Behind the nondescript storefront with its necessary neon window signs, Towson Best does indeed serve some of the best Cantonese food in the Towson/North Baltimore area.
A group of young and unfailingly friendly owners and staff greet all who enter and set the tone for casual lunches and dinners that make you not only want to return for the food and but also to patronize a place run by such nice people.
The room is divided by long planters. To your right is a tidy eight-stool sushi bar with its pristine fish and smiling chef, small booths and a few tables. To your left are larger booths with a big party table toward the front.
An expansive lunch menu ranges in price from $4.95 to $8.50 and comes with soup, fried rice, egg roll, tea and of course fortune cookie. They will also throw in a single scoop of very good French vanilla ice cream if you wish. If you are a penny pincher who loves fresh and bright Chinese food, get over the less-than-ideal parking on York Road and head for Towson Best.
Hot and Sour soup, though a regional dish originating in Sichuan, is a staple today in almost all Chinese restaurants. This one is brimming with pork, tofu and exotic Chinese ingredients and achieves the nuanced but necessary balance needed to make it memorable. The dominant flavoring elements of vinegar, hot chili peppers and copious amounts of black pepper used in just the right proportion produces a great soup, and to do it the same way every time with such aggressive flavors is no easy task. Here, they have mastered it. I never visit Towson Best without ordering it.
Sha Cha chicken is chicken, broccoli, carrots and bamboo shoots in mild Malaysian barbecue style sauce that even the uninitiated will love. The Hunan Pork, $5.95, is worth a try if pork is among your favorites as it is with me. It is tender slices of lean pork, with vegetables and straw mushrooms in a spicy mahogany sauce. Though Hunan style cooking can be more fiery than that of Szechuan, they temper this dish here for those of us who are satisfied with a tolerable two-alarm heat that is more flavorful than searing.
Go for lunch or dinner and you will likely be greeted by Mei, as she remembers your last visit and guides you to your table.
My fortune cookie? "Be adventuresome and be rewarded." Good advice.
Where: 527-529 York Road, Towson
Open: 10:30 am.-10:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday