Like an ancient Chinese imperial army, the Tony Hu empire continues to steamroll the Chicago Chinese restaurant market. The ink is barely dry on leases for two new Lao Sze Chuan locations, expanding the market to outside the city limits.
One will be in Evanston at 1637 Orrington Ave. The space is 2700 square-feet encompassing two floors (first and basement). Hu says since it previously housed another restaurant that the turnaround will be quick, targeting a three-month timeframe for a projected August opening.
Another Lao Sze Chuan is coming to Schaumburg, Hu says. That will be at 1220 Valley Lake Dr, the former home to another Chinese restaurant, Smiling Buddha Szechwan & Mandarin Restaurant, that closed in October. Add these two to the Michigan Avenue Lao Sze Chuan in the Shops at North Bridge, scheduled to open by the end of the year, and outposts of his most popular concept are sprouting like lotus flowers.
Hu has also taken over the grocer that was adjacent to his Hong Kong-style dim sum restaurant Lao You Ju and renovated it into a first-floor karoake space. Five party rooms with private karaoke, built-in hot pots, crystal chandeliers, sparkling wallpaper, red velvet cushioned walls, mini disco ball strobes, and imported Chinese brick are coming together for a projected Wednesday opening. One of the rooms is larger and reminiscent of a throne room, all have flat screen TVs and tables that can be removed to create a dance floor. Painted murals on canvas of scenes of the Chinese countryside line the hallways and the whole Lao You Ju menu will be available there.
More Hu projects are perpetually on the horizon so stay tuned. Lao 18 is almost ready, Hu says it will open in June after he returns from another trip to China. Who knows what else will be up his sleeve then.
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