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It’s not just food ... It’s family

The Yangs opened Mr. Wok in South Clinton in October, 2017, and have seen a steady increase in business — despite cold weather and the holidays. Mr. Yang learned his craft while working at family restaurants. Mrs. Yang serves as hostess, waitress, and has the unofficial jobs of greeting each customer with a smile.
Chances are if you’ve been into Mr. Wok in South Clinton since it opened in October you were greeted with a smile.

The Yangs — a husband and wife who run the restaurant — are reaching for the American dream: Working hard at what they are good at.

With the help of Sue Wall the Yangs were able to relate a little about what they are striving for.

For 34 years Wall was a driving force behind Little China Restaurant — the location of Mr. Wok in South Clinton.

Now she serves as an interpreter for the Yangs and offers support and guidance for the young couple from China.

Wall says the couple opened Mr. Wok with a goal in mind other than having a successful business. They also wanted a good place for three daughters to grow up.

“They are good people,” Wall says of the Yangs.

And that’s what she calls them, “The Yangs.”

Mr. Yang handles kitchen duties. He learned his trade through family, making traditional Chinese food and adding, as all good cooks do, his own touch.

Wall notes his General Tsao dishes and his sweet and sour have been popular. Another big favorite is proving to be his hibachi dishes.

Mr. Yang notes, through Wall, the hibachi menu is getting very popular and he is making more and more of the dishes from that part of the menu.

Mr. Yang doesn’t smile much. Not because he’s unfriendly.

“He’s very quiet, very shy,” Wall says.

But when you get him to talk about his family his eyes light up and out comes the smile.

And he smiles when he cooks, Wall notes.

“Each cook has a personal touch. The Yangs use a different Lo Mein noodle than I did. Little things like that make it their own,” Wall said.

Part of the secret at Mr. Wok is the ingredients: Everything used for preparing a meal is fresh and there is so no MSG in the food.

Mrs. Yang notes Mr. Wok has a growing take out service, but to really get the freshness of the dish you have to eat it in the restaurant, “Right after it’s prepared.”

It’s more than good food, however, that is making people take notice of the Yangs.

You may not believe in atmosphere; it may not make a difference to you; but Mr. Wok seems to shout “family” when you walk in the door.

And it may be because on some nights you’ll see the oldest of the three daughters sitting a table doing homework or studying. Or you may see one of the other two daughters (the Yangs have three daughters) sitting quietly and reading.

“Those girls are the most well-behaved children,” Wall says.

And they love Clinton.

The oldest daughter attends South Clinton Elementary School. The oldest daughter was not able to come to America from China until about two years ago, Wall notes, and she struggled with English when she first came to America.

But educators at South Clinton have spent extra time with her and her English is nearly percet.

It’s not unusual for her to greet customers if both her parents are busy in the kitchen.

She doesn’t seat them or take orders, she just makes small talk until her parents can come out of the kitchen.

“Mr. Yang doesn’t speak any English. Mrs. Yang speaks a little. But their daughter … She has really grasped the language,” Wall says.

“They really like Clinton,” Wall says. “They want to be part of the community and want their children to grow up here because the girls really love it.”