The Northcenter Chamber is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Over the next year, we will be celebrating some of our local businesses that have been in the Northcenter neighborhood for 70 years or more. First up, the iconic Orange Garden restaurant.
When you think of the grand traditions of Chinese food in Chicago, chances are you think of the shining Dragon Gate near Cermak on the South Side.
But did you know the oldest Chinese restaurant in Chicago is right here in Northcenter?
Greeting the neighborhood with its its neon sign and its promise of Chop Suey, Orange Garden has been serving from its location at 1942 W. Irving Park Road since 1932. The restaurant was originally owned by members of the Chen family, until current owner Benn Ruan's uncle took over in 1983.
"The neighborhood has changed a lot from when we started," Ruan says. "It's grown and become more prosperous. And we love the people. The people are friendly. It's really a neighborhood."
Although the neighborhood has changed, the core of Orange Garden's menu and the Ruan family's commitment to bringing quality Cantonese cooking to hungry diners haven't. The classics that put Orange Garden on the map -- chop suey, chow mein and fried rice -- still make up a bulk of the menu.
But, as Ruan says, "you can't keep a menu totally the same and expect to continue to succeed." Over the years, the menu has expanded from the core to include more vegetarian options, more spicy dishes (Ruan loves the General Tso's Chicken, as do GrubHub users) and the team focuses on setting the restaurant apart through preparation. Their Sweet & Sour Chicken, Ruan says, is cooked to order, instead of pre-fried like many other restaurants.
As the Ruans have added menu retouches and conveniences like GrubHub to their repertoire, one thing above all remains the same: a loyal core of regulars not just here in the neighborhood, but from all over Chicagoland, who still come back to Orange Garden to visit when they're in the neighborhood. And Benn Ruan says he has even freighted his egg rolls and crab Rangoon to New York and St. Louis for hungry and homesick former regulars.