Shanghai River: Houston Classic Chinese Restaurant Since 1970

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Our fortune cookies from the Shanghai River in Houston

Our fortune cookies from the Shanghai River in Houston

An Oldie but Goodie!

Shanghai River Restaurant has stood the test of time! This eating establishment has served Hunan and Szechuan cuisine in the same Houston location since 1970. People familiar with that part of town know it is in the River Oaks area. My husband and I used to eat there much more often when we lived closer to town.

Recently, when photographing the latest sculpture show on Heights Boulevard called the “Obstacle Art Path,” as well as doing some other chores not too far from Shanghai River, we scheduled our day so that we could dine there for lunch. We have done that several times recently, and I am happy to report that the food, decor, and relaxing ambience is still the same, which is much to our liking.

Exterior of the Shanghai River

Exterior of the Shanghai River

Decor and Interior Spaces

The exterior of the restaurant is nondescript, but the interior is a lovely contrast. It hearkens back to the days of quiet elegance, unlike so many of the newer, hard-surfaced, and noisy eating establishments so popular today where quiet discussions tableside are all but impossible.

There are three distinct dining spaces within this restaurant. A bar area seats around 20 people. A wine room a few steps up from the main dining room can seat approximately 35, and then there is the main dining room where we have always been seated.

Tablecloths and napkins adorn all the tables. It is the same no matter what time of day one is eating there. Between the paneled walls, comfortable armchairs, and warm colors, this provides a welcoming, almost club-like atmosphere.

Some of the larger tables still have a built-in lazy Susan in the center, which makes sharing of food easy for larger gatherings of people. That certainly hearkens back to earlier decorating styles in Asian restaurants. Sometimes, old ideas are still the best.

Family Recipes

The Shanghai River website has some interesting information about the chef-owner, David Wang. He learned to cook alongside his chef father, Yung-Lin Wang, who at one time prepared food for a former president of Taiwan. Many of the recipes come from cherished family ones.

Cover of the restaurant menu

Cover of the restaurant menu

Food Choices

My husband and I almost always choose hot and sour soup if given a choice, and we enjoy the one served here. Below you can see some of the entrees served at lunch. We usually also choose steamed rice instead of fried rice.

Are you hungry yet? In reading reviews of this restaurant, while most are favorable, some write that the food is Americanized. As an American, that is fine with me. They are happy to adjust the spiciness of dishes deemed to be hot per customer request.

Spice Levels of the Food

We have dined at Pepper Twins Restaurant. They are known for preparing authentic Sichuan foods using very spicy imported peppercorns from that region of the world. In one particular dish that my husband and I were sharing, we felt as though our tongues were on fire! We have learned our lesson. If dining there, we now ask as to the preparation of dishes and how incendiary they might be.

It is not necessary to do that at Shanghai River. We have yet to suffer that same fate of searing, thermogenic, hotness where no amount of water can extinguish that burning feeling. If you like your foods that way, I am sure that the chef can accommodate your desire for it.

Photo on the wall of Marvin Zindler and his dog

Photo on the wall of Marvin Zindler and his dog

Marvin Zindler

Framed photos of Marvin Zindler hang on the walls of the Shanghai River. There is even a dish on the menu named after him.

Those of us who have been around awhile remembered this spirited television news reporter on channel 13, which is the local ABC network. What you may not know is that his dad was the mayor of Bellaire for four terms. Marvin was a marine during World War II, was a Free Mason, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

What he is best known for was his report of restaurants. Cleanliness in kitchens, or the lack thereof, was his focus.

Each Friday at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., many of those failing good inspections made the news. Rats, roaches, and slime in the ice machine was most often the cause of failed checks. His typical signoff is a hard one to forget: ”Marrrrrvin Zindler Eyeeeeeewitness News!”

Blue Ribbon Awards

He could not mention all of the restaurants that kept constant and outstandingly clean kitchens, so he gave out Blue Ribbon Awards. Shanghai River was one such restaurant that received numerous ones and was a favorite of Marvin Zindler's in which to dine.

When President George H.W. Bush hosted the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations in 1990, Shanghai River was one of the restaurants chosen to cater to the occasion in Houston.


Few restaurants stay in business as long as Shanghai River has. I hope that they break more records as to staying power! I am happy to be able to share this good restaurant with you that has lasting appeal.

The address is 2407 Westheimer (near Kirby), Houston, Texas 77098.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 30, 2020:

Hi Nyesha,

Happy to be able to share this information with you. Take care!

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on March 30, 2020:

Hi Ms. Peggy,

You offer some very interesting information about this restaurant! Thanks for sharing this information as well as the photos. The atmosphere looks inviting. The food looks nice!

- Nyesha

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 30, 2020:

Hi Richard,

I have grown those little red hot peppers in my garden and have dried them to use in cooking. Sometimes I eat a bit of them, and sometimes just let them season the rest of the food. They do add a spicy pizzaz to the end product.

Richard Hampton on March 30, 2020:

Peggy, this piece is very interesting and alluring. My wife and I love Chinese food and this place looks like the epitome for Asian dining. I don't know what they are called, but I particularly like the hot red peppers that come with some dishes. When I eat them I feel like a bear that finds a bees nest...willing to endure the pain of the sting for the rewards. Well, maybe not rewards exactly.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 29, 2020:

Hi Rachel,

If you like Chinese food, I am sure you would enjoy dining at this restaurant. Wishing you safety also!

Rachel Alba on March 29, 2020:

Hi Peggy. This restaurant looks so interesting. If I ever find my may in Houston, I will definitely look it up. Thanks for the info.

Stay safe and God bless.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 29, 2020:

Hi Liz,

Yes, I hope that this long-lasting restaurant, as well as many others, are still operational after this pandemic is contained. Thanks for your visit and comment.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 29, 2020:

Mouthwatering photos and a thorough review of a very well established restaurant. I hope it survives the current crisis.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 29, 2020:

Hi Bill,

That is what makes the world go round! Ha! We do eat most of our meals at home and only occasionally dine out as a treat. Of course, right now, most of the restaurants are closed except for drive-through or take-out. We are doing our cooking at home. Stay safe up there!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 29, 2020:

You lost me on this one. Neither Bev nor I like going to restaurants. We don't like sitting in the same spot for an hour, surrounded by other people. lol

Happy Sunday! Be safee!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 29, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

All of the restaurants in our city, except for those offering drive-through or pickup, are also closed due to the pandemic. Hopefully, in the days ahead, we can once again enjoy going to our favorite places to dine. Wishing you good health and safety!

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 29, 2020:

This makes me hungry and to know that they are so clean should really make the public feel good. My local Chinese restaurant is closed right now due to the pandemic and I miss it.

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