Welcome to Lincoln's version of Asia.  Really, the easiest way to assimilate culture is by eating it.  This is actually amazingly easy to do in Lincoln.  Granted, Lincoln has its share of chain restaurants.  You're going to find the ubiquitous Chili's or Applebee's on every corner, but if you're not afraid of braving the strip malls or the odd-out-of-place eateries, there are definitely other options.  

This "Inside Page" is geared towards two things: (1) locally-owned, non-franchised restaurants, and (2) *authentic* Asian cuisine minus the "Americanizing."  And you probably won't find some of these under the categories in the Windstream phone book.

Chinese (or Vietnamese), Please!

China Inn - 2662 Cornhusker Hwy, Ste. 8.  This restaurant used to be a staple for the international students longing for good home-style Malaysian/Chinese food.  The word has it that since its sale a few years back, the food isn't what it used to be.  Thus, it's time to direct you to...

Yang's Cafe
- 400 N 48th St.  Chinese/Malaysian/Korean.  Next to the box stores of TJMaxx and Best Buy is a tiny Lincoln secret.  The booths are small and the decor is nothing fancy, but the food is hard to beat.  A whiteboard on the wall lists the specials.  Malaysian Rice Noodle, Seafood-Steamed egg, and Beef Rendang are all excellent.  If you order a Korean or Chef's Special dish (as listed on the menu), you will have a chance to try several small dishes of "appetizers."  These range from seaweed, cold seasoned potatoes, sprouts, and other asian foods.  Excellent food and at reasonable prices.  And for the squeamish, yes, they have Americanized chinese food.  Your friends can get their sweet-and-sour pork too.  The owner is very nice, almost perpetually there, and employs very hospitable international students.

Little Saigon - 940 N. 26th.  Vietnamese.  Next to the Long John Silver's, set a bit back from the road is one of the best pho (soups) in town.  It used to be separated into a restaurant and a grocery store, but the two have combined, and with an awesome result.  Here, you can find the cheapest Pho in town.  Walk in and directly to your left is the cash register, where you order.  There are two good pho places in town, and this one is a steal.  Pho is a fragrant Vietnamese soup.  I believe you can still order different things off the menu, if you ask for it.  The eggrolls and the fried rice are different (and better) than any you've tried before.  The owners are fantastic.

O Asian Garden "Cafe de Mai"
- 2535 O St. Vietnamese/Japanese.  Since the complex shut down, O Asian Garden is now gone.  No word on if the owner is going to try again at another place.

Imperial Palace - 701 N. 27th.  Chinese.  Well known for its food, and a staple of the corner of 27th & Vine, this eatery has been here since I was a little kid.  It is a large restaurant, very nicely laid out, and has excellent service.  The food is generally good, and they offer both Schezwan and Cantonese favorites, along with Americanized-Chinese.  A good sit-down restaurant to start your adventure in.

Golden Wok- 27th & Y. Chinese/Vietnamese. You cannot alway judge a book by it's cover and the same goes for great Chinese. On the outside it looks a little unkempt, but as soon as you step in you feel the ambiance of an elegant (somewhat) Asian dining room. This place has the only pot stickers currently known in Lincoln. Not exactly authentic Chinese fare, but truly delicious. Their Lo Mein is delicious and if you choose to dine-in, all entrees come with tea, appetizer and a fortune cookie. The portions are bigger when you drive through, but then you don't get the wonderful surprise of stumbling upon your own hidden gem inside the shabby-looking facade.

Ming House - 1409 N. Cotner Blvd., Ste. 103 (Corner of Cotner/Holdrege/66th).  Chinese (Americanized fast food).  Ming's House doesn't look like much on the outside either, but the food is intensely generous for the same price that everyone else charges, and the owners (who are always there) are always friendly.  They have some of the best crab rangoon in town.  They're huge and it's not just cream cheese, like other chinese takeaways!  Everything is cooked fresh to order, and the seafood platter had (surprisingly) a lobster tail on the top.  For $9.00 (as of Sept. 2008), that's a heck of a deal anywhere.  High quality, large portions, reasonable prices all combine to make this a top notch takeout, although you can dine in if you prefer (about 6 small 4-person tables).

Peking Garden - Across from Kohl's on the corner of 84th and O Street.  Chinese/Vietnamese/Everything?  This one is surprising, and not well-frequented because of its distant location (and the vaguely shabby look of the outside).  The inside of the restaurant is clean, nice, and upkept though.  There are three menus: (1) Americanized-chinese food; a (2) authentic-ish amalgam of Cantonese/Szechwan/Vietnamese food; and (3) a sushi menu.  They also offer a dim sum cart (Hong Kong-style chinese breakfast - you pick from special containers of food off a cart) on Saturday/Sunday.  While the americanized menu or the sushi hasn't been tried by this particular author, the "authentic" menu is satisfying and the service is consistently nice.  The dim sum buns were all right - it might tide you over 'till you can get to Kansas City's Bo Ling's for dim sum.  Peking Garden also offers a 10% discount for students with an ID.  It's never very crowded, even on what should be a busy Friday/Saturday night.  Worth a visit or two.

Out of the Woods and Into the Thicket of Chinese Buffets:

Gourmet China Buffet - Next to the "Toys R Us" and Cici's Pizza on N. 27th Street.  This buffet is decent and has some surprises, like the excellent asian steamed fish.  Fri-Sun. features seafood - pretty good steamed fish.  Fewer "authentic" selections than some of the others, but not a bad buffet overall.  Service is good.

Great China Buffet - 6145 O St. - Everyone loves this buffet.  It has americanized chinese and somewhat authentic chinese galore, it's usually fresh because of the high number of diners that are always there, and it's a big restaurant.  Service is usually efficient.

"Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto": A Look at Japanese Food

Shogun Japanese - 3700 S. 9th St. - Probably the best, but certainly not the cheapest Japanese food in Lincoln.  The new location certainly kicks it up a notch from the old one in Edgewood Shopping Mall.  If you're craving sushi or teppanyaki and you can't get to Omaha, Shogun or Tokyo Steakhouse (see below) is your best bet.  Flipping knives, flying shrimp and eggs, and whatnot.  Service is good.  Sushi is pretty consistent.  Order the pineapple boat if it's your birthday, the singing, plastic leis, and polaroid are amusing and a steal for $5.

OYummy - 5571 S. 48th St. - When the owner of Kabuki left to open Tokyo Steakhouse, he sold the restaurant to some new owners, who branded it OYummy.  The sushi is rumored to be cheaper than the other two sushi "powerhouses" in town, but no word on its quality.

Tokyo Steakhouse - 4200 S. 27th St., Suite 100.  The other "half" of the old Shogun opened "Kabuki,"  then after a few years, left and opened this joint.  It features the same teppanyaki-flame-rolling-spatula-banging fun as Shogun in the old Bob's Gridiron Grill location, but the Grill is definitely gone.  The inside has been extensively modified, and it looks great.  Prices are about the same as Shogun's, and the sushi, if not more flavorful, is definitely more artsy (their dragon roll is pretty nifty ... as expected, it looks like a dragon - has a little unagi head and carrot horns and everything) whereas Shogun tumbles out a regular looking roll, with no fancy food-artwork.  Service is good.

Wasabi - 239 N. 14th St. - Where is Wasabi?

Conclusion:

There are plenty of other Asian restaurants in Lincoln.  For example: Jade River Buffet, Panda Garden, Golden Wok, Peking Palace, Great Wall, Egg Roll King, which are all fast and tasty in their own right.  But having eaten years and years and years of Asian food and hopping around Asia to taste the local cuisines, the ones listed above are probably "best bets," in terms of authenticity, consistent taste, and local-ownership.