It all started when...
Ever wonder what goes into making an egg roll from scratch? In the words of Tom Sit, owner of Eng’s Chinese Restaurant in Kingston, it’s a day-long process.
“There’s a lot of preparation. We use only freshly cut vegetables to stuff into the noodle wraps. We make thousands of them at once" said Sit, who along with his wife, Faye, has been running the popular restaurant at 726 Broadway since 1978.
“We’re the only restaurant in town that makes its own egg rolls, and everybody loves them. Nobody can beat them.”
Sit and his crew, including manager Michael Cheng, recently gathered at the restaurant to talk to the Chamber of Commerce about their great success in the city.
They have, in fact, been serving generations of diners for more than 70 years.
Eng’s first opened in 1927 at 304 Wall St., where owner Jimmi Eng and his son, Paul worked hard to build Kingston, first Chinese restaurant.
In those days, there were few Chinese restaurants outside of New York City, so people would often travel from upstate communities to Kingston for authentically prepared Szechwan and Cantonese cuisine.
Eng had done so well that it 1955, he moved his operation tc 297 Wall St., which offered more seating space. Eleven years later, Eng and his wife May, expanded again, this time moving to at 726 their current location.
Eng’s was known—and still is today—for its original recipes from the Far East.
Head chef Hong Chan takes great care to make sure all the meats and sauces as well as the rice and vegetable dishes are cooked to Eng’s high standard of perfection.
“The quality of our food never changes, even after 73 years,” said manager Michael Cheng, an 18-year veteran at Eng’s.
Sit said some of the more popular items on the menu are General Tsao’s chicken, Cantonese steak, chicken chow mein, spareribs, and of course, the beloved egg rolls.
“We won’t share the recipe, though. It’s an ancient Chinese secret,” Sit said.
Beyond the delectable food, Eng’s has another draw.
It’s undoubtedly the people who work there. Most of the 10 employees have been there for better than a decade, and some like Rosalyn Bryant, have been serving customers for more than 30 years.
“Eng’s is successful because we’re all family, and the customers feel that way, too. They see the same faces when they come in. They don’t even have to order. We know them by name and what they want,” said Bryant, who works part-time as a waitress.
Eng’s is also known for its affordability. In fact, Sit hasn’t raised his prices in five years.
“Months ago when every-body was having such a rough time, my husband insisted that we keep our prices the same. It was all for our customers, and I think they’ve appreciated it” said Faye.
Cheng added that the recession hasn’t really slowed business.
“It’s remained the same. Because of our pricing structure, the people who used to go to the upscale restaurants are now coming here,” he said.
And Eng’s hasn’t been hurt by some of the other all-you-can-eat buffets. “It’s different by nature,” Cheng said. ‘We cook to serve individual dishes. With the buffet-style, it’s more quantity versus quality.
"We have served three and four generations of families over the years. It’s a place a lot of people call home, and they keep coming back.”
So much in fact, that many so-called “snow birds” will not only order large quantities of food to take with them on their trips down South, but many who return to Kingston during the warmer months will stop at Eng’s first before heading home.
“That says a lot about our food, our service and our atmosphere,” said Connie McElrath, who’s been a hostess at Eng’s since the 1970s.
“We are serving second and third generations—their children and their grandchildren. We’ve watched them grow up.”
One of those is Art Jackson. He stops by Eng’s at least five days a week. Jackson’s family often dined at Eng’s when he was a baby.
“This is just like a family place,” said Jackson. “It’s comfortable, the food is good and it’s always the same faces here to greet you.”
None of this has been lost on the Sit family. They’re grateful for their loyal following and the difference they have made in people’s lives.
They’ve given to multiple causes in the community and have made countless contributions to local soup kitchens.
They also check up on their regular patrons when they fail to show up at their usual times.
“We know their schedule, so we’ll often call them to make sure they’re OK and not sick,” Cheng said. “We care about them like they’re our relatives.”
They also treat military men and women with the utmost respect, often giving them complimentary meals.
“Years and years ago, my husband and I raised our three kids here. They all went to college and are living good lives. I want to thank America forever for giving us this opportunity to raise them nicely,” said Faye.
“We also want to thank our customers with all our heart and appreciate what they’ve done for this restaurant all these years."