Longtime local restaurateur Tony Hu is back in action and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Hu’s planning a new South Loop location for his Chinese mini-chain Lao Sze Chuan, and suburban spots in Highland Park and Schaumburg are also on the way, according to its website. This news comes shortly after Hu announced plans to launch a location from enormous Chinese chain Xiaolongkan Hot Pot in Chinatown’s historic Won Kow space.
The South Loop restaurant will be Hu’s fourth Lao Sze Chuan restaurant in the city proper. He founded the original Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown and introduced locations in Uptown and off the Mag Mile, plus numerous Lao offshoots.
The recent announcements represent a comeback story for Hu who closed many of his restaurants, including restaurants in Las Vegas and on Hubbard Street. That was around the time of Hu’s legal problems. He also runs spots in Skokie, Aurora, Downers Grove, Champaign, and Evanston, as well as restaurants in Connecticut and Minnesota.
Hu educated Chicago about regional differences in Chinese cuisine, and his once-again growing Sichuan brand lures spicy food fans across Chicago for its dishes loaded with chilies and peppercorns, with hits including mapo tofu and dry chili chicken. These dishes are now widely available in Chicago’s Chinese restaurants, but that wasn’t always the case until Hu extolled their virtues.
Nicknamed, “the mayor of Chinatown,” Hu’s other big project, Xiaolongkan Hot Pot, brings him back to the neighborhood. He’s taken over Won Kow, which was Chinatown’s oldest restaurant before it closed. Crews erected the Won Kow building in 1928, and they’re gunning for a June opening for the new restaurant. Xiaolongkan, which also has plans to debut in New York this summer, opened its first U.S. location last year in Los Angeles and also operates a Houston restaurant.
Hu hasn’t yet responded to a request for Lao Sze Chuan’s opening dates in the South Loop and suburbs, so stay tuned for updates. Sloopin first reported the news.
Lao Sze Chuan, 616 S. Wabash Avenue, Opening date is not yet available.