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Traditional Chinese restaurants take root in Chicago | Updated: 2012-03-14 10:40
Lao Sze Chuan a hit

After working in Chicago for four years, Hu opened "Lao Sze Chuan" (Old Sichuan Restaurant) in Chinatown. At first, Hu's friends discouraged him from opening a true Sichuan-style restaurant, as they worried that local customers could not stand the hot and spicy taste.

Yet Hu, an expert in Chinese cuisine, insisted on his dream. He said he believed that as long as anything was really good, it would finally be embraced by the public.

Hu told a little about how he came up with a name for his restaurant.

"Many restaurants have different names in Chinese and English. I told myself that I must have the same name both in English and Chinese; I hoped that foreign customers would get used to the Chinese name. As for the reason why I used the word 'Lao' instead of 'old,' I told friends that I must use the name 'Lao Sze Chuan' because 'Lao' here means traditional and genuine Sichuan cuisine."

Hu also explained how he chose a logo for his restaurant.

"Using the image of a hot pepper as a logo was designed by myself. The logo has four meanings: At first glance, it looks like a lovely hot pepper, as hot taste is the soul of Sichuan cuisine. Secondly, it looks like a crescent, as the moon is a symbol of longing for one's native town in traditional Chinese culture. Thirdly, it resembles a river, and Sichuan means the land of rivers. Fourthly, it resembles the letter 'C,' which can be linked to Chinese food and Chicago."

Hu has three criteria for the dishes served at his restaurant. They must be traditional Chinese dishes; they must currently be popular in China, and he visits China frequently to make sure this is the case; and there should be innovations. Therefore, his restaurant features a large menu.

A customer who only gave his name as Bechtel said, "I love the food here. We come here very often, almost once a week, or once every other week. The food here is better than other restaurants in Chinatown. The food here is very authentic, you know. I lived in China for some time. Many American restaurants have American Chinese food. But in this restaurant, it is the real Chinese food, and it's the best."

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