In a city known for its food and diverse culture of flavors, more commonly accepted genres and tastes tend to fall by the wayside. While the Toledo area has Japanese, Russian, Hungarian, Irish and more, we sometimes take the more common Italian, Mexican, Chinese and American cuisine options for granted. With QQ Kitchen, open for lunch and dinner, you’ve got a terrific reason to explore Toledo’s Chinese food dining scene.
QQ Kitchen is a blink-and-you-miss-it type location buried in the strip mall with the new Kira Japanese Steakhouse, sharing a parking lot with Home Depot on Secor Ave. It’s one of those places where you’re not sure they’re open until you get up close, but this location wasn’t mere happenstance. Josh Wang, the manager of this dine-in/takeout eatery explains that his family went out one night looking for a place to house their new restaurant. “The old China Gate used to be in this plaza. With that in mind, we thought, ‘This used to be a great location.’ When we first got here, there was nothing really in the plaza, but we saw the spot and took a chance.” The chance clearly paid off as, in the five years it has been open, QQ has become one of the busier restaurants— of any ethnicity— in town.
A familiar location
Wang’s father, Teh Li (Robert) Wang, was the head chef at China Gate after moving to Sylvania in 1982 (he moved to the U.S. from S. Korea in 1980). Wang Sr. branched out to start Asiana (now closed) and 3 Happiness (still open, but with a different owner). Chalk those past locations up to Wang learning his craft. “Those other ones didn’t work out, but this one did,” said the younger Wang. “It’s a culmination of his experience that he put into this one restaurant.”
Fresh and local
The interior, which wraps like the letter “U” around an open air kitchen, is compact and always busy— your first sign that you’re in the right place. The next most important attribute of QQ Kitchen is that everything we tried was fresh. The veggies had a crisp snap to them, the proteins looked and tasted terrific. Clearly, the meats are selected for quality and then expertly cooked. It makes even more sense when you find out that this local family uses local ingredients. “We’re family owned. I grew up in Toledo, my sisters grew up in Toledo. My family works here; we do our best to buy everything local. We support a lot of local businesses, either by partaking in their goods or using their services,” Wang explained of the QQ Kitchen philosophy.
What to eat
You won’t go wrong with anything on the menu. “Everything we make here is from scratch, we prep everyday, all of our stuff. A lot of people like the Pad Thai, the General (Tso’s) chicken, the sesame chicken, the classic Chinese fare.” As an alternative to the standard rice accompaniment, if you want to have lo mein noodles instead, they’re available for a small upcharge and they’re a nice complement to the chef’s special dishes like Dragon Phoenix, a combination of beef and chicken mixed with garlic sauce and served over vegetables. Another fantastic option is their willingness to substitute the protein choices in any of their dishes. Want Cashew Pork instead of the more common Cashew Chicken? It’s not a problem at QQ Kitchen.
For a more traditional Chinese/Korean experience, Wang suggests the noodles as a house specialty. “Jom-Pong or the Ja-Jung, which is a black bean noodle; those are more of our Chinese or Korean traditional noodles. The noodles are made in house for those dishes,” he said.
Don’t think that the restaurant’s quiet success has gone to the Wang family’s heads— you won’t see QQ Kitchen reduced to a formula, turned into a corporate chain and stripped of its fresh and casual appeal. No, for the time being, they’re staying right here in Toledo and focusing on the extensive skill set gleaned over a lifetime and shared with the entire family. “Right now, we’re just trying to do the best with this restaurant that we can. We don’t have any plans to expand or anything like that,” Wang said. “We’re just another Toledo family trying to make it.”
Egg Drop Soup
In a saucepan, combine:
2 cups chicken broth
1 pkg. tofu, cut into thin strips
1 bamboo strip
1 carrot strip
1 beaten egg
A pinch of salt
1:1 tsp ratio of cornstarch
and water, mixed (to thicken)
Heat to taste, serve.