Sheree Yu is poised to bring back Maple Garden — one of Ogden’s most popular Chinese restaurants — and the buzz in the city is palpable.
“Right now, I’m the most popular person in Ogden,” Yu joked.
Her parents, Eugene and Rita Yu, originally opened Maple Garden in the early 1980s on Riverdale Road before relocating it to Washington Boulevard. In its final years the Yu family sold the restaurant, but six years ago the new owners closed it down.
This week, Sheree Yu is bringing the restaurant and many of its beloved Chinese dishes back to town.
After months of preparation, Maple Garden’s official opening will be Friday, Nov. 15.
“Maybe,” Yu says with a laugh.
The restaurant was already behind schedule back in August; at the time Yu confessed it was difficult “getting all the loose ends tied together.” She was supposed to open in early September, but among other things there were some troubles with the air-handling system in the kitchen. Yu says they gradually replaced various parts on the system to where it is now “practically brand new.”
This last holdup, according to Yu, has been the exhaust hood in the kitchen. City inspectors will look at that this week.
“We’re ready to go,” Yu said. “We just had one more inspection we needed to pass.”
Yu admits they’re cutting it close with the restaurant’s opening day. The Veterans Day holiday pushed her final inspection back to this Thursday, Nov. 14. Provided that inspection goes well — and she has no reason to believe it won’t — she’ll open Friday.
“I told everybody, ‘This is it,’” Yu said. “There’s no more stuff to be replaced here. When the inspector comes on Thursday, I’m going to stand on the train tracks, and if they don’t give the thumb’s up, I’m just going to lay down and wait for a train.”
Of course, if the inspection is held early enough on Thursday, Yu may move up opening day.
“Then we’ll open Thursday afternoon,” she said. “We’re ready, we have a whole staff here, and we’d expected to be open three months ago.”
The reincarnation of Maple Garden will be on the south end of Ogden’s Union Station, at 2501 Wall Ave. Yu says reopening her parents’ restaurant has long been a dream of hers.
“I always thought I’d have my own Maple Garden,” she said. “In my mind, I always wanted one. I tried to get investors, but nobody believed in me.”
Yu has spent much of her life in the food service industry. Eventually, she became general manager at Pepito’s Philly Cheese Steak in Ogden. She says people who knew her family history would come in and tell her, “We miss Maple Garden.”
Two years ago, when Sea Bears Ogden Fish House left their location in Union Station, Yu figured, “It was time for me to do my thing.” Yu had worked in that same space in Union Station years ago, back when it was Union Grill.
“I feel like I’m doing what I want to do,” she said. “I’m finally making my dream come true.”
Yu said the recipes at the new Maple Garden are the same as the ones made popular at the old restaurant. She said they’re “all about freshness” and everything is made from scratch.
Yu also said it’s important to keep prices reasonable.
“We want people to be able to eat fresh Chinese food without paying an arm and a leg,” she said.
Meal prices will be in the $6 to $12 range.
“Szechuan is our signature dish; we’ve brought that back,” Yu said. “We’re also adding bowls and noodles. And we added some salads, so people looking to eat healthy have options.”
Yu said they’ve pared the menu back a bit; she didn’t want a five- or six-page menu — just one with the most popular dishes from the past.
And at Maple Garden, Yu insists they don’t see people as customers.
“We don’t have customers — along the way we make friends,” she said. “They’re our friends, and they’re the people I’m opening Maple Garden back up for. People believed in us and stood by us all those years, I feel like I’m giving back.”
The restaurant’s hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3-8 p.m. Sunday.
“We wanted to open Sundays because the hotel people say there’s no place to eat on Sundays in downtown Ogden,” Yu said.
For more information, call the restaurant at 801-393-4099.