Longtime Milwaukeeans are sure to remember the hey-day of Yen Ching, a Chinese restaurant that served up an impressively large slate of Chinese-American dishes in opulent quarters at 7630 Good Hope Rd.
The popular Chinese restaurant was founded by Shiy Wang in 1986 and the Wang family operated the restaurant for 28 years before selling it to Guishan Chen in 2014. The restaurant was sold again to a new owner in 2020 before closing its doors for good in 2022.
But there’s good news on the horizon for folks who miss popular Yen Ching dishes like their best-selling cashew chicken or staples like sizzling rice soup.
Shiy Wang, alongside his sons Thomas and Brian Wang, are reviving the Yen Ching concept as a modern fast casual Chinese restaurant, which will serve many of the most popular dishes served at the original family-owned dining establishment.
In fact, Thomas Wang says that the new restaurant, which will be called Yen Ching Express, could open as soon as mid-to-late October at 10944 N. Port Washington Rd. in the Mequon Pavilions. The location was formerly home to The Cluckery, the popular chicken tender restaurant owned by the Milwaukee Bucks, before it closed in June of this year.
Reviving the legacy
“My family ran Yen Ching for 28 years,” says Wang, who currently operates local Aloha Poke restaurants with his brother, Brian. “It was your typical family owned Chinese business. I started working as a bus boy when I was 13 and both my brother and I worked there for years. When we graduated from college, we came back and worked full time for the family business.”
After the business sold, Thomas pursued work in real estate and his brother went on to work for Panda Express to glean experience in fast casual dining. The two brothers opened their first Aloha Poke in 2018.
“We always knew we’d do some sort of Chinese concept together,” Wang says.”But it was a matter of timing and finding the right spot to open. When the space at the Mequon Pavilions opened up, we saw the opportunity we were hoping for.”
Wang says the popularity of Yen Ching was a driving force behind the family’s desire to bring the restaurant back for a new generation to enjoy.
“We had quite the following,” he says. “People came from the North Shore, the South Side, even Waukesha and Racine. Some people drove 35 or 40 minutes to eat our food. And our customers were like family to us.”
Guests at Yen Ching Express can expect a pared-down version of the original Yen Ching menu, which boasted over 150 dishes. Among the offerings, guests will find between 20 and 25 items including cashew chicken, sesame chicken, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour chicken, General Tso’s chicken, hot and sour soup, sizzling rice soup, egg rolls and crab rangoon.
“The quality of the food will be the same,” Wang says. “We’ll be making everything fresh to order, including dishes like our former Yen Ching Beef, which we’re renaming Black Pepper Beef.”
Wang says the restaurant will be open for both lunch and dinner, with smaller portions served at lunch. Gluten-free options will also be available, as well as dishes free from common allergens like peanuts.
Hours of operation for Yen Ching Express are expected to be 11a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Yen Ching Express is currently hiring for front and back of house staff. Serious inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.