In 1977, May was named Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month — a time honoring the contributions of Asian Americans made in the advancement of the United States and enrichment of its communities. For more than 65 years, New Star, 7444 W. North Ave. in Elmwood Park, has been serving up authentic Chinese cuisine.

Thirty years ago, Jinny Zhao took her first job at a south side Chinese restaurant. Eventually she bought the place and grew the staff from five to more than 150 before retiring. Thankfully, retirement did not stick for the dedicated restaurateur — Elmwood Park and surrounding communities have benefitted ever since.

“I retired for 6 months,” said Zhao with a laugh, “being retired is terrible for me so I bought this New Star.”

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She left her more leisurely lifestyle behind and purchased New Star in 2015 and immediately turned her attention to updating the Elmwood Park mainstay. New Star has been serving up traditional Cantonese cuisine since 1954 and remains a destination for both occasions and everyday fare. Zhao is proud to carry on the New Star traditions started by the Moy family decades ago and expanded the cuisines available at the North Avenue establishment.

“I feel pretty lucky to be here every day,” said Zhao. “Because I have this business, I try to honor my customers everyday by making them happy.

Zhao capitalized on the restaurant’s longevity in Elmwood Park and helped update New Star for a new generation by adding Thai, and Japanese offerings to the expansive menu. Traditional American-style Chinese dishes, like egg foo young, sweet and sour shrimp and BBQ pork fried rice continue to satisfy longtime customers, but colorful maki rolls, spicy Thai noodles and fiery hibachi shows are attracting a new generation of customers to New Star in Elmwood Park. Transforming the outdated and under-utilized banquet room into a vibrant hibachi venue has drawn eager diners of all ages to the North Avenue establishment.

As the COVID fog begins to lift, Zhao admits she is proud to have ushered her staff through the pandemic safely and is happy to see people flocking back. In recent weeks, the restaurant has been bustling with hungry diners and Zhao is especially thrilled to see children selecting toys from the wall as they enter the restaurant.

“We like to offer something special for the children to keep,” said Zhao. “These are very high-quality toys, and the Legos are very popular.”

No matter if you have children in tow or not, New Star offers vibrant, high-value lunch and dinner menus ranging to from “old-style Chinese cooking” to updated takes on classic dishes. An Asian flavor adventure awaits when you take a seat at New Star where Jinny Zhao demonstrates a respect for her restaurant’s rich history and celebrates its future one meal at a time. 

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