“Isn’t this amazing?” I ask my husband as the clear, crisp blue sky turns pink, purple, and gold. We’re watching a beautiful sunset at Borax Lake. “We should do this more often.” Since neither one of us wants to cook dinner after our short, steep hike, we drive along Sulfur Bank Road to pick up some take-out from Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant and Bar on Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks. We’re long-term residents of Lake County, but we’ve never been to Happy Garden. From what I hear, it’s the best Chinese food in Lake County.
We find Happy Garden easily. The sign is well-lit, and the exterior is clean. Currently, take-out is the only option, but there may soon be indoor dining. We get in line expecting a long wait; however, we are whisked through the to-go window. Our order is packaged neatly, so it doesn’t spill. High-quality ingredients put out a mouth-watering aroma.
“Mmm. That smells good. Hurry up and get us home,” I say. The boxes are stuffed with generous portions; you don’t get shorted on vegetables or meat.
“Wow! That box barely closes,” my husband exclaims when he sees the container shoved full of sweet and sour chicken.
Our ravenous teenager, who meets us at the door, grabs the beef chow mein. His favorite dish has big, fine cuts of tender beef mixed with noodles and fresh vegetables. “This is so great!” he brags. “It’s delicious. It’s so good.” He has a discerning palate for a teenager. Nothing gets by him.
We all grab a potsticker. It’s one of our favorite starters. If you enjoy a meaty appetizer, try them. Appetizers often come up short, but Happy Garden’s potstickers are filling and flavorful. They are soft, fresh, and full of tasty, well-seasoned pork. The dumpling dipping sauce adds to the authentic Chinese flavor.
“Let’s get some egg rolls next time, too, Mom.” My son’s plea comes as he scoops some orange chicken onto his plate. Orange chicken is a classic Chinese dish, and Happy Garden’s version is something to relish. The ginger and fine spices warm your mouth but zing with the sweet taste of mandarin oranges.
“The meat is so tender,” my son says as he wolfs down the lemon chicken.
“The coating is perfect,” my husband agrees. The lemon chicken is lightly battered and crunchy. Flavored with the perfect hint of citrus, it’s soft and crispy.
The sweet and sour chicken has vibrant carrots, peppers, onions, and pineapple. The ratio of meat, sweet and sour sauce, and vegetables, makes the dish amazingly light.
“We’re going to order some Szechuan beef when we go back,” my husband says. We’re definitely going to return to Happy Garden Restaurant and Bar in Clearlake Oaks to try other dishes from their diverse menu. A wide variety of tantalizing options are available. If you’re craving some delicious Chinese cuisine, I recommend Happy Garden. You can order online if you don’t want to call. It’s worth the drive and the short wait. Maybe you can even catch the sunset at Borax Lake on your way!
13440 State Hwy 20
Clearlake Oaks, CA 95423
Hours: 11 am to 8:30 pm, Tuesday through Sunday