BY SUSAN M. BRACKNEY
To the casual observer, Peach Garden has all the hallmarks of any Chinese restaurant, like ornate red decorations and a Golden Buddha statuette on the counter. But Peach Garden has something extra — serious longevity. Tucked in the side of the Seminary Square Park Kroger building at 536 S. College, the restaurant has been serving up Chinese specialties to Bloomington diners for more than 40 years.
What’s the secret? “We don’t know — really!” laughs Ming Dai. The 29-year-old mother of two has helped her husband, Ronnie Yang, also 29, run the eatery for nine years. His parents purchased Peach Garden 10 years ago, and the restaurant changed hands a few times before that. Dai pieced together some Peach Garden history from regular customers. “One customer has had three generations eating here now,” she says. “They told me Peach Garden has been here 43 years. I have another customer who told me 48 years.”
Most dine-in regulars work nearby or come from the surrounding neighborhoods. Dai rattles off customer names, their favorite dishes, even their special dietary requirements. “I have two customers — one, she always has Chicken with Vegetables with no sauce on it,” Dai says. “Then I have another customer, she gets Chicken Broccoli with garlic and salt and nothing else. Some customers like no sugar, no soy sauce, whatever.”
Because Peach Garden makes each dish to order from fresh ingredients, Dai says, “It’s not hard to fix food for people with weird requirements. We can try to make something people will like.”
Peach Garden’s lunch and dinner carryout and delivery business is booming, too. Unlike most other restaurants, Peach Garden does not use an outside delivery service and Yang transports many of the lunchtime deliveries himself. “We have a pretty big delivery area for Bloomington, so people like it,” Dai says. Delivery downtown and on campus is free. Orders farther out cost $2 to $4.
The pair recently overhauled the restaurant’s website to improve online customer service, but they don’t see themselves making a lot of changes to a business that has had such a strong following for so many years. “The business amount is good enough,” Dai says. “We don’t want so many orders that the quality goes down. We’re happy with the situation.”
Peach Garden is open 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5–10 p.m., Tuesday–Thursday; 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 5–11 p.m. Friday; and noon–11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit chinesebloomington.com or call 812-332-3437.