A couple of weeks ago I made the trip to nearby Annandale to one of my favorite restaurants, Duck Chang’s. It’s a family run place. Mrs. Chang greets you when you come in, the son or daughter will seat and serve you. If you’re lucky Mr. Chang himself might be standing at a carving table, knife in hand, carving up a special order of Peking Duck. Everything’s decorated in that 1970’s Chinese Restaurant style...lots of white, red, and jade. The occasional painting of a dragon adorns the walls. The food’s not fancy, but always excellent and I’ve been going there for at least half of my life. That rare kind of place where they know you well enough to poke fun at you for bringing in a date.
When I got there a couple of weeks ago, the door was locked and all the lights were off. A handwritten note was taped to the door.
We regret to inform our valued customers that Mr. “Duck” Chang passed away this past weekend. Duck Chang’s will remain closed for the next week. We appreciate your understanding.
Tonight I made the first trip there since Mr. Chang’s passing. The place was packed, much busier than I’d seen it in a long time. Apparently they reopened last week for the Chinese New Year. Despite the high activity level, the staff was fairly subdued, their loss still obviously on their minds. Most wore black,while those who didn’t had a black arm band tied around their bicep. The son was making his rounds to all the customers; he got to me about the same time as the fortune cookies.
I expressed my condolences to him, and told him how much I’ve enjoyed coming to their restaurant over the years. We talked a bit about loss, and he told me a good bit about his father. Apparently he was somewhat of a restaurant tycoon in Asia, owning and running several businesses in Hong Kong and Thailand. He left it all behind him in the early 70’s to come to the U.S. so his children would receive a better education and have broader opportunities in life. Mr. Chang opened his place in Annandale in 1975. His son went on to earn a Phd Microbiology, his sister a Masters in Business and a Phd in Computer Science. But they chose to continue working in the family business all these years.
Strangely, just this week in the newest issue of Esquire, Duck Chang’s was rated #8 for an article on Best Bites in the U.S. I’m not sure what the rating system was, or even who did the article, but it’s a fitting and final testament to man who poured his heart and soul into his business. If Mr. Chang’s still looking down on it, I hope he knows how much joy it’s brought to people over all these years.