After an estimated $1 million renovation, the closed Golden Corral in South Jacksonville has reopened as Chow’s Country Buffet, offering Asian and Southern cuisines.
The restaurant opened Nov. 20 and held a grand opening Dec. 5.
Chow’s Country Buffet is at 4250 Southside Blvd. between Touchton and Hogan roads near Tinseltown.
About 70% of the original offerings during the soft opening proved to be customer favorites, said Juan Vanegas, operations manager for the company’s South Florida restaurants.
“We want to make sure the community is happy,” Vanegas said.
“That’s why we did a soft opening to see what worked, what didn’t work. There’s still room to grow. We’re always willing to do something better, something that works differently.”
Combined, Chow’s Country Buffet can make about 150 menu items. Not all are available every day.
The merging of cuisines is a first for Managing Partner Evan Chen and his family. The restaurant is owned by his father, Yunda Chen.
Evan Chen, 22, comes from a restaurant family. He began working in the family business at age 13.
“We have strong family values that drive our family’s success,” Chen said.
The family opened its first restaurant in Tifton, Georgia in 2008. It now operates 15 Chinese and Korean barbecue buffets in Florida and Georgia.
Chen said he invested about $1 million in a complete remodeling and equipping of the restaurant.
Many buffet-style restaurants closed during the pandemic, Chen said. Fear of spreading the virus meant hiring extra staff to serve customers rather than allow customers to serve themselves.
His family’s experience was compounded by customers not wanting to eat Chinese food because the virus was said to have originated in China, Chen said.
As a result, the family opened a Korean barbecue buffet in South Florida.
Because the Golden Corral had already been serving the area, Chen said it made sense to open a buffet that catered to those customers while also offering the cuisine his family knows best.
The combination of cuisines means two crews. One is dedicated to preparing Asian food and the other the American menu.
“Usually people come in to have American food. They’re willing to try a little bit of the Asian side,” Vanegas said.
Chen said the all-you-can-eat buffet encourages crossover sampling.
“So I think it works for both the Asian side and the American side. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know I would like this.’ So I think this is a beginning of a good thing where we mix cultures in this way.”
Lunch prices are $11.49 on Monday-Friday and $15.99 on Saturday-Sunday. Dinner is $15.99 daily. Soft drinks are $2.99.
Prices for children are free to $12.99, depending on age. There is a $1 discount for active military and seniors.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.