BLOOMINGTON — When Yen Ching Express on Bloomington's west side closed in March, it appeared that anyone craving an order of crab rangoon would have to venture deeper into town to get it.
Owner Xue Bian of Bloomington decided to close the doors after 17 years of business to retire with his wife, Zhong, and take some well-deserved time off.
But their retirement didn't last long; they decided to reopen the doors in December.
Xue Bian said not much has changed, other than some new kitchen equipment, fresh paint and minor menu additions.
“The cooks experiment with new recipes and we list them on the 'specials' board. If the dishes are a hit, we keep them,” said Xue Bian. A recent popular creation is the jalapeno chicken.
He visits China multiple times a year, occasionally meeting with a chef friend and learning new recipes.
“Our food is not typical American-Chinese food, like the meals in a bag that you keep in the freezer. We have an authentic, classic Chinese style,” he said.
Xue Bian said the building is paid off, which means revenue that used to go toward rent is now going toward better quality ingredients for customers. Since reopening, employee Kasey McElwee has noticed how grateful customers are to see the restaurant back in business.
“Some customers told me they didn't eat at any other Chinese restaurant in the eight months we were closed,” said McElwee. “We are a popular stop for truckers because this is the only place to get Chinese on Market Street.”
Appetizers start at $1.25 and entree prices range from $3.99 to $5.99. Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Yen Ching Express offers dine-in, carry-out and delivery.
“We will deliver anywhere in Bloomington-Normal,” said employee Melody Monninger. “We are the only Chinese restaurant in town with a drive-through window.”