Regarded as probably one of the oldest restaurants in all of Lee County and certainly the first restaurant in Lehigh Acres, the China Star Restaurant in the Winn-Dixie Shopping Plaza has undergone an interior makeover and owner Henry Kow, owner, says the restaurant is still one of the more favorite ones in Lehigh.
There are now seven restaurants in Lehigh that specialize in Chinese food, but none other can claim any more success than Kow, who is known by many customers on a first name basis.
"We have a new look inside and we are pleased. We have installed new carpeting with a shade of green. I think it adds to the whole look of the restaurant," Kow, a native a Singapore said just before the evening rush begins.
China Star Restaurant owner Henry Kow sits in the bar area of the restaurant. There is a separate area for diners to enjoy their meal with a new large wide-screen on the wall.
The China Star has a big enough sign plastered across the top of the restaurant, but the entrance is off to the side for those who first attend the restaurant. But that's not a big deal to all the customers of China Star over the years.
But Kow, who is married to his work as owner of the eatery, has a firm building a fake door facing the parking lot and there will be a big sign pointing toward the entrance, which is just a few feet off to the side. The China Star Restaurant is located next to the Family Dollar store and is really easy to find.
But it wasn't always like that, Kow said. "I was told that the Lehigh Corporation built the restaurant, but to get into it you had to enter where the dollar store is and then go through another store and then into the restaurant.
"It was more like what they would have called a small mall," Kow laughed. "But it is not like that today and hasn't been for lots of years. We have our own entrance, but while we were re-doing much of the inside, we thought we would have the fake door, just to help customers make sure they can find us," Kow laughed. He gave credit to the landlord who is helping to pay for the exterior modifications.
"They are CRP 11 Sunshine Shopping Plaza ZLLC, he said, "and they are doing the door with the arrow to help point the way to the restaurant.
The China Star is known for its excellent fine Chinese food and is the favorite of many in Lehigh who keep coming back, much to Kow's delight.
Making the changes to the outside and to the inside has made what was an attractive interior even more attractive and Kow says he wants to keep up with the new looks.
Many of the Chinese decorations remain, however, much to the delight of diners. In addition to some other minor changes inside, Kow has put up two wide-screen TV sets, one in the main dining room and the other in the bar area.
"Some people like to eat in the bar area, where they can watch TV and eat," he said.
The China Star Restaurant can set 150 people. He cannot add more tables and chairs and be legal under the fire code laws.
Kow took over the operation of the restaurant in 1986 and moved his family to Lehigh in 1988. Kow, who is 62 and a single father of two adult children, said they both have worked in the restaurant and several in Lehigh know them
Jesse Kow is 23 and is now in the U.S. Air Force and his sister, Jenny Kow, is in college. Studying of all things, hospitality, business management, and restaurant management.
The China Star specializes in very good Chinese foods, but it is also known for a great steak which are served with a baked potato. But Kow readily admits his is a Chinese restaurant and he takes great care in the how the food is prepared.
"I have been here so long now and I have come to really love Lehigh and its people. I can call most of my customers on a first name basis. I work a lot of hours, but to have fun, I play some golf, now not so good, but it relaxes me and gets me away," he said.
Come Feb. 21, the China Star will for the first time host the Greater Lehigh Chamber of Commerce's After Hours get-together. It is for chamber members and their guests. The public is also welcome. There is a charge for chamber members and dollar more for non-members. He is a member of the chamber and has been for several years.
"I'm looking forward to the chamber's After Hours. I'll see a lot of friends and customers and maybe some new ones who haven't been here before."
China Star also offers free delivery within a certain area of Lehigh. For more information or to call for a takeout of Chinese food, call 369-1110.