Once a Waitress, Now an Owner of China Town Restaurant

Clockwise from bottom is freish flounder filet with ginger and scallions, tiny pork ribs in garlic sauce, and beef satay. – Tina Johansson photos

by Long Hwa-shu & Tina Johansson

Whenever we’re tired of cooking and want to go eat in a Chinese restaurant, we head to Morton Grove.

We’ve eaten there for many years since I lived in Skokie before. It’s called the China Town Restaurant at 6121 W. Dempster Street. To us, it’s the closest thing to eating in Chinatown. The food is genuinely Chinese, the price is right and the décor is plain and unpretentious. After all, you go to a restaurant to eat, not to help pay the rent.

As a matter of habit, we would always order satay beef, eggplant in garlic sauce, fish fillet with ginger and scallion and a vegetable in season – green beans, spinach or tung-tung, a Chinese vegetable grown in water. Three dishes are more than enough because the portions are generous with plenty leftover to take home.

“I never thought I would become an owner,” confided Kung Mangyan, one of the new owners. We knew her as a waitress, yet now that she is an owner, she continues to wait on tables despite her status.

Over the years, we got to know the owner, the waiters and waitresses. Every time we are there, we are always greeted with a hot pot of tea, usually jasmine tea, and two bowls of hot & sour soup which warm us up especially in winter.

Meng
Kung Mangyan, a former waitress, is now one of the owners of China Town Restaurant in Morton Grove.

The last time we went, we were surprised to learn that our favorite long-time waitress and her two sisters have become the new owners. The former owner, Mr. Chang, has diversified and expanded into China, we were told. It’s always heart-tugging to find an employee turning into the owner of the place he or she has worked for years. It’s an American dream come-true story.

“I never thought I would become an owner,” confided Kung Mangyan, the new owner we knew as a waitress. She has continued to wait on tables despite her new status.

“We have made some changes on our menu and added new dishes,” she added, pointing out that they that they have also hired some new cooks who are younger and faster but that the quality remains the same, if not better.

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Longtime eatery China Town Restaurant is located in Morton Grove.

We tried pork ribs in garlic sauce and a whole fish, red-cooked in hot chili sauce, two of the new offerings. The fish, taken right from a holding tank, was tender and sumptuously delicious.

As usual the place is packed with regular customers, some of them Filipinos, since it carries Filipino-Chinese dishes like pojo frito, fried chicken skin; pata tim,sautéed steamed pork feet with lettuce and oyster sauce; and soupa de carne con de casa, house special beef stew.

“You can order anything you want, we’ll make it for you,” said our favorite waiter whom we call “Wade” by anglicizing his Chinese name. He pointed to the Chinese grocery store across the street where the restaurant can send over someone to buy the ingredients to make whatever diners desire. 

It was early in the afternoon on a Saturday, and a party was going in earnest in the basement banquet room,

“We’ve got some 50 people down there,” he said, pointing to the popularity of the restaurant.

China Town Restaurant is at 6121 W. Dempster Street, Morton Grove. Call 847.967.9303.

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