When Yixuan Yang ’19 tried to order from Chao Restaurant & Wine Cafe last week, she found out that the popular Chinese restaurant was closed for good.
In the four years it was open, Chao fed many loyal customers, one of whom is Yang. But the eatery closed abruptly last month, leaving its fans in the dark about what happened to one of their favorite restaurants.
“It was a shock to most people [who frequented the restaurant],” Yang said. “I even went to their Facebook page weeks before their closing and they didn’t say anything.”
According to longtime local resident Lin Lan, the property at 77 Whitney Ave., which housed Chao, is slated to host the new eatery Xi’an Xiaochi. The restaurant will feature specialty food from Xi’an, a city in northwest China that is known for its savory snacks and lamb kebabs, and will be the third restaurant venture for the owner of New Haven Taste of China, another popular destination for Asian food aficionados located on Chapel Street, Lan said.
She added that Chao’s owners, Elaine and Steven Chao, were able to retire after waiting for an entrepreneur to buy the restaurant for a marketable price.
When she found out from Chao’s website that the restaurant would be closing, Yang said she was “inconsolable.” A fan of Chao’s three-cup chicken, Yixuan said she had visited the restaurant at least once a month since her freshman year. She added that Chao’s departure from the Elm City restaurant scene was unexpected.
Shuyu Song ’19, the alumni coordinator for the Asian American Cultural Center and freshman chair for Chinese Undergraduate Students at Yale, said though she never specifically ordered from Chao for organizational events, she chose other Asian restaurants such as Junzi Kitchen or Great Wall to cater AACC and CUSY gatherings.
A staff reporter for the News, Song said she personally would love to try new Xi’an snacks but she hopes that the variety of Chinese food could be broadened.
“I think it would be great to have a restaurant that serves special local snacks from different places in China, like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Inner Mongolia [and others],” Song said.
Along with catering, customers are still arriving to nearby Chinese restaurants in droves. During the Lunar New Year this January, roughly 800 people flocked to Great Wall to chow roast duck, seared frogs, moo shu beef and other native dishes. And on weekends during lunchtime, Great Wall draws a crowd with dim sum.
With an array of price points for different dining options, Great Wall has been able to stay open for more than 25 years, Abby Guo said, daughter of owners Peter Guo and Michelle Guo.
But local residents said the restaurants try not to compete with each other too much, and instead develop separate customer bases.
“They’re complementing each other rather than being competitors against each other,” Lan said.
Chao featured Taiwanese cuisines, dim sum and a wine cafe.