For this restaurateur, customers are best part of the job

By Edie Grossfield

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

When regular customers walk into Hunan Wok Express, Chau Nguyen greets them by name and knows their "usual."

Banter between Nguyen and her customers is an everyday event, and she says it’s the best part of her job.

"For myself, I really love to work with people so I can talk to them and get to know them," she said.


Nguyen and her family have owned and operated the Chinese restaurant on Seventh Street Northwest for about five years, with Chau taking the orders and getting to know the customers.

The Nguyens are from Vietnam and emigrated to the United States in 1991.

So, why not open a Vietnamese restaurant?

Because there are not too many Vietnamese people here, so lots of Americans haven’t eaten Vietnamese food. Chinese have been here longer, so Americans are more familiar with Chinese food. I would love to have a Vietnamese restaurant here, too, but this is hard. We all work hard, and we don’t have enough time or family members to do another restaurant.

Since you are known for knowing customers’ names and favorite orders, can you tell me a few?

Yes. Like Nate, he always comes in and orders chicken fried rice. And one of the ladies from the dairy, her name is Barb, when she comes here, she orders moo goo gai pan. And some people come in and they order without onions or things like that.

I heard that you get a lot of John Marshall high school students here.

Yep, we get lots of students from John Marshall who come here for their lunch hour or sometimes they come on weekends.


Are they well-behaved?

Yep, they really behave. They’re good students.

What do they usually order?

They order General Tso’s chicken or orange chicken or sweet and sour chicken.

They’re really into chicken, those JM students.

Yeah, they love chicken.

What’s your favorite dish in the restaurant?

The lo mein. When we first opened, I’d eat lo mein here every day for like two weeks. I just love the low mein.


What is your favorite Vietnamese dish?

Pho (a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup). My sister makes the best pho. It has noodles and the broth over it. And it has some meatball and beef in there, too. It’s really good. We eat pho a lot at home.

What is your favorite American food?

I like Subway, I like pizza. Usually, I order from Pizza Hut. I get the super supreme with all different kinds of veggies and meat. I will eat pizza once a week. I love pizza.

What is your favorite dessert?

Pumpkin pie.

And what about your favorite Vietnamese dessert?

We have a sticky sweet rice cooked with beans and it has coconut sauce over it. That’s my favorite.

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