King Yum: Second Generation Fresh Meadows Fare

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

When it comes to delicious Chinese culinary favorites, this Fresh Meadows restaurant is the king.

King Yum has been in business under the same family for 61 years, making it the oldest continuously serving Chinese restaurant in Queens. With a second-generation owner, the restaurant has been a long-time favorite for those looking for old-style Cantonese comfort foods, Szechwan cuisine and Hunan dishes.

Jimmy Eng founded the eatery in 1953, presiding over it until 2008, when he died at the age of 87. The responsibilities of King Yum were passed on to his son, Robin Eng, who still owns and works at the restaurant to this day.

King Yum Restaurant, located in Fresh Meadows, is the oldest continuously serving Chinese eatery in Queens. Photo by Joe Marvilli

King Yum Restaurant, located in Fresh Meadows, is the oldest continuously serving Chinese eatery in Queens. Photo by Joe Marvilli

“When he came to the United States, he was working at his father’s laundry and he decided to get into the restaurant business,” Robin said. “He started working in a restaurant, saw this place was for sale and he grabbed it.”

King Yum specializes in a type of Cantonese comfort food that was the prevalent style when the restaurant was founded. As the decades have gone on, food options and preferred cooking techniques have changed, but King Yum remains. It still offers the lunch and dinner meals that made it famous, like the classic wonton, succulent ribs and Cantonese lobster.

“That was the main Chinese food at the time and at this point, it’s a dying breed,” Robin said. “This is old-school Chinese food.”

This does not mean that King Yum is stuck in the past. Instead, it combines long-time favorites with an expansive menu that aims to please all tastes and dietary needs, including those who prefer their meals gluten-free.

Last year, King Yum even appeared on the premiere episode of the Cooking Channel’s “Restaurant Redemption,” where chef and host Ching-He Huang helped Robin revitalize the menu and renovate parts of the restaurant to give it a fresh look.

“It was very good exposure. They reached out to us and they didn’t let us know what was going on. I didn’t know it was a restaurant redemption program until they started filming,” Robin said. “It was a nice change.”

Besides its food, King Yum is known for its Friday night karaoke sessions, which Jimmy started because he likes to sing.

“It’s a great way for people to celebrate birthdays and whatever occasions they want to celebrate,” Robin said.

King Yum is also very active on social media, regularly posting to Facebook and Twitter, a method that Robin said is helping to attract customers.

“I find the Internet is quite an important tool to bring in business these days,” he said. “Younger people all go online to check out the restaurant before they come in.”

Robin added that his “dedicated staff” deserves some of the credit for the restaurant’s longevity and prosperity as well.

With delicious meals, friendly service and one eye on the past with one eye on the present, it should come as no surprise that King Yum remains a neighborhood favorite.

“We have a lot of faithful old customers that started bringing their kids. Now their kids are bringing their kids in. It’s not unusual to see three generations at a table,” Robin said. “A lot of these people are more like family than just customers.”

King Yum is located at 181-08 Union Tpke., Fresh Meadows. It is open seven days a week. For more information, call (718) 380-1918 or visit www.kingyumrestaurant.com.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.