Ever seen "cheap" and Los Altos in the same sentence? Here you go: Cho's Mandarin Dim Sum is very cheap and is now located in Los Altos.
Cho's beloved potstickers, cash-only menu and utilitarian charm relocated to downtown Los Altos in February. Owners Daisy and Cho Yu had operated their hole-in-the-wall on California Avenue in Palo Alto for 35 years until last year, when their lease was not renewed.
Fans will appreciate three major improvements at the new location: easier parking, sidewalk tables and a Facebook page.
As always, Cho's is mostly about takeout. There are no carts clattering around a dining room, no dining room at all, no pointing to the item you want. If you want to eat inside, there are two small tables, and nothing to look at but the kitchen and a handwritten sign clarifying the answer to a perennial question: "Potstickers are boiled and fried right in the pan for a crispy underside. They are also bigger. Dumplings are smaller and are only steamed."
Out on the sidewalk, the city has lined First Street with tables and chairs, shade trees and arbors. Eat out there -- or somewhere -- quickly. This is not food that appreciates a long wait.
As always, the menu at Cho's is simplicity itself. There is one menu, posted at the front of the restaurant, with eight items, two combination plates and no paper menus to add to your recycling.
The signature pork potstickers are three for $3, six for $6. Chicken potstickers are three for $3.25, six for $6.25. Right out of the stir-fry pan, the crisp-bottomed won-ton wrapper enfolds mildly spiced chopped meat and begs to be dipped in vinegar, soy or chili sauce.
I'd recommend sticking with the potstickers.
If you want to branch out, consider the No. 4 combo -- $6 for one veggie egg roll, two pork buns and three pork potstickers -- or the No. 6, which gives you chicken potstickers with your egg roll and pork buns for $6.25. (One wonders what happened to combos 1, 2, 3 and 5.)
Potstickers also are available frozen. If you're going to wait more than half an hour to eat, doughy and gummy food is your fate. Microwaving only makes it worse. Better to buy frozen potstickers and pan-fry at home.
Shrimp dumplings, three for $2.50, are soft and bland. Barbecued pork buns, three for $3, are very bready. One veggie egg roll is $1.25. On my first visit, the egg roll was crunchy and tasty. The second time around, it was way too oily.
Shanghai pork balls are three for $2.50. Note that these are not soup dumplings, just chopped pork in purse-shaped, steamed won-ton skins.
As with the menu, the beverage list keeps it simple: bottled water and soft drinks ($1.25).
Other places have higher quality, higher prices and dining rooms. At Su Hong To Go in Menlo Park, pot stickers are two for $2.90.
But a person can dine heartily and quickly at Cho's, then have time and money left for splurging on vegan sorbet or salted butterscotch ice cream at Tin Pot Creamery next-door. If there's a cheaper restaurant in Los Altos, I can't think of it.
Cho's Mandarin Dim Sum
209 First St., Los Altos