A new kosher Chinese food restaurant opened in Passaic, on March 4, the first one in the area since the previous one closed over a year ago, meeting the demand for Chinese fare from the local Jewish community.
“People were coming in like they hadn’t had Chinese food in a year!” said Ely Goldberg, the owner of the new kosher Chinese restaurant, Main Li Chow, located on Main Avenue in Passaic.
His kids were the ones who insisted on the name, which is very similar to the old Chinese restaurant long-time locals still remember on Main Avenue more than 20 years ago (just spelled a little differently).
Goldberg has many years of restaurant experience, as he was the manager of Kosher Delight in Brooklyn for 12 years and previously worked in a Teaneck restaurant as well. Although this is his first gig in a Passaic restaurant, he’s lived in the community for 21 years.
Along with the arrival of new ownership, the place has been updated with a new look: a more spacious layout, freshly painted black and white walls and dark blue chairs. “We are going for a sleek, fresh look, with clean lines and open space,” said Goldberg, “and my daughter and son-in-law, who helped choose the decor, did a great job making it look trendy and new.”
Main Li Chow takes a different approach to the menu than many other Chinese places. Instead of five to six pages of tiny print and tons of options and variations, it’s far shorter and clearer than you’d expect and takes up just a single page.
“Honestly, most people look over those long menus and then say, ‘I want the sesame chicken, or the pepper steak,’” said Goldberg.
“They just order their favorites and 99 percent of the time they are ordering the same, most popular items. Why make the menu unnecessarily long and hard to read for the one percent of people who want something different? Of course, if someone wants a variation they can ask and we can try to make everyone happy.”
Pricing is consistent in each category (beef dishes, chicken dishes, small and large plates) instead of every dish having a slightly different price, making it easier for customers to choose what they want. There is also a selection of steamed and gluten-free dishes, and lunch and dinner specials.
News of the opening generated multiple posts and over 100 comments in Passaic’s Jewish social media groups.
The first week after opening on March 4, the place was packed with locals eager to check out the new place and get a taste of Chinese food locally without having to travel out of town.
The staff did their best to serve the overflow of customers until things calmed down, and business has been steady ever since.
Does the restaurant do catering and delivery yet? For now, they’re focusing on the in-store customers, although they did start catering, providing many people with 9x13 pans of food to take out for Purim. They hope to roll out delivery as soon as the in-store service is settled in well.
Main Li Chow is located at 227 Main Avenue in Passaic, with hours Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (the only restaurant in the area to be open until 10) and Friday 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. The hashgacha is under PCK.
By Leah Gottheim