fresh fish and cool veggies. For main courses, choose from an array of entrees like the sweet and sour chicken, a dish featuring tender pieces of crispy chicken tossed with broccoli, red and green peppers, onions, carrots, and pineapple in a sweet and tangy sauce ($12.50). Or manage your intake with the Crazy Feature menu, which offers smaller-in-portion but towering-in-flavor classics like Mongolian beef or sesame chicken, served with a crispy veggie spring roll (all $8.88).
Named one of the city's best Chinese restaurants by Naperville magazine in 2009, House of Emperor has satisfied cravings for Chinese fare for the past 22 years. The spacious dining room provides ample space for groups to gather and enjoy large servings of filet of sole, chinese broccoli, and general tso's chicken, or run in circles around their table as they recover from brain freezes induced by sips of banana or honeydew smoothies.
"The name would suggest that dumplings are the draw here," says the Chicago Reader of Katy's Dumpling House, "but it's the fresh homemade noodles that instantly turn unsuspecting diners into fervent members of the cult of Katy's." Beyond the restaurant's expansive front windows hung with neon-lit Chinese characters, chefs simmer those noodles with rich, savory beef broth, fry them with shrimp, and pair them with pickled turnip in pork broth soup. The dumplings are nothing to scoff at, however—filled with fennel-laced pork or beef with scallions, the Chicago Tribune celebrates the delicate starch pockets as "delicious" and "awe-inspiring". Beyond the restaurant's namesake dish, a range of traditional Chinese recipes also satisfies in such forms as moo shu chicken and eggplant in garlic sauce.