The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

The Most Successful Charlottesville Restaurant Family You’ve Never Heard Of

Once the subject of sneers from so-called foodies for so-called inauthenticity, Chinese-American food is enjoying renewed appreciation in culinary circles. Some now even view it as its own regional cuisine. “I call it indigenous foreign food,” says Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. “It’s indigenous because it was created here, but it’s inspired by something foreign.” Hong-Kong born chef Lucas Sin, of Junzi Kitchen, agrees:

Chinese-American food is authentic to the Chinese-American experience. For that reason, I like to think of Chinese-American food as very regional. It’s far too easy for people to look at a bowl of orange chicken, or General Tso’s chicken, and say, “This is not the real stuff.” Because, it is real, and it is made by a specific immigrant group, and it is delicious, and it has its own set of rules, just like every other regional Chinese cuisine. So I think a common misconception perhaps is that Chinese-American food isn’t real, that it isn’t good. It really is.

Whatever one’s view of it, there is no doubting its success — one of the greatest restaurant success stories in modern America. Lee says Chinese-American restaurants are now “more American than apple pie.” And, the numbers back her up. The 40,000+ Chinese-American restaurants in the U.S. exceed the number of McDonald’s in the entire world.

Here in Charlottesville, Chinese-American restaurants are everywhere. Some are new. Some have been around for years. But, none has the run of success of Szechuan. Sing Kung Yu and He Qing Li Yu began working at Szechuan more than three decades ago and bought the restaurant in 1996. Since then, it’s been a family affair for the husband and wife team, as their children practically grew up in the restaurant, a common story for Chinese-American restaurants.

More than thirty years of success is difficult to imagine for almost any budding restaurateur. So, is there anything unusual about Szechuan’s menu? Not really. It’s largely the same Chinese-American dishes that Americans all over the country enjoy for takeout every day –with plastic packages of soy sauce, duck sauce, and Chinese mustard. And, of course, fortune cookies.

Is Szechuan’s marketing especially savvy? That’s not it either. In fact, unlike many of today’s restaurants, aside from a barely used Facebook page, Szechuan is virtually invisible on social media. You won’t find a word about the Yus on the internet.

What, then, explains Szechuan’s sustained success? It’s actually not much different than many success stories: a focus on quality and relentless hard work. For the 30+ years since the Yus opened Szechuan, they have typically worked 12-14 hours per day, seven days per week, their daughter Ann once explained.

Charlottesville is much better for it.

Szechuan green beans

Chicken & eggplant in garlic sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Charlottesville Restaurant Gift Card Program: Help save our restaurants

Photo by Tom McGovern

Charlottesville restaurants take care of us, feed us, and, despite modest margins, are the first we ask for donations to support our charitable causes. Now, it’s our turn to help them. If we don’t support them now, they might be gone forever.

The Charlottesville Restaurant Gift Card Program: The gift of Charlottesville food is a win-win. It helps save restaurants that make  Charlottesville special, while bringing cheer to loved ones. Why not buy some for yourself, too? Buying a gift card just pays now for a meal you would have bought later anyway. Some restaurants are even discounting gift cards, which means buying them actually makes you money.

Aberdeen Barn: GIFT CARD: (434) 296-4630
Ace Biscuit & Barbecue
 GIFT CARD: (434) 202-1403
Al Carbon GIFT CARD
Albemarle Baking Company GIFT CARD
Angelic’s Kitchen GIFT CARD
The Alley Light
GIFT CARD: (434) 296-5003
Bang! GIFT CARD
Basil Mediterranean Bistro GIFT CARD
Bavarian Chef GIFT CARD 
BBQ Exchange
GIFT CARD
Beer Run GIFT CARD
Belle GIFT CARD: (434) 996-4919
Bizou
GIFT CARD
Blue Moon Diner GIFT CARD
Bodo’s
 GIFT CARD
Brasserie Saison
 GIFT CARD
Brazos Tacos GIFT CARD
C&O
GIFT CARD
Champion Grill GIFT CARD 
Chimm GIFT CARD
Citizen Burger Bar GIFT CARD
Conmole GIFT CARD
Continental Divide GIFT CARD
Corner Juice GIFT CARD
Crozet Pizza at Buddhist Biker Bar GIFT CARD: (434) 202-0592
Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie GIFT CARD: (434) 245-0000
Duner’s
 GIFT CARD
Feast! GIFT CARD
Firefly GIFT CARD
Fleurie
GIFT CARD
Fry’s Spring Station GIFT CARD
Great Harvest GIFT CARD
Guajiros GIFT CARD
Hamiltons’
 GIFT CARD
HotCakes GIFT CARD: (434) 295-6037
Junction GIFT CARD
Kanak GIFT CARD: (434) 328-2775 
Kardinal Hall GIFT CARD
Kitchenette GIFT CARD: (434) 260-7687
Iron Paffles & Coffee GIFT CARD
Ivy Inn Restaurant
 GIFT CARD: (434) 977-1222
Ivy Provisions GIFT CARD
Lampo
 GIFT CARD
Lemongrass GIFT CARD: (434) 244-8424
Little Star
 GIFT CARD: (434) 252-2502
MarieBette Cafe and Bakery GIFT CARD
Mangione’s on Main GIFT CARD: (434) 327-4833
MAS
 GIFT CARD
Maru GIFT CARD
Maya
 GIFT CARD
Mel’s Cafe GIFT CARD: (434) 971-8819
Milan
GIFT CARD: (434) 984-2828
Miller’s Downtown GIFT CARD
Mochiko GIFT CARD
Moe’s Original BBQ GIFT CARD
Monsoon Siam GIFT CARD
North American Sake Brewery GIFT CARD: (434) 767-8105
Now & Zen GIFT CARD
Oakhart Social
GIFT CARD: (434) 995-5449
Orzo GIFT CARD: (434) 975-6796
Pad Thai
 GIFT CARD: (434) 293-4032
Paradox Pastry GIFT CARD
Passiflora GIFT CARD
Pearl Island GIFT CARD
Peloton Station GIFT CARD
Peter Chang’s China Grill
 GIFT CARD: (434) 244-9818
Petite MarieBette GIFT CARD
Petit Pois
GIFT CARD
Pippin Hill GIFT CARD
Pronto! GIFT CARD
Public Fish & Oyster GIFT CARD: (434) 995-5542
Quality Pie GIFT CARD
Rapture GIFT CARD: (434) 293-9536
Red Pump Kitchen GIFT CARD
Renewal GIFT CARD
Revolutionary Soup
GIFT CARD
Roots GIFT CARD (434) 529-6229
Royalty Eats GIFT CARD
Sal’s Caffe Italia GIFT CARD: (434) 295-8484
Smoked Kitchen and Tap GIFT CARD: (434) 205-4881
Shadwell’s GIFT CARD
Southern Crescent GIFT CARD
Sticks GIFT CARD
Sultan Kebab
GIFT CARD: (434) 981-0090
Szechuan GIFT CARD
Take it Away
GIFT CARD: (434) 295-1899
Tavern & Grocery GIFT CARD
Tavola
 GIFT CARD
Ten GIFT CARD
Thai Cuisine & Noodle House GIFT CARD
The Bebedero GIFT CARD: (434) 234-3763
The Fitzroy GIFT CARD
The Local GIFT CARD
The Pie Chest GIFT CARD: (434) 977-0443
The Shebeen GIFT CARD (434) 296-3185
The Virginian (via Citizen Bowl) GIFT CARD
The Whiskey Jar GIFT CARD
The Wool Factory (Selvedge Brewing, The Workshop) GIFT CARD
Three Notch’d Brewing GIFT CARD
Thyme & Co. GIFT CARD: (434) 282-2436
Tilman’s GIFT CARD
Timberwood Grill GIFT CARD
Timberwood Tap House GIFT CARD
Tonic GIFT CARD: (434) 226-4270
Vita Nova GIFT CARD: (434) 977-0162
Vivace GIFT CARD
Vu Noodles GIFT CARD: (434) 465-1267
Zocalo
GIFT CARD

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