For Johnny Chan 2’s proprietor, the question is not if but when patrons may once again grace the tables of the restaurant, eating in the dining area amid others doing the same. Safety of all concerned, diners and staff, is the deciding factor for Frank Shi, owner of the storied Chinese eatery.
“I don’t know when the dining room open. Maybe couple months…I hope so, but for now, I don’t think it safe to open,” he said, in the midst of taking carryout orders over the phone.
His rationale for remaining closed to dine-in patrons is based on demographics for his dine-in customers. “We open, we have many older people come (to Johnny Chan 2) to eat. Young too (and all ages, really), but many older diner, and older people, more danger, so coming out and eating more danger for them. I don’t want any harm for people coming (here) to eat, so for now, we do carry-out and we wait,” he said.
Asked about the elderly getting the vaccine, Shi said he was not sure about all of that. “I don’t know. So far, my customer, older customer, some they got it (the vaccine), but some they not have yet. So, danger for some.”
That said, Shi encouraged people to continue to order carryout as a way of enjoying the Chinese food his kitchen offers, and do it in a safe, secure manner. His staff has devised a safe way to handle carryout, and his customers appreciate the extra effort, he says.
The safe way involves the pick-up routine. To enter the restaurant, patrons pass through two sets of double doors. The pick-up point for carry-out orders is just inside those doors, where there is plenty of room for social distancing. When Dining Out went there to pick up a carryout order, there were three people already there, appropriately spaced and waiting for their orders. Card or cash processing is done behind a Plexiglas screen. Each order is passed through an opening and placed on a table to be picked up by the customer.
Shi has graduated to this new set up from one where the prepared and packaged order was placed on a table in the space between the two sets of doors, the vestibule, if you will, when the customer called or signaled from the parking lot. “Too complicated; too much not working that way,” he said. The new system moves along seamlessly, and there was much traffic when we picked up our order. At least eight orders were in the works or carried out while we were there, for perhaps five minutes. Simple, and safer too, according to Shi.
“Mostly, we do good with carryout on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. More people order carryout then; some on the weekday nights, but not so many. We just keep it going until virus coming down, then we re-open (the dining room).
“We make good food for customer. Just keep food fresh and good quality. Keep everything good for the customer. Right now, that is best way to keep customer and everybody safe (and satisfied, too),” he said.
Dining Out used the carry-out feature described above for our latest meals from Johnny Chan 2. We enjoyed the Yu Hsiang eggplant, which features a bit of spiciness, and moo goo gai pan, which is a mildly flavored entrée with a wide following.
Admittedly, yours truly has a taste for eggplant, and Johnny Chan 2 has a winner of a dish in the Yu Hsiang entrée. The thickish brown garlic sauce provides a sweet-spicy combination that is delightfully flavorful. The vegetarian dish is loaded with chunks of eggplant, red and green bell peppers, wood-ears, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. A winner for anyone who likes eggplant, I would think.
The moo goo dish is classic Chinese fare, and the Johnny Chan 2 version is loaded white meat chicken, baby corn, mushrooms, and snow peas. We enjoyed sharing the two dishes, with plenty left for a follow-up lunch or dinner later in the week.
See you at Johnny Chan 2, in the carryout line, for now!
Johnny Chan 2
11296 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, OH 45249