Local business owner Dexin Tan explores Asian fusion at Little Wok


Joanna Hou/The Daily Northwestern

Little Wok’s Evanston location opened in 2008. The restaurant specializes in pan-Asian cuisine.

Joanna Hou, Reporter

Steps away from the North Shore Channel Trail in Southwest Evanston lies Little Wok, an East Asian fusion restaurant. 

The chain, which has another location in the Chicago area, serves as a one-stop shop for authentic Asian cuisine. The restaurant boasts a large menu with a variety of cultural options, specializing in Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Its Japanese menu also includes a large selection of sushi.

Little Wok founder Dexin Tan said he wanted to preserve the authenticity of traditional Asian dishes while introducing customers to new foods through his restaurant. The menu offers hundreds of items. But Tan said he’s always re-evaluating which dishes he serves based on customer feedback, and he works with a variety of professional chefs to ensure quality and authenticity. 

While Little Wok already has two locations — one in Lakeview and one in Evanston — with a third location in Wicker Park is coming soon. The Daily sat down with Tan to talk about his chain’s growing success. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: What motivated you to join the restaurant industry?

Dexin Tan: I worked for a restaurant when I was little, maybe 14 to 15 years old when I started. It was a Chinese restaurant in a suburb. I even worked there when I was in school. Working at the restaurant was like my part-time job until I opened my own restaurant. I’ve been in the business for many years, more than 20 years now. 

The Daily: How did you go about opening Little Wok? 

Tan: My dad was the head chef of a restaurant and he had a lot to teach me. He taught me all about different sauces I could use in my cooking and I took inspiration from those to create my own sauces, too. My father had a good restaurant for a long time and that really helped me.

The Daily: Why did you choose the Evanston location for your restaurant? 

Tan: Evanston is a very nice area. It’s a city of suburbs, and this location is surrounded by supermarkets, which draws good business. This location receives both local and nonlocal support. Customers can order takeout from Skokie and from Evanston. We also get some business from the Northwestern campus. 

The Daily: If a customer is visiting your restaurant for the first time, what would you recommend they order? 

Tan: I would recommend they order General Tso’s chicken, sesame chicken, Mongolian beef or kung pao chicken, as those are the very popular dishes. Also, our pad thai is one of our top sellers. On our sushi menu, I recommend our special rolls, and we also offer a bento box during lunch for sushi.

The Daily: What is your favorite thing about being a restaurant owner? 

Tan: I always wanted to open a restaurant. I wanted to be successful. When the old Chinese restaurant in this location closed down and I took over, nobody knew this restaurant. That was 13 years ago. After two years, we started having more customers, and now people know about this place. The growth is rewarding. 


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